NEW YORK — After tasting its way through the Summer Fancy Food Show, held June 12-14 in New York City, the Specialty Food Association’s (SFA) Trendspotter Panel revealed the top trends and flavors gaining prominence in the specialty food industry. Brands can stand out by taking note of their five main trend categories: packaging innovation, vegetable chips, sustainable and ethical choices, alternative comfort foods, and spicy flavors.

“This marketplace has grown into a $175 billion industry, and it’s fueled by the creativity of specialty food producers,” said Denise Purcell, SFA’s VP of content and education. “Innovation was on display at the Summer Show, with our Trendspotters highlighting unexpected twists on classics, reconceived packaging options, better-for-you indulgences and comfort foods, global flavors, and growing interest in sustainability and ethical production.”

The Summer Trendspotter Panel included Melanie Bartelme, associate director of market research firm Mintel; Mikel Cirkus from flavor technology company Firmenich; Jenn de la Vega, editor of Put A Egg on It magazine; Jonathan Deutsch, PhD, professor at Drexel University; Victoria Ho, co-founder of food start-up incubator SherpaCPG; Lindsay Leopold, culinary director at marketing firm Marquee Brands; Patsy Ramirez-Arroyo, sustainability and investment leader at Caribbean and Latin American food  company incubator Homera; Stan Sagner, founder of consultancy We Work for Food; and Kantha Shelke, PhD, fellow at nutrition research firm Corvus Blue.

Entrance 2022 Summer Fancy Food Show


Vegetable Chips

Vacuum- or flash-fried tomatoes, mushrooms and vegetables are bringing new alternatives to the ever-innovative chip category. The pandemic helped consumers prioritize health, meaning clean-label and nutritious products are winning the battle taking place on grocery store shelves. The less oil, fat and calories the better.

To be on the winning side, companies can get inspired by the strategies of innovators like Mush Garden, whose Shiitake Mushroom Crisps — also available in tomato and okra varieties — are made with a vacuum-frying technique. These savory, umami crisps are an appealing alternative to jerky or fatty potato chips. Popadelics is another brand with plant-based products that give consumers a way to enjoy indulgent flavors like truffle parmesan, but in a healthy snack. The SFA’s panel highlighted its broccoli bites and mushroom crisps.

Sustainable and Ethical Choices

From upcycled or regeneratively grown ingredients to products that support the livelihoods of underserved communities, the market is seeing an influx of foods with sustainable and ethical characteristics.

In this category, baked goods producers should take note of the benefits from ethically sourcing ingredients, certifying their ingredients as sustainable, and using green energy to manufacture products.

The SFA’s panel used Teffola’s Nutty Teff Granola as a shining example. Teffola markets its granola as being based on ancient grains like teff and buckwheat, which are grown with regenerative farming practices.

Savory baked goods manufacturers could also benefit from collaborating with seasoning solution providers like Ocean’s Balance. The panel says the Maine-based company’s Seaweed Seasoning exemplifies sustainable food choices. It’s made with regenerative seaweed, an ingredient that can fight climate change due to its incredible ability to absorb carbon emissions from the atmosphere.

“Innovation was on display at the Summer Show, with our Trendspotters highlighting unexpected twists on classics, reconceived packaging options, better-for-you indulgences and comfort foods, global flavors, and growing interest in sustainability and ethical production.” —Denise Purcell | VP of content and education | Specialty Food Association


Alternative Comfort Food

The Trendspotter Panel’s pick for a top trend of 2022 is still going strong, but it’s seeing popular new bases like sunflower seeds, tigernut flour, chickpeas and bananas. New twists on classic favorites, which leverage the power of nostalgia with novel nutrition sources, creates a recipe for success.

Notable products include Amasar’s breadfruit pancake and waffle mix, Mosaic Grove’s tigernut flour, UnbelievaBuns’ burger buns made with sunflower flour and Whoa Dough!’s chickpea-based cookie dessert bars.

And as consumers seek out more allergy-friendly and dairy-free snacks, peas have emerged as an unconventional new ingredient. Ripple Foods is gaining attention for its pea-based cheese and soft serve, which could pair well with savory baked goods.

“A tasty alternative for those with dairy allergies and intolerances, this cheese analog melts just like traditional cheese,” Shelke said. “It has an unprecedented texture in the plant-based cheese sector, and it’s fortified with DHA, omega-3 and vitamin D.”


Peppers Are Hot

Identified by the Trendspotter Panel as a top trend for 2022, spicy flavors and unique peppers stand out.

For consumers who want to explore the world through their tastebuds, snack manufacturers can draw inspiration from ingredients like AYO Foods’ Shito Sauce, a spicy, smoky sauce made with shito peppers that’s widely used throughout Ghana; Chingonas Salsa Macha, an oil-based chili crunch sauce from Veracruz, Mexico; Mr. Chimi’s Hot Chiltepin Sauce, a chimichurri sauce with fiery hot chiltepin pepper; and Saba’s Awaze sauces, styled after common condiments in Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Packaging Innovations

When consumers buy a snack, they care about the product just as much as the way it’s presented. The SFA’s panel suggested they’re looking for two main benefits: convenience and sustainability. Single-serve options or other packaging that features increased portability with decreased mess are winners for both families and on-the-go professionals. Meanwhile, conscious consumers are looking for recyclable or compostable options.

Food brands are finding other ways to get creative. For example, Whipnotic’s flavored whipped cream comes in a spray can with a flavor pod embedded in the nozzle. With the touch of a button, the company’s patented swirl technology blends all-natural fruit juices and flavor essences into its whipped cream. This innovation could inspire baked goods producers to innovate new ways for consumers to personalize and infuse flavors into their products.