NEW YORK — Many specialty food brands are launching products for home cooks in need of convenient and exciting solutions. Examples seen at the Specialty Food Live! virtual event include simmer sauces, upscale cocktail syrups and artisanal naan.
Experts discussed emerging trends during a Jan. 22 webinar that capped the four-day program hosted by the Specialty Food Association. Melanie Zanoza Bartelme, global food analyst at Mintel, observed a number of products developed to combat culinary tedium.
“One of the things in Mintel’s research we’re seeing is people are cooking much more often from scratch at home during the pandemic, but they are experiencing a little bit of fatigue,” she said. “I’m seeing a lot of products talk about simplifying homemade.”
She cited Urban Accents as a brand empowering consumers to create restaurant-quality dishes. At Specialty Food Live!, the company showcased such new products as seasoned meatless mixes for plant-based chili and breakfast wraps and a range of flavorful rubs for a variety of applications.
“Some of these products are either restaurant inspired or are actually restaurant brands you can now have at home,” Ms. Bartelme added, pointing to a packaged shrimp and grits sauce that originated at a food truck.
Jonathan Deutsch, PhD, professor at Drexel University and director of Drexel Food Lab, spotted a kimchi seasoning, which may help consumers replicate authentic Korean cuisine at home.
“You’re seeing interesting things for people who are not super chefs but are trying to create that restaurant experience.” — Dr. Jonathan Deutsch, Drexel Food Lab
“You’re seeing interesting things for people who are not super chefs but are trying to create that restaurant experience,” Dr. Deutsch said. “Kimchi is a production, if you’re trained in Korean cooking or have family from Korea. This is something people are craving and can do at home.”
Consumers also are seeking shortcuts in meal preparation and may gravitate toward grains or beans that cook more quickly, Dr. Deutsch said, highlighting fonio as an example.
“If you are cooking from dried beans or making a mole sauce from scratch, the hours you put in compared to the minutes it takes to eat it and then the hours again to clean up can be really daunting,” Dr. Deutsch said. “I do think there’s some great opportunity in sauces and kits and ways to bring these high-quality products to people in a way that’s not intimidating.”
Foods with function was another trend featured at the virtual event. Dr. Deutsch mentioned a cookie dough infused with immunity-boosting ingredients.
“I’ve been seeing functional everything,” he said. “It used to be you could buy a packet of tea and the reason you were getting it is because you like tea. Now it’s memory, immunity… bone health, prebiotic, probiotic… It has to have all these other benefits to it.”
Dr. Deutsch also noted a theme of edible entertainment, referring to products that deliver a dash of whimsy to the dinner table and are likely to be shared on social media.
“We’re bored and we want to show off what we’re doing,” he said.
He shared an example of an Elvis Presley-inspired ready-to-bake cookie pie featuring peanut butter, oats, chocolate chips and candy-coated chocolates. He also cited hot cocoa bombs, glittery maple syrup and edible flowers.
“It’s almost like it was made for Instagram,” Dr. Deutsch said.
Another trend he discussed is “values-based everything.” Examples include a coffee roaster promoting dog rescue and a tomato sauce brand that donates a portion of sales to support blood cancer research.
“I think people are understanding voting with their dollar, with a lot of the social action that’s been happening over the past year,” Dr. Deutsch said. “Whether it’s supporting women- and Black-owned businesses or community-based non-profits and organizations, the story is becoming such a big differentiator.”
Ms. Bartelme added examples of brands focused on helping farmers and communities. Twin Engine Coffee is based in Nicaragua and works with local farmers, artists, tasters, packers and other suppliers to help eliminate poverty in the area.
“Fair trade is their starting point, but they’re trying to get more money back into the community through additional actions,” Ms. Bartelme said.