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Now that it's behind us, I’ve had a little time to catch my breath, cleanse my palate, settle my stomach and process my enduring impressions of the 2015 Summer Fancy Food Show, which took place June 28-30 at New York's Javits Center. Among the things that caught my eye (and taste buds): uniquely flavored beverages, many of them with beneficial attributes; global influences stretching far beyond the pavilions erected by various countries; and a wealth of health-oriented yet tasty food items.
Fancy Drinks, too
First off, don't let the title fool you: Plenty of beverages are represented at the annual trade show. One good example is Choice Organic Teas, which was exhibiting such new varieties as Hibiscus Heart, Beauty Detox, Expecting Baby and Body Stress Relief. Eric Ring, a taster in Choice’s herb department, explained that the Seattle-based company's exclusive partnership with Bastyr University enabled it to create dietary supplements that were safe to drink daily. Ring further pointed out that unlike other brands, Choice controls the manufacture of its tea by operating its own factory, thereby ensuring the quality of the resulting products. Noting that the beauty item contained jasmine to benefit the skin, Ring asserts that "detox is huge" as a trend in the segment.
Over at the Steaz booth, company co-founder Steven Kessler was enthusiastic about the brand's newest SKUs, two of which, Passionfruit (my preference) and Dragonfruit, were leveraging the current consumer interest in unsweetened teas, he noted. The Doylestown, Pa.-based Healthy Beverage Co. also recently rolled out Grapefruit Honey, lightly sweetened with Fair Trade organic cane sugar and containing just 80 calories, and zero-calorie, stevia-sweetened Goji Blackberry, whose smooth taste Kessler described as "almost like wine." Along with providing less sweet beverages, he observed that Steaz tried "to be unique when it comes to our flavor combinations," citing such blends as Blueberry Pomegranate and Superfruit, and vowing that the company would continue to avoid “me-too flavors.”
Although Kessler pointed out that increasingly, "mainstream is crossing over into natural," Steaz normally places its products in conventional grocers' natural sections, which he referred to as "fishing where the fish are," since consumers of natural products are often more aware of such benefits of tea as antioxidants. Kessler has noticed, however, that more shoppers than ever understand the concept of superfruits, regardless whether they regularly purchase natural items. "It's like an education process; then they graduate," he said.
Other noteworthy drinks quaffed at the show included Sipp Soda’s Lemon, Elderflower & Tarragon variety; Joia Sparkling Blackberry Pomegranate & Ginger beverage; and a Pitaya Plus single-ingredient raw organic dragonfruit smoothie that really hit the spot following a day of clashing flavors.
After drinking my fill, I made my way to foreign parts – at least as represented by the Pereg Gourmet booth – where Brett Fuss introduced me to the Flushing, N.Y.-based company's new refrigerated spreads, including Sumsuma (sesame), and Multipurpose Quinoa Flour, which can be used in place of wheat flour in baked goods. Meanwhile, Can Bech's exquisitely packaged premium fruit preserves, jellies, chutneys and sauces, imported from Spain, may be too pricey for most mainstream grocers, but the company's 2-ounce mini jars of jams meant to pair with cheese, retailing for a suggested $3.19-$3.99, could provide an affordable way for conventional grocery shoppers to experiment with various flavor combinations.
Among the many sauces and dressings on display, I particularly enjoyed Marukan USA's Yuzu Ponzu premium soy dressing with citrus flavor as an accompaniment to spicy tuna sushi. Harold Lee, the Los Angeles-based company’s national sales director, described the product as “a must-try,” and he was right.