THE NIBBLE BLOG: Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods
Also visit our main website,

Archive for Trends

FOOD TRENDS: Trade Cupcakes For Pie?

Will pie be the cupcake of 2011? Photo

Move over cupcakes: pies are on the way.

Pies, both sweet and savory, will be the top restaurant trend in 2011, predicts restaurant consultant Andrew Freeman & Co.

“If I had one trend—one trend—of the year that I could predict, [it] would be the trend for pie,” said Freeman. “I think that we’re going to make room for pie shops in the next year. This is not just sweet pies, this is savory pies, bite-sized pies. I’ll eat pie if I don’t get this one right….” (Hey, is that a punishment?)

While some restaurants are known for their pies—for example, upscale chicken restos like Pies & Thighs and Hill Country Chicken in New York City—we haven’t seen any pie bakeries yet. But they would be a welcome alternative to the still-mushrooming number of cupcake shops.

Read the full article in Nation’s Restaurant News, which suggests additional food trends.



TRENDS: Store Brands

Do you buy store brands? We do.

Market research firm The Nielsen Company has released new information regarding store-brand (private-label) buyers.

While some people think that it is lower-income people with limited funds who buy store brands, it is actually middle-income families ($30,000 to $70,000) who are the primary store-brand shoppers.

Store brands also have a loyal and growing following among two-person households looking for value—a more affluent and educated shopper who realizes that there’s no appreciable difference between the branded product and the typical store brand.

Some of the study highlights show that:

• Store brands have won favor among younger households.

• The fastest-growing segment for store brands are families making $100,000-plus.


America’s Choice is the store brand of A&P.
Photo courtesy

• Younger female heads of household have a propensity to buy store brands—no doubt to the chagrin of branded goods manufacturers, whose conventional wisdom is to target young buyers with advertising to secure their brand loyalty “for life.”

Those quarters and half dollars saved on store brands add up. Even if you’re not pinching pennies, they can offset extra treats—like that latte tab.

A $4.00 specialty coffee x five days a week x 50 work weeks a year = $1,000 a year in coffee expenses! So, see how much of that total you can save on store brands. Make a game of it with your friends…and then go out for a latte.

And have fun with this coffee savings calculator.


TRENDS: Wedding Cakes


We’ll have to get married in Seattle, just so
we can have one of Mike’s Amazing Cakes.
Did Rick & Ilse live happily ever after, after
all? Here’s looking at you, kid. Photo
courtesy Mike’s Amazing Cakes.

Planning a June (or anytime) wedding?

As you may have gathered from the parade of wedding cake programs and segments like “The TODAY Show Plans A Wedding,” the cake design is secondary only to the wedding dress.

No longer content to have an elegant white cake with frosting flowers, brides are looking for fashionable cakes. Here are wedding cake trends for 2010 as reported by Stratford University, a Virginia-based school that offers culinary arts degrees (along with a traditional university curriculum).

Slightly Different Cakes

  • Initials. Couples are opting to have their entwined initials monogrammed on the side of the cake.
  • Height. Many people are opting for taller cakes—up to seven tiers high.
  • Nature. Nature themes are popular as cake toppings. These can range from fresh flowers and leaves or fresh fruits to pine cones, seashells and other decor.
  • Being Green. Many guests don’t like classic wedding cake, covered in fondant (to be fair, homemade fondant can be delicious, but some cakemakers purchase premade fondant, which is less so). So why waste the cake: Order something people will eat (see next bullet).
  • More Than Cake. Lose the cake and opt for favorite treats: a tiered “cake” of cupcakes or a tree of mini desserts, such as cheesecake, tarts and brownies. If you must have a cake to display, see Rent A Cake, below.
  • Matching Dresses. A big trend matches the cake decoration to the bridesmaids’ dresses. Another option is to decorate the cake with real lace and ruffles.
  • Bold Colors. Who says the cake has to be white…or even chocolate? If your favorite color is red, go for it!


