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    It’s Queer, Eccentric and Delicious: The Winter Fancy Food Show

    winter3By Elaine Viegas

    San Francisco’s Winter Fancy Food Show is to food what the Olympics are to sports. Representatives from countless countries all descend upon the city and wind up under one roof with shared goals. Where else can you find a guy wearing an American flag shirt offering “Jesus Lives” chocolates talking shop with a rainbow-shirted gay woman from Germany hawking flavored vinegars? Tasty food can work wonders in breaking the ice over personal differences.

    The Food Show, which took place January 11–13 at the Moscone Center, was full of fun surprises. For example, casually standing in a corner handing out new “SexyPop” popcorn was Robert Ehrlich, the creator of Pirate’s Booty and other well-known snacks. He was surrounded by a bunch of hippy-looking fellows who made shy Ehrlich blush every so often when they pointed at him and said, “He’s famous!”

    The Republic of Tea, which always has a fantastic display, had a Downton Abbey section where visitors could sip drinks like “Mrs. Patmore’s Pudding Tea” and “Bates’ Brambleberry Tea.” Nearby was friendly Eddie Mullen of “Burt’s British Potato Chips,” which feature photos of their workers on each bag, so you know who made your particular bag full and where the potatoes were farmed. A team from the Philippines-based “Agrinurture” offered a fitness bar and juice afterward.

    winter4San Francisco Bay Times readers were in force, as we ran into many local friends who are caterers, chefs, restaurant owners and just plain foodies. But the event was also well attended by people who flew in from all over the U.S. and other countries. According to the Specialty Food Association, which does an amazing job in organizing the Food Show, nationwide we can expect to see more foods in markets with stronger flavors, alternative sweeteners, and snacks made with everything from plant-based meat to even marijuana.

    “Food producers are tapping into the growing sophistication and buying power of today’s consumers,” said Denise Purcell, editor of Specialty Food News. “They are catering to new demands for better ingredients, sustainable packaging, and more convenient ways to shop and eat.”

    winter2Every year, Purcell’s publication puts out “The List,” which highlights upcoming food trends in the U.S. Here’s what they came up with:

    Asian Food Roots

    American consumers reach beyond Chinese, Japanese, and Thai to discover new regional foods, from Vietnamese to upscale ramen.

    Fresh Food Delivery Arrives

    Grocery delivery tests will give way to far improved services.

    Embracing Alternative Proteins

    Cricket flour, and meat and cheese made from plants, will gain more fans.

    Snack Bar Stampede

    Bolder flavors and ingredients mean a whole new image—and opportunity —for snack bars.

    Tea’s Time

    Tea is getting the high-end treatment from ingredient upgrades to elegant cafe experiences.

    Sweetener High

    More shoppers are swapping added sugars for alternative natural sweeteners, from stevia to re-imaginings of honey and maple syrup.


    Transparent labeling is a boon for business and sustainable packaging gives producers another badge of pride.

    Culinary Cannabis

    Marijuana is the latest herb to grace baked goods and candies for that extra punch.

    Generation Z Raises Its Voice

    Its elders (born in 1995) have reached the age of influence, and their purchasing power will only grow from here.

    Super Bowls

    Superfood mania, on-the-go convenience, and healthful fast-casual dining make bowls the go-to vessel.

    Bonus: Other Trends to Watch

    Small-batch, local yogurt; the next superfood contenders: kaniwa, baobab, soursop; the next kale: seaweed, cauliflower.

    Elaine Viegas, the mother of “San Francisco Bay Times” co-publisher Jennifer Viegas, grew up on a small farm in Appalachia and trained as a chef.