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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Trends

TRENDS: American Drinking Habits

We’re drinking less regular soda but more diet soda, bottled water and sports drinks. Some 68% of Americans drank regular soda in 2008, down from 76% in 2003, according to market research firm Mintel. The number of diet soda drinkers rose, with 7.8 million more adults reported drinking diet soda.

The greatest changes in Americans’ drinking habits have occurred outside the soft drink market, as consumers adopt healthier lifestyles.

- Bottled Water: 24 million more Americans drank bottled water in 2008 than in 2003. One in three beverage-purchasing adults (34%) said they’re drinking more water and less carbonated beverages to manage weight, health conditions, or concern about high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners. Sixteen percent of respondents worry about the health risks of high-fructose corn syrup, while 15% say they’re drinking less artificially sweetened beverages because of risks.


All-natural brewed Fentiman’s Soda, a NIBBLE Top
Pick Of The Week.

- Energy Drinks: Driven by young adults, the number of energy drink users nearly doubled from 2003 to 2008 (to 34.5 million from 17.4 million).

- Sports Drinks: In the past five years, 11 million adults started drinking sports drinks.

Mintel expects continued momentum in tea, coffee drinks and diet soda.

- Check out some of our favorite beverages—including regular sodas made with lower levels of real sugar, and all natural ingredients, and health and energy drinks.
- See THE NIBBLE’s Bottled Waters articles and reviews.



Shop FIJI Water Today!

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TRENDS: Doggie Bags On Park Avenue

Toney diners who once would have frowned on taking home leftovers are now packing up the doggie bag after putting on the Ritz. The affluent still dine out, notes David Pogrebin, manager of New York City’s historic Brasserie restaurant (we’ve been dining there since childhood). But in the thick of a recession, even those at the top are tightening their belts through a growing trend of bringing home leftovers. And of course, that duck breast is not going to the dog—if it ever did—nor is the risotto and other rich “doggie bag” contents that would be questionable additions to Fido’s bowl.

Since Elizabethan times at least, restaurants provided extra-large napkins—not only because people ate with their hands, but they used them to wrap up and take home any leftovers. Paper bags did come around in time, but in 1949, Al Meister, owner of a Chicago-based packaging company called Bagcraft Papercon, developed a coated paper bag that was grease-resistant. He is credited with inventing the “doggie bag”—and the take-out bag, for that matter. Grease-resistant soon evolved into foil-coated bags with quirky drawings of Fido, with the blaring headline, “Doggie bag.” No wonder people of good breeding didn’t want to be seen carrying them!

Doggie Bag
Snazzy doggie bag.
These days, with everyone pinching pennies, who can blame Park Avenue folks if they take the last few morsels of steak frites back to their $4 million apartments. We’re big fans of Executive Chef Luc Dimnet’s cuisine, too, and we wouldn’t leave a morsel on the plate, recession or boom. And it’s not only good for the pocketbook, it’s good for the waistline.

But the lesson here, boys and girls, is no matter how casual or fine the restaurant, no matter how large or small the amount of leftover food: You’ll be sorry you didn’t take it home. You’ve paid for it, it’s yours, and management doesn’t like to see good food thrown out. They’re flattered that you like it so much, you want to take it home.

By the way, while New Yorkers previously could not remove wine from restaurants, the State Liquor Authority informs us as of September 9, 2004, that rule was changed, enabling you to benefit financially from a “Wine Doggie Bag” as well. We quote:

“Legislation has been enacted which provides a procedure under which a restaurant licensee may permit a patron, following the patron’s consumption of a full course meal, to remove one partially consumed bottle of wine from the restaurant. The limitations, conditions, and procedures regarding a restaurant patron’s removal of one partially consumed bottle of wine from the restaurant are discussed in Bulletin No. 588. To view this bulletin click on the following link: SLA Bulletin No. 588

Salient points from the pdf:

“At the conclusion of the meal, the restaurant patron must be provided with a dated receipt which indicates both the purchase of a full course meal and the purchase of the wine. A receipt which is undated does not satisfy the requirements of the statute. A receipt which fails to indicate that the wine was purchased in connection with a full course meal is insufficient, because the statute requires that the wine be purchased in connection with a full course meal. Before a restaurant licensee may permit a partially consumed bottle of wine to leave the restaurant, the restaurant licensee or an agent of the restaurant licensee must:

• securely reseal the bottle of wine;
• place the resealed bottle in a one-time-use tamper-proof transparent bag, and
• securely seal the bag.

The one-time-use tamper-proof transparent bag must insure that the patron cannot gain access to the bottle while in transit after the bag is sealed.”

What this means is, you can’t open the bottle to drink until you get home—no drinking and driving. The bag is transparent so that you can’t hide the goods from any law official stopping you in transit. Regulations for wine will vary according to each state’s rules.



Shop AsianFoodGrocer.com Today!

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TRENDS: Yogurt, The Latest Hot Food

Food fit for the gods: Greek Gods Grourmet
Yogurt
with probiotics.