Really Different Cakes

  • Artistic. Choose your favorite famous painting and have the wedding cake decorated with it, using edible paints. (It’s probably best to avoid Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” and Picasso’s “Guernica.”)
  • 3-D. Another hot trend in wedding cakes is for 3-D accents as part of the cake’s decoration and design. For the ultimate in 3D masterpieces (and an absolutely gorgeous gallery of wedding cakes), check out Mike’s Amazing Cakes in Seattle (designer/baker of the cake in the photo).


Saving Money

  • Rent A Cake. In this economy, many people are looking for ways to save on their wedding. A new trend for budget-cutting is to rent a mock wedding cake for display (it’s been decorated with real fondant, rosetts, etc., and looks real, but you can’t eat it—instead of cake underneath the frosting, there’s styrofoam). Then, serve a budget-friendly sheet cake that is cut and plated in the kitchen.
  • Go Faux. Another trend for saving money on the wedding cake, which can typically cost from $600 to thousands of dollars, is to have a faux bottom one or two tiers (frosted and decorated styrofoam, as above). This will allow the cake to look impressive to guests and for pictures, but can help bring the cost of the cake down quite a bit.
  • Cupcakes. Tiers of cupcake-style wedding cakes continue to grow in popularity. They also allow for vegan and gluten-free versions so those on special diets can join in.

And now, we’ve got to go find a piece of cake to eat!



FOOD TRENDS RECIPE: Grilled Bitter Greens & Blue Cheese Salad With Caraway Peach Dressing

Pairing #3 of McCormick’s 2010 Food Trends is Caraway & Bitter Greens.

  • Caraway seeds are actually a fruit, not a seed. The caraway plant looks similar to a carrot plant, with feathery leaves and thread-like divisions. The “seeds” are small, crescent-shaped achenes (an achene is a one-seeded fruit; the seed has a thin wall, such as a sunflower seed). Caraway seeds have a licorice-like flavor and are frequently used in rye breads, crackers, cheeses and liqueurs. (We love to mix them into sauerkraut, too.)
  • “Bitter greens” refers to a variety of dark green, leafy vegetables, including spinach, collards, chard and kale. The name “bitter greens” is no misnomer. When cooked, these veggies have a distinctive (and desirable) bitter flavor that juxtaposes well against other strong flavors. Examples include collards cooked with bacon or spinach salad topped with a sweet lemon poppyseed dressing.

No humdrum greens: an exciting grilled
salad with blue cheese. Photo courtesy

In this recipe for Grilled Bitter Greens with Caraway Peach Dressing, radicchio and endive are added to baby greens, perfectly accented with a nutty-sweet dressing of caraway seeds and peach preserves. The unmistakable caraway spice tames the bitter bite of bold greens. A scattering of pungent blue cheese finishes the dish.By the way, caraway was also an early candy, dating back to at least the 17th century. Tiny seeds coated with many layers of sugar were a popular confection known as a comfit (not confit). The original sugarplums were sugar-coated coriander (the seeds of cilantro). Aniseed was also a popular comfit.



NEWS: Coffee, The New Health Food?

Remember when too much coffee was bad for you? It wasn’t given to children at all because it would stunt their growth? It might be carcinogenic?

Coffee may become the next health food craze. Some articles touting the antioxidants in coffee put it up there with green tea, whole grains and cruciferous vegetables. But, a recent article in the Wall Street Journal notes, “While there has been a splash of positive news about coffee lately, there may still be grounds for concern.”

Coffee contains traces of hundreds of substances, including potassium, magnesium and vitamin E, as well as chlorogenic acids that are thought to have antioxidant properties. These may protect against cell damage and inflammation that can be precursors to cancer, diabetes, neurological disorders and cardiovascular disease.



Have another espresso—it may be
good for you. Photo courtesy SXC.

