An online community for gourmet and specialty food retailers.

Welcome to Fancy Food & Culinary Products' blog, your place to read reviews of the great fancy and gourmet products we find in the marketplace.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Editor’s Pick: Marich Milk and Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel Popcorn

Sweet and salty is always a promising combination but it’s especially a winning one with Marich Premium Chocolate’s Milk and Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel Popcorn.

Each kernel of light and fluffy popcorn is covered in a rich, caramel glaze, topped with sea salt and encased in a layer of high-quality milk or dark chocolate.

With the holidays coming up, you could suggest that your customers buy one bag of each, and combine them in glass dishes for holiday parties. The contrasting chocolates look nice next to each other and pair well with a full-bodied red wine such as Malbec.

The candy comes in a heavy brown paper bag emblazoned with the Marich label. It’s a great adult stocking stuffer or gift for holiday office parties.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Editor's Pick: Cosmos Creations

The following is a true statement: I've never before had anything sriracha. Cosmos Spicy Sriracha puffed corn was my first experience with the wildly popular hot sauce. I once saw a card that read "You're the Sriracha to my everything," so I figured I had to give it a shot.

Cosmos Creations launched their new flavor in September, which joined their already exciting line of seven flavors, Sea Salt Butter, Salted Caramel, Cinnamon Crunch, Sea Salt and Vinegar, Coconut Crunch, Caramel and Aged Cheddar & Cracked Pepper. “Spicy flavors like Sriracha are a huge trend at the moment and here at Cosmos Creations, we like to keep up with what’s popular in the snack food industry,” says Jerid Strasheim, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Cosmos Creations. “Our goal is to always listen to the consumer and provide them the types of flavors they enjoy.”

Cosmos Creations started out in Oregon in 2004 as Cosmos Caramel Corn, and exploded onto the scene after it became a local sensation. They developed over a dozen flavors and showcased them at trade shows and consumer events, helping develop their devoted following.
4 Him Food Group purchased Cosmos in mid-2011 and has since moved the company into a new production facility, allowing plenty of space to set themselves up for success on a national level.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Who is Today’s Specialty Food Consumer?

With the specialty food market approaching 100 billion dollars (it’s expected to reach that number in 2016) this gourmet-centric universe is growing roughly three times as fast as the regular food market. In 2014, 145 million people—that’s 59 percent of U.S. consumers—purchased specialty foods, according to this year’s Today’s Specialty Food Consumer Report produced by the Specialty Food Association and Mintel International. These two organizations have been conducting research together for 10 years now, and this year they’ve produced some highly detailed, top-level statistics on just who is purchasing specialty foods, how they’re using these products, as well as their attitudes, interests and concerns.

At The Core
Core specialty food consumers defined by Mintel are aged 18 to 44; affluent, earning more than $75,000 annually; more likely to buy specialty foods from a broader range of retailers; the biggest weekly spenders on grocery and restaurant food; and ones who spend a larger percentage of their food dollars on specialty products each week. Within this group, 18-24s and 35-44s are most likely to purchase the largest range of specialty food categories. 

Infographics and images courtesy
of the Specialty Food Association
“Specialty foods are considered foods that are premium quality,” says David Lockwood of Mintel. “These may be made by small or local manufacturers, they may have the very best ingredients available, they may be premium, fancy or gourmet, and they’re often, but not always, more expensive.” The difference in definition this year is noticeable—by fine-tuning the examples and narrowing the definition, the Association is able to better illustrate the premium status of the foods. Food once considered niche has actually moved into the mainstream—for instance, Greek Yogurt has been replaced by chutneys in this year’s survey. And while the figures represent a drop from 74 percent of consumers purchasing specialty foods in 2013 to 59 percent this year, the difference is a matter of redefinition rather than a decline in purchases.

The top ten categories that these specialty food consumers are buying range from chocolate (1) and olive oil (2) to cheeses (3), coffee (4), beverages (8), and tea (10). Much of the top ten categories are consistent with 2013, but tea has most noticeably moved up the ladder. 

When surveying popular categories by age group, research found that 18-24s tend to gravitate towards on-the-go items. Snacks, condiments, cookies and chocolates were all prominent purchases for early Millennials who bought these products for guests, gifts and the office. Ready-to-eat prepared foods as well as cooking sauces, rice, quinoa and others were popular among 25-34 year olds. Baking mixes, cooking sauces, and products that offer short cuts in home cooking got the attention of 35-44 year olds who might be time pressed juggling families and careers. Additionally, since 2006, women, younger adults, affluent households, and Hispanics have been the most likely purchasers of specialty foods.

These specialty food consumers value food tremendously and make that known with their wallets. They’re the biggest weekly spenders on both groceries and restaurants, and they’re most likely to spend a larger percent of their food dollars on specialty items. The research has put a spotlight on spending habits, and these consumers are happy to pay more for better quality food—be it beer, cheese, meat, or farmer’s market produce.

Sustainability is Key
According to the 2014 Consumer Report, 84 percent of specialty food consumers believe it’s important to buy sustainably produced food, and retailers can benefit by attracting the subset of specialty food consumers who purchased products with sustainable and ethical claims in the past six months. Grocers should stock an array of ethically produced food and beverages and clearly call out their claims. The most commonly purchased food and beverage product claims are all-natural (62 percent), organic (56 percent) and locally sourced (47 percent). What’s more important to comprehend is that nearly ¾ of specialty food consumers support companies that practice sustainability as a whole.

