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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: 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-230

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.

Comments

TRENDS: Humane-Certified Meat & Poultry

american_humane-230

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.

  • Learn more about the American Humane Certified program at AmericanHumane.org.
  • Also check out Certified Humane Raised And Handled Program at CertifiedHumane.org.
  • Visit THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet Meats Section for our favorite meat and poultry products.
  • Comments

    TRENDS: Can The Beer?



    buckbean-beer-230

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

     

    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, constance@abbipr.com or call 1.775.323.2977.

  • Learn about the different types of beer in our Beer Glossary.
  • Find recipes, food-and-beer pairing tips, beer reviews and more in our Beer Section.


  • Comments

    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?”

     

    gelato-bin-230

    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.

  • Comments

    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!

    Comments

    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!

    Comments

    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!

    Comments

    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!

    Comments

    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

    Comments

    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

    Comments

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