Yogurt is “the food of the day” according to NPD Group, a Port Washington, New York-based research firm. Not only can it be consumed, straight or as an ingredient, at any time of the day, but probiotic yogurts, with added “healthful” bacteria, are growing even as the Commerce Department reports the deepest decline in consumer food spending in more than 50 years. Just count how many different brands are on the shelf of your supermarket—and every day, more are coming into the market, including those that meet special needs for the ultra-gourmet crowd and for lactose-intolerant yogurt lovers. And just to touch on the probiotic frozen yogurt category, we’ve stopped counting the number of Pinkberry and Red Mango shops that have opened across the street from each other in our city. And Yogen Früz is on the march with more of the same.

While yogurt has always been a principal ingredient in Greek, Middle Eastern and Indian restaurants, mainstream chefs have jumped onto the bandwagon, too.

- See the article in Nation’s Restaurant News.
- See reviews of our favorite yogurts and yogurt recipes.
- Learn about probiotics.



Shop PurityProducts.com Today!

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TRENDS: Change In Presidential Dining Habits

Mr. McGregor’s Microgreens, a NIBBLE Top Pick.

Bill Clinton liked to go out for McDonald’s. W preferred a barbecue on his Crawford ranch. While a waist watcher, Barack Obama enjoys fine cuisine, frequently patronizing Chicago’s Frontera Grill and Spiaggia. He’s keeping White House chef Cristeta Comerford, who knows how to deal with those massive state dinners, while bringing in his own health-focused personal chef.

Knowing his own mind, the prez turned down advice from three food titans, Chez Panisse founder Alice Waters, Gourmet magazine editor Ruth Reichl and Union Square Hospitality Group head Danny Meyer. The trio wrote a joint letter urging that Obama make the White House a showcase for local, organic and seasonal food. They wanted him to replace the unknown Comerford with a higher-profile chef whose cooking agenda was more in tune with theirs.

Longtime White House chef Walter Scheib, whose departure in 2005 elevated Comerford to top toque, points out that the White House does buy local and seasonal food from area farmers and co-ops…and that Laura Bush was a stickler for organic food. Who knew?


To help out with their personal meals, the Obamas are bringing in Sam Kass, who had been their private chef in Chicago. In addition to knowing what they like, he has a particular interest in healthy food and local food. Out with the Krispy Kremes, in with crudités! Read the full article in Restaurant Hospitality magazine.


Sur La Table_Brand_468x60

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TRENDS: Valentine’s Day Chocolate Statistics

Marcolini Chocolate

Raspberry Chocolate Hearts from Pierre Marcolini.

According to The Nielsen Company:

- Consumers are expected to purchase more than $345 million in chocolate candy during Valentine’s week, accounting for 5.1% of annual sales in the chocolate candy category. Consumers will purchase more than $448 million worth of total candy during Valentine’s week.

- More than 58 million pounds of chocolate candy will be sold during Valentine’s week. But the big winner is Halloween week, where nearly 90 million pounds of chocolate candy is sold. We’d like to think that the overall quality of the Valentine chocolate is somewhat better.


- Lovebirds aren’t necessarily early birds, says Nielsen; they don’t plan ahead. February 13, the day before Valentine’s Day, is the top candy- and chocolate candy-buying day in February.

- Bargain shoppers are out the day after Valentine’s Day. February 15 is the second most important chocolate candy-buying day in February. In the current economy, it makes even more sense to save on your favorite chocolate—who cares if it’s in Valentine packaging? But in this down economy, you may have to fight even more bargain-hunters!

How about the bubbly?

- Valentine’s week is one of the top weeks for sparkling wine sales, with more than $8.6 million in sales. More than 881,000 bottles of sparkling wine will be sold during the holiday week. Only Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s have higher sales.

- Does love make consumers blind to price tags? People are willing to spend more for sparkling wine, including Champagne, during the Valentine holiday week—about 5% more than other peak sales weeks.

As reports of job losses mount, more consumers will be financially challenged this Valentine’s Day. But a single cupcake and a handmade card, along with a romantic candle-lit dinner at home instead of a fancy restaurant meal, will mean as much as any pricey celebration.


Valentine's Day Gifts

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TRENDS: Gastroporn, Or, How To Make Vegetables Erotic

PETA Gastroporn How times change! Animal rights organization PETA has turned the other cheek. Previously, members of the organization attracted publicity by throwing red paint (signifying blood) onto fur coats. Now they’ve recalled the bet between the sun and the wind over who could get the man to take his coat off. (The wind blew and blew stronger and stronger, but it only made the man grasp his coat around himself tighter and tighter. The sun simply shone hotter and hotter, and the man quickly removed his coat.)

In the interest of making it hotter and hotter for people to stop eating meat, PETA has produced a TV spot so hot that the Super Bowl turned it down. Yes, it is definitely not a “family friendly” commercial. But adults who appreciate scantily-clad women and beautiful produce should watch it a few times.


- Get serious about vegetables with THE NIBBLE’s #1 read article, our Squash Glossary.

- Finally understand the difference between sweet potatoes and yams.

- Check out our Exotic & Heirloom Vegetables Glossary.

- Learn your mushroom varieties.