Digitally Native
The digital niche (within the specialty food market niche) is growing, and almost half of specialty food consumers said that they had bought gourmet products online. These consumers are more active on social media to talk and learn about food than ever before, and Millennials, the most dominant buying group, are leading the pack. It’s their second nature to purchase online and give recommendations online. For specialty food consumers, the sheer number of time online exceeds two hours per day outside of work—they’re engaged in the gourmet food universe and they’re using these platforms for the purpose of connecting and sharing products, ideas, brands and retailers online.

Piece of the Socioeconomic Pie
The aging U.S. population (over-55’s) are actually the fastest-growing age group, but they are the lightest users of specialty products. Retailers and wholesalers must also take into account the delayed maturation of Millennials (they’re getting married, starting families, and buying houses later than any generation prior). The combination of both means that the industry is vulnerable to a slower market growth going forward. To combat this, companies and retailers must either begin marketing to an over-55 crowd, or push for the quicker maturation of Millennials’ purchasing decisions—the latter seeming more effective.

Additionally, brands must take into account that the industry’s greatest consumers are ones that bring in more than 75K annually—however, this is only 30 percent of the U.S. population. Find ways to market to buyers who don’t make exceptional incomes.

For more information and to check out the full 2014 Consumer Report, visit the Specialty Food Association.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Editor’s Pick: Totally Bamboo Wine Themed Cut & Serve Board

I am a big fan of wine and cheese nights, frequently gathering my friends together for a mid-week break to relax and unwind. I recently acquired Totally Bamboo’s Wine Themed Cut & Serve Board. The striking bamboo is cut into the shape of a wine bottle. It is finely sanded making it smooth to the touch. A strap at the top makes it easy to hang in my kitchen, making it a beautiful decoration when I am not using it.

The high-quality bamboo material washes well in the sink, and it remained free of any marks when I sliced the creamy Havarti and used the pesto goat cheese spread. Bamboo is 6 percent harder and denser than maple, which is what many cutting boards are made from.

All of Totally Bamboo’s products are made of 100 percent bamboo which is a completely renewable source and makes their products eco-friendly. Totally Bamboo also doesn’t use any dyes or stains, making all customers feel comfortable preparing food and eating off of their products.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Editor's Pick: Bauli Mini Croissants

To end my week, last Friday I tried a package of mini croissants, compliments of BauliI tried both the chocolate cream as well as the vanilla custard, and couldn't decide which flavor I enjoyed more. So I tried another of each, and another—lather, rinse, repeat—until both bags were gone. The results are in. It's a tie. 

The company, who makes Italian holiday cakes and pastries, recently launched in the U.S., introducing traditional Italian desserts with natural ingredients to the market. Their initial products include Il Panettone di Milano, an Italian Christmas bread with candied citron, lemon zest and raisins; Il Pandoro di Verona, Golden bread which is a star-shaped Christmas bread; and their Chocolate Cream and Vanilla Custard Croissants.

With the holiday season just around the corner, the company brings the Italian culinary experience to the seasonal products bring authenticity, heritage and tradition to family and friends gathered around the dinner (or dessert) table. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Editor's Pick: Simple Salsa E-Z Mixes

It’s Taco Tuesday, and very few things in life are more depressing than being forced to eat that bland, less-than-flavorful salsa your friend bought at Trader Joes—pardon the exaggeration, it’s for the story’s purpose. Although beautifully ripe, in-season tomatoes act as a strong foundation for flavorful salsa, it’s the marrying of herbs, spices, and other ingredients that take such a basic fruit to the next level.

Enter SimpleSalsa’s E-Z Mixes. The 60-second salsa requires one packet of the company’s seasoning and spice combo, 14-ounces (whether a can or fresh) of tomatoes, and you’re ready to tango. The healthy, MSG and gluten-free products spice up dishes at a fraction of the price of store-bought jars, and with a list of choices like Restaurant-style Fiesta, Smokin’ Chipotle and more, the flavor options suit plenty of salsa aficionado’s preferences.

But we’re all for multi-tasking around here, right?  In addition to it's marriage with tomatoes, we tried the Smokin’ Chipotle Seasoning packet with chicken for fajitas had a serious depth of flavor. The packets should work just as well with steaks, pork chops and even soups, stews, taco meat or any dish that’s looking for a fiesta. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Editor’s Pick: Titan Tea

Trade shows can be exhausting, and between the exhibitors I need to see, the attendees I need to interview and the long hours, I don’t always have time for a meal, let alone to stand in a line at the food court. That’s where I turn to Titan Tea. Their delicious cold-brewed teas infused with electrolytes for hydration, ribose and caffeine for sustained energy keep me going when I am walking miles of trade show space. Former Major League Lacrosse player John Gagliardi developed the formula over the course of two years. He was inspired to create the tea because he was disappointed with sugar-laden drink options packed with artificial ingredients.  Brewed tea is Gagliardi’s drink of choice and it has great benefits and natural caffeine so it makes sense that he would develop a tea.

The teas come in four tasty flavors and are low-calorie.