The Innovation Group attended New York’s Summer Fancy Food Show this month. The show, which boasted more than 2,500 exhibitors from 55 countries, has become a bellwether for food and drink trends, with new startups innovating in everything from infused syrups to proteins.

Macro-themes dominating the event were health (in particular paleo and whole-food lifestyles), the constant quest for novel ingredients, and a wave of multifunctional products which focused on culinary experimentation.


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Runamok Maple

Across categories and products, there was a unifying theme of versatility: products had multiple purposes, encouraging creativity and experimentation. Brands are no longer prescribing how their products should be used. Maple syrup, for example, is no longer constrained to pancakes and waffles. Runamok Maple, one of the event’s exhibitors, featured marketing content suggesting a plethora of applications, from enhancing cocktails to flavoring coffee and sauces. Runamok varieties include whiskey, ginger and hibiscus.

Healthy mixers

The Innovation Group’s 2017 “Future 100” report charted the rise of Trendy Teetotalism among millennials, with new bars offering healthier alternatives to alcohol. We’ve also previously reported on the rise of Healthonism—the concept of healthier alcoholic drinks and mixers, and events such as festivals and concerts that combine healthy activities with indulgence and alcohol.

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Healthy mixers were a key trend at the Fancy Food Show. There was also considerable innovation in sophisticated alternatives to alcohol aimed at adults. “Non-alcoholic specialty beverage” O. Vine, “a new wine grape-infused water from Golan Heights Winery,” is a case in point. The Napa Hills Vineyard introduced its Peach Grigio Enriched Water. The Dry Soda Co served up lightly flavored Dry Sparkling Soda in sophisticated packaging. Kimino was showcasing its yuzu drink in packaging as clean and fresh as the beverage flavor—yuzu, an ingredient used in Japan for centuries, has a distinctively sour and aromatic citrus taste, described as blend between lime and grapefruit.

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Element Shrub
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Of the mixers, the most prevalent were the vinegar-based varieties known as shrubs. Companies such as Element Shrub and The Hudson Standard exhibited shrubs based on apple cider vinegar, which is claimed to have detoxifying, digestion and energy-boosting benefits. In keeping with the versatility theme, shrubs were also championed as an alternative to salad dressing, a potential marinade, and tea addition to soothe an upset stomach or a sore throat. They can also simply be enjoyed as sodas when mixed with sparkling water.

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Vermont Village vinegars

Vermont Village also showcased its Daily Detox Functional Vinegar, described as “a delicious blend of raw and organic apple cider vinegar with activated coconut charcoal from organic coconuts, plus organic cayenne and organic lemon juice—all to support the body’s natural detoxifying process. Peace out, toxin bros!”

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Navy Hill mixers

There were also new twists on traditional mixers. Following the Fever Tree phenomenon, which has led to huge popularity for premium, naturally sweetened tonic water and ginger beers, Navy Hill introduced a range of mixers that blend club soda and tonic to make a “sonic,” presented in sophisticated packaging that lends itself to the cocktail bar. The brand has three flavors, original, ginger and juniper, each with added electrolytes, all natural, with only 15 calories per pour.

Super water

Who says water has to be boring? Water suppliers bought new life to the category with novel health benefits and sustainable sourcing.

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Oxigen O4 water

The Oxigen oxygenated water brand claims to boost the benefits of water by harnessing O4, a proprietary molecule that delivers a concentrated dose of oxygen. With 100 times more oxygen than bottled or tap water, Oxigen claims to encourage faster recovery, increased stamina, and improved focus.

Sustainability was another key theme: Asarasi sparkling water company makes this the core of its positioning. Each year, maple syrup producers extract up to a billion gallons of pure, naturally filtered water from living maple trees, but use only 3% of the extracted water. Asarasi draws on the remaining 97% to make a sustainable and renewable thirst quencher.

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Asarasi sparkling tree water

Kopu sparkling water is bottled at source in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand. The brand draws attention to its “sleek, beautiful and resealable aluminum bottles” and their “unmatched sustainability,” pointing out that “75% of all aluminum that has ever been created is still in use today (whereas over two-thirds of plastic and glass bottles are not recycled).”

Creative reuse of resources and alternatives to plastic bottles will only become a bigger trend as consumers become hyperaware of single-use plastics. According to a 2017 study by market research firm Maru/Matchbox, 57% of millennials expect their products to be sustainably sourced. The British government is already introducing legislation to limit single-use plastics in items from straws to grocery bags.

Wellbeing snacks

Cauliflower is gaining popularity as a carb substitute, seen in Halen Brands’ cauliflower-based pretzels and crackers, and Farmwise LLC’s cauliflower and chickpea veggie tots. Trail mix is also being updated with sprouted nuts and seeds, nutritious extras that are easy to digest, included in Living Intentions’ Activated Sprouted Trail Mix and chocolate-covered sprouted sunflower seeds from Windy City Organics.

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Windy City Organic's sprouted products

Hot new ingredients

Breakout ingredients offer healthy alternatives to kitchen staples as well as unexpected flavors.


Healthy fat is making a comeback, with ghee as the latest iteration. This clarified butter traditionally used in Indian cuisine is becoming popular as a rich, low-lactose butter substitute.

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Farmtrue ghee

Companies such Farmtrue are positioning it for a Western audience, with organic, grass-fed ghee and ghee-nut butter products made in the United States. “More and more people in the mainstream are recognizing that healthy fat is good,” Farmtrue cofounder Lynn Goodwin tells JWT Intelligence. “Even though it originated in ayurvedic medicine, it has really risen in this country due to paleo diets and Whole30.”


Chickpeas were a big theme at the show, particularly in sweeter applications and as alternatives to salty snacks—positioned as a fiber-rich, non-GMO, lower-carb alternative to potato or regular confectionery.

Biena showcased roasted chickpeas in habanero, salted caramel and Girl Scouts Thin Mints varieties—the sweet alternatives can be used as a dessert topping.

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Biena salted caramel chickpea snacks

On the savory side, Watusee presented its Chickpeatos in three iterations: roasted, as puffs, and as chickpea crumbs—flavors include rosemary, caramel sea salt and spicy cayenne. Banza offered protein-packed, gluten-free chickpea pasta. The Amazing Chickpea positions its spread as an alternative to peanut butter.


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Health-Ade's jalapeño-kiwi-cucumber kombucha

Beverage companies are turning to jalapeños to add heat and a novel twist to classic drinks. Examples include Element Shrub’s honeydew jalapeño flavor and Health-Ade Kombucha’s jalapeño-kiwi-cucumber combination. “We’ve always loved the spice of jalapeños and wanted to create a kombucha that celebrates and enhances their bold flavor,” CEO and cofounder Daina Trout tells us.

Until next year!

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