2018's Top Trends: Hotness, Faux Milk, & S'Mores

We can boil them all down to cocktails.


All images: Kristan Lawson

If one single concoction embodied all the top new trends revealed at last week's Fancy Food Show, it would be a coconut-Sriracha cocktail in which tulsi-turmeric tonic sweetens superfruit-studded nut milk (or matcha! or nut-milk matcha!) and your favorite spirit, infused with your choice of beef, soybean, or turkey jerky and garnished with a s'more. 

At the annual gathering of over 10,000 international food- and drinkmakers from around the world, including lots of East Bay entrepreneurs, several trends blazed like super blue blood moons. 

One of these is coconut — as seen in Berkeley snackery Dang Foods' toasted coconut chips and Oakland soupery Nona Lim's coconut-milky Thai Curry and Lime Broth, and worldwide in such products as UK-made Heath & Heather coconutty green tea and the canned, carbonated Italian coconut-lemon soda Lemoncocco.

Another trend at the show, presented every January in San Francisco by the Specialty Food Assocation, is marshmallow — as seen in the new s'mores-flavored ice-cream sandwiches from LA's Coolhaus, Fairfield-based Jelly Belly's toasted-marshmallow jelly beans, and your East Bay 365 team's fluffy vegan faves: Dandies ... whose makers recommend using this delicious product in (surprise, surprise) s'mores.

Another trend is cured meats: from Hayward-based Red Dot Kitchen's Singaporean-style Bak Kwa to a vast span of tasty, chewy vegan jerkies from LA's Unisoy, including handy one-ounce snack packs due out this March.

Also hot are plant-based "dairy" products — such as almond-milk cheese and Greek-style yogurts from Hayward's Kite Hill and, in plain and chocolate flavors, the venerable Elmhurst company's creamalicious, versatile, protein-packed "milked peanuts": Made from Georgia's beige-shelled best and containing 31 liquefied goobers per glass, they're America's first-ever commercially available peanut milks. 

Another trend is cocktailery. Popular Fancy Food Show booths displayed intriguing spirits such as Italian-made Purus organic vodka and Brazilian Brunholi's bottled chacaça-sugar-lemon blend Capirinha, as well as clever mixers such as Carmel Berry Co.'s elderberry cordial (with American-grown elderberries, who needs St. Germain?!) to Peter Spanton's British-born tonics in stunning flavor blends such as lemongrass-ginger and chocolate-mint. Even edible cocktail accessories showed up: Distributed by Union City's Profood USA, Hula Girl's organic sugar-cane swizzle sticks are freshly cut Hawaiian-grown stalks. 

Another high-caliber trend is wellness, with sooo many brands aiming to merge medicine with meals. Oakland's Numi Tea gave its new herbal taisans (sporting such ingredients as moringa, guayusa, nettle, and astragulus) names such as "Purpose," "Vision," and "Embrace"; other examples are Novato-based Navitas Organics' smoothie-ready powdered camu, maca, and other superfoods, and Wellness-Simplified's Breakfast Blend superfood-powder packets. The "free" in the FreeYumm company's name alludes to all the allegedly harmful stuff from which its pastries are free.

The popularity of palate-searing peppericity — aka the hotness of hotness — has ballooned beyond salsas into not-formerly-hot stuff such as Kite Hill's jalapeño almond-milk cream cheese, Hayward-based Phong Kee's chili-hot roasted peanuts, Nasonville Dairy's chipotle-cheddar cheese, and Brooklyn-based Mike's Hot Honey. Plus countless condiments, such as LA's Entube, whose sugar-, preservative-, and GMO-free harissa, curry, mole, and cayenne-spiked umeboshi pastes come in cute metal (you'll never guess) tubes. 

Some companies blend several trends at once: For instance, Vegan Rob's Dragon Puffs are probiotic, plant-based, GMO-free ... and "fire-breathing"-ly hot.

Also, nearly every company that can possibly make matcha-flavored substances is currently doing so.

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