How has coffee been shown to help? According to an article in the Wall Street Journal Article, here are the studies that have been completed:


  • Osteoporosis: Caffeine lowers bone density, but adding milk can balance out the risk.
  • Alzheimer’s: Moderate coffee drinking appears to be protective.
  • Cancer: Earlier studies implicating coffee in causing cancer have been disproven; it may instead lower the risk of colon, mouth, throat and other cancers.
  • Diabetes: Many studies find that coffee—decaf or regular—lowers the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes; however, caffeine raises blood sugar in people who already have diabetes.
  • Heart disease: Long-term coffee drinking does not appear to raise the risk and may provide some protection.
  • Mood: Moderate caffeine boosts energy and cuts depression, but excess amounts can cause anxiety. 

    And more good news: Coffee is ubiquitous, affordable, calorie-free and beloved by many. Some 54% of American adults drink coffee regularly—an estimated 400 million cups per day.




  • Cholesterol: Some coffee—especially decaf—raises LDL, the bad kind of cholesterol.
  • Pregnancy: Caffeine intake may increase the risk of miscarriage and low birth-weight babies.
  • Sleep: Effects are highly variable, but avoiding coffee after 3PM can avert insomnia.
  • Hypertension: Caffeine raises blood pressure, so sufferers should be wary.More bad news: Coffee can aggravate anxiety, irritability, heartburn and sleeplessness; caffeine has also been linked to benign breast lumps and bone loss in elderly women.

    So, coffee may or may not be your personal “health food.” But if you don’t fall into any of the risk groups, enjoy that double espresso.



TRENDS: Flavor Trends For 2010?

Mintel, a leading global supplier of consumer, product and media intelligence, creates an annual list of what the hot new year’s flavors will be among American food enthusiasts (and those who make packaged products and restaurant meals for them). Here’s what Mintel predicts you’ll be enjoying in 2010, with our comments in italics:

1. Cardamom. Intensely aromatic with a strong flavor, cardamom will find a home in more than just ethnic fare. Cosmic Chocolate recently launched a chocolate bar flavored with cardamom and oranges. (Hmm…not exactly news to chocolatiers. We’ve been enjoying Donnelly Chocolates’ Five Spice chocolate bar with cardamom—and other chocolatiers—for years. And, along with lots of people, we’ve been baking cookies with cardamom—not exactly “ethnic fare.”)

2. Sweet Potato. Candied, fried, baked or boiled, sweet potatoes are not just a delicious snack or side dish. Mintel predicts that they will become known as the new functional food: rich in dietary fiber, beta carotene and vitamins C and B6. (Is this news? Can we have another bag of North Fork Sweet Potato Chips, please?)

3. Hibiscus. The USDA has said that consuming hibiscus tea can lower blood pressure. In the future, expect to see it become a common ingredient in the beverage market. Premium Essence Water from Hint now offers Hibiscus-Vanilla flavored water. [A couple of beverages, including the OOBA line of hibiscus-flavored sodas, do not a galloping trend make. The real hibiscus is very tart; bottled beverages use a bit of hibiscus and round it out with other red fruit flavors. With the small amount of real hibiscus in any popular drink, it’s best to stick with the teas as a remedy.]



Honeydew-hibiscus unsweetened water
from Hint. Will hibiscus be the next pomegranate?

4. Cupuaçu. The taste of the Amazon, cupuaçu is the next big superfruit. It contains more than 10 vitamins and antioxidants, as well as essential fatty acids and amino acids. Musselmans launched a lime and cupuaçu flavored apple sauce showcasing this unique flavor. [This may be a media hit: Anything both unpronounceable and called “superfruit” is bound to captivate the U.S. imagination. But Americans have not yet mastered açaí. That’s ah-sigh-YEE, not ah-KIGH.]

5. Rose Water. Rose water is no longer just a fragrance. You can look forward to finding it as a common flavor in ethnic foods or, like Ghalia Organic Desserts in Los Angeles discovered, you can add it to your brownie recipe for a subtle rose water flavor. [Not news: rose water is a very popular ingredient in Middle Eastern and Indian foods, and has been adopted by fine pastry chefs and chocolatiers for quite some time.]