- Meet the morel.

- Dream of truffles.

- Not into veggies? Try some edible flowers.

Shop igourmet.com

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NEWS: Winter Fancy Food Show 2009

Essential Cane, our Bronze Star winner from the
2009 Winter Fancy Show, dazzled with a dozen
flavors of cane sugar, including Green Chili,
Habañero and Sweet Onion. Who took the
Silver? See the complete article.

Amazing! In the midst of an economic downturn, the 34th Winter Fancy Food Show matched all-time records with 16,000 attendees at San Francisco’s Moscone Center, who arrived with enthusiasm to peruse the 1,250 exhibitors—including more than 100 newcomers. Having walked all 198,000 square feet of the show several times, I tried dutifully to sample each of the 180,000 specialty food and beverage products. Tough job, but someone has to do it. If you think all that walking offsets all those calories—it doesn’t.

Why was the show so busy during such gloomy economic times? The show organizers, industry trade association NASFT, and market research firm Mintel, remind us that few parts of the retail/grocery world show proof that more than 90% of their categories have been growing since 2004. Amid current economic conditions, consumers are dining more often at home, and specialty foods and beverages will benefit. It’s easier to treat yourself to good food products than a good restaurant meal.

Read Contributing Editor Andy Whitman’s observations, and see which favorite products from the show received THE NIBBLE editors’ Gold, Silver and Bronze Stars.

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TRENDS: Cutting Edge Flavors For 2009


Grains of Paradise: Largely confined to West
Africa, these tiny seeds are related to
cardamom, and resemble the seeds inside
cardamom pods.
Want to know what the cutting edge flavors will be at top restaurants this year?

According to trade weekly Nation’s Restaurant News, they’ll be these rarities:

- Grains of paradise from Africa
- Korean black garlic
- Torch ginger from Singapore
- True red pepper from India
- Unpasteurized barley miso—from Massachusetts

Read more about them, and who’s using them with what kind of dishes.

Two of the obscure ingredients, grains of paradise and true red pepper, are in THE NIBBLE’s Varietal Peppercorn Glossary.

For more flavor fun, see McCormick’s 10 flavor pairings for 2009, with 12 tempting recipes.

Shop igourmet.com

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TRENDS: Flavor Combinations For 2009

Looking for palate excitement this year? McCormick, the world’s largest spice company, has developed cutting-edge flavor combinations that are sure to inspire. International influences and natural foods figure prominently in the company’s Top 10 Flavor Pairings for 2009, allowing for flavorful yet healthy dishes. After reviewing the introductions to each flavor pairing, you can click through to a delicious recipe that expresses those flavors. If you love these innovative pairings as much as we do, you can still enjoy the wonderful recipes from Flavor Trends 2008, as well.

How does a spice company decide what’s hot? McCormick draws on the expertise of sensory analysts, chefs, trend experts and food technologists. Joined by some of today’s most innovative and cutting-edge restaurant chefs, cookbook authors and TV food personalities, this collective culinary vision helps chart a delicious course for the year ahead.


Saké and mixed peppercorns: one pairing to wake
up flavor in 2009.
Influencing the flavors of 2009 are Asian-infused and internationally influenced tastes, a desire for all-natural foods and a craving for favorite ingredients reimagined with contemporary whimsy. McCormick explored these and other trends to develop the top 10 flavor pairings for 2009. See which one of the following you’d like to try first:

-Pairing 1: Cayenne & Tart Cherry
-Pairing 2: Chinese Five Spice & Artisan-Cured Pork
-Pairing 3: Dill & Avocado Oil
-Pairing 4: Garam Masala & Pepitas
-Pairing 5: Mint & Quinoa
-Pairing 6: Peppercorn Mélange & Saké
-Pairing 7: Rosemary & Fruit Preserves
-Pairing 8: Smoked Paprika & Agave Nectar
-Pairing 9: Tarragon & Beetroot
-Pairing 10: Toasted Sesame & Root Beer

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TRENDS: Top Chefs Go For Burgers


Read our Tips For A Better Burger article to learn
how to cook perfect burgers at home.
Following our posting of the CBS report on the Heart Attack Grill in Chandler, Arizona (or perhaps despite it), burgers are big in 2009. As reported recently in the trade magazine Restaurant Hospitality, top chefs are in the game. Bobby Flay launched Bobby’s Burger Palace, Laurent Tourondel has BLT Burger, Marcus Samuelsson started Marc Burger. Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack in New York is about to have an Upper West Side sibling, Hubert Keller is expanding his kingdom of Burger Bars and Govind Armstrong turned his L.A. Eatery, Table 8, into 8 Oz. Burger Bar. And everyone is awaiting the opening of Thomas Keller’s Burgers and Half-Bottles in Yountville, California and Las Vegas.

You can get in the game buy buying a franchise of Virginia-based Elevation Burger, which serves organic, grass-fed, free-range beef with fries cooked in hearth-healthy olive oil…in LEED-certified green buildings. Or, at the other end of the spectrum, you could own your local franchise of the Heart Attack Grill, the “Taste Worth Dying For.” We’d opt for the former.

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