6. Latin Flavors. Latin spices will be heating up our palates next year, and you won’t have to dine out to get these exciting flavors. Whole Foods Market now offers a Mayan Ceviche; meanwhile, Icelandic Salsa Shrimp Cocktail features a spice packet loaded with the popular Latin flavor of cilantro. [Hasn’t Latin food been the biggest trend of the decade? Peruvian food—predicted by Mintel a few years back, hasn’t quite made it to the forefront, though.]

We wish you many gustatory adventures in the new year.


TRENDS: Humane-Certified Meat & Poultry


If you’re passionate about animal care, ask
your grocer to stock these products.

Ten billion farm animals are raised for food each year in the United States. You know that USDA-certified organic meat sets certain standards for animal welfare: The animals have daily access to pasture or other free-range grazing and eat organic-certified feed. If family-farm raised, they also tend to be farmed by people who care about their animals.

But for those who are very concerned with animal welfare, there’s an even stronger certification from organizations that only focus on the topic. The certifications include American Humane Certified, Certified Humane and Animal Welfare Approved. (Whole Foods has its own “Animal Compassionate” program.)

Their mission is to protect livestock—cattle, hogs, sheep and poultry—from inhumane treatment, both on the farm and in transit.

These programs are voluntary and are open to livestock producers who meet the rigorous standards of raising and handling their animals. Those who are certified are permitted to use the program’s certification label on their products. The programs provide third-party, independent verification that certified producers’ care and handling of farm animals meet the science-based animal welfare standards of the certifying organization.

The concept of certifying animal foods as being humanely raised is relatively new, and not all animal welfare scientists agree on what standards are appropriate. Thus, differences exist among the programs, most significantly, whether factory-farming systems should be approved in addition to family farms. Some programs admit family farms only.



TRENDS: Can The Beer?


Buckbean Beer, a Nevada craft brewer, uses
cans for its Black Noddy Logger and Orange
Blossom Ale. Photo courtesy of Buckbean

Is canned beer making a comeback among those who enjoy the finest? More craft brewers are turning to canning their brews. In the past, canning lines weren’t made small enough to handle small craft beer lines, so brewers had to use glass; glass became associated with quality beer.

While canned beer comprises a fraction of craft brews, some companies have started canning their beer exclusively, for environmental reasons as well as for consumer convenience:

  • Cans are more easily recyclable than glass.
  • Cans don’t have to be washed when they arrive at the brewery, thereby saving water.
  • A delivery truck can only be stacked 2/3 full with bottles but can be filled 100% with cans, thereby saving on fuel expended.
  • Cans are lighter and don’t break: They’re safer and easier to transport.
  • Cans are better for storage: Light and air affect the quality of the beer (and all food products—including wine, olive oil, and spices). Clear beer bottles expose the beer to light; it’s possible for air to seep through caps and for carbonation to get out.
(Although note that beer should be drunk fresh and not stored longer than six months, so this should be a theoretical argument. Resist the temptation to buy more beer than you need in any given month.)

On October 23rd a competition of canned craft beers, CANFEST, will be held in Reno, Nevada. Beer seminars, beer and food pairings, tastings of the competing beers and a forum of brewers are planned; celebrities from the beer world will judge the beers. A sample of the entrants includes Big Sky Brewing Company, Buckbean Brewing Company, Maui Brewing Company, New Belgium Brewing Company, Oskar Blues, Rochester Mills Brewing Company, Surly Brewing Company, Ukiah Brewing Company and Uncommon Brewers. Ticket prices are $35 and room packages will be available. For more information, email Constance Aguilar, or call 1.775.323.2977.


TRENDS: You Scream, I Scream…For Gelato

We recently spent a Lucullan feast of an evening at Screme, a new premium gelato chain in New York City. We tried every flavor in the place—28, to be precise. That’s the Screme way: You can taste as much as you like. We felt O.K. about that, as Screme claims 1/3 fewer calories and lower fat than regular gelato. They say they can produce such a creamy product with these advantages because of its “absolute freshness,“ which they say allows them to use less fat.

Screme, the American version of Aldo’s, the largest gelato chain in Israel, is the second international premium gelato chain to settle in our town in two years (the first was Grom, from Italy).

What makes a gelato “premium?”


A few of Screme’s flavors, made fresh daily.

While everyone will claim that his or her brand is “the best,” here’s the secret: The best gelato is made daily, or in the case of Screme, several times daily, from the fresh ingredients. For example, strawberry is not made from strawberry purée from a pouch, but from fresh strawberries. Worse, with the growth of chains and products sold to anyone who wants to sell gelato, there’s gelato mix that comes in a package that’s poured into a machine. The difference in taste is huge. One tastes generic, the other tastes like it’s worth a long drive.<

Gelato may be what a gelateria is known for, but don’t overlook the sorbets. Bursting with fresh fruit flavor, we liked them even more. The Mojito and Passionfruit were ab fab.

If you have a jones for the sweet and frozen (guilty a charged—ice cream is our favorite food category), sorbet is the better choice. There’s no dairy, fat or cholesterol, it has more vitamins and antioxidants from the fruit, and it has significantly fewer calories. It’s lighter, livelier and more refreshing. While we’re inculcated from childhood with the idea of ice cream, try more sorbet and see if you agree.

Back to Screme: There are currently two locations in New York City (one in the lobby of Madame Tussaud’s Wax Musuem on 42nd Street in Times Square—no admission fee required), one on Broadway and 69th Street), with a third location on East 64th Street opening soon. National expansion is plan. A sugar-free gelato is on the way. The products are certified kosher.

  • Read more about gelato.
  • See the difference between gelato and all the different frozen desserts in our Ice Cream Glossary.



TRENDS: Whole Foods Over-Stretches The Definition Of “Local”

Most food-centric people are interested in “local” foods these days: to support their local family farms; to eat foods in season, when they taste the best; and for environmental reasons, because locally-grown food doesn’t have to be transported long distances, which saves on fossil fuel. While “local” has become a hot marketing word, we think that Whole Foods Market has taken the concept a bit too far. As we walked past the bags of coffee at one of the New York Whole Foods stores this afternoon, we saw two brands produced by New York-area companies, heralded with “local” signs. Militant locavores—restrain yourselves from marching on Whole Foods Market and tearing these signs down. Instead, if you concur with our grievance, complain to the store manager. coffee-plantation-230
A coffee plantation in Brazil. All coffee beans sold in the continental U.S. are grown elsewhere and shipped here. They are not “local” foods. Photo by Daniel Zandonadi | SXC.
What’s the grievance? No coffee is grown anywhere in the Continental U.S., so therefore, no coffee can be a “local” product in the sense that the industry uses the term, to apply to products that are farmed, raised or fished locally (only Whole Foods Hawaii can promote Kona and a few other local coffee varieties). Typically, coffee beans for American brands are shipped green to the U.S. from the semitropical country in which they are grown, whether they’re destined for Maxwell House or an artisan label. They do get roasted locally, for freshness; but that’s like saying that macadamia nuts from Australia that are roasted in New York are a “local” product.

So these beans were roasted in New York instead of Seattle. That’s not what “local” means, and to say so is duping customers who want to do the right thing but don’t stop to think that coffee isn’t locally grown. If WFM wants to flag a brand of coffee that roasts the beans locally as “local,” then they’ve got to flag every ice cream, yogurt, jam and other food manufactured in the region as local, regardless of where the ingredients come from. At least the local ice cream and yogurt makers are using local milk!


© Copyright 2005-2016 Lifestyle Direct, Inc. All rights reserved. All images are copyrighted to their respective owners.