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.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Editor's Choice: Holly Baking

Looking for a delicious snack to stock your shelves with? Look no further than the Holly Baking Grab 'N' Go line of cookies. They're now available in five flavors: Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal Raisin, French Butter, Butter Rich and Sweet Ginger. The cookies are flavorful, crispy and delicious. The Butter Rich Cookie Brittle melts in your mouth and Sweet Ginger Cookie Brittle has just enough "snap" to satisfy taste buds. The Chocolate Chip Classic Cookies will satisfy any chocoholic like myself. All of Holly Baking's products are made with all-natural ingredients so you don't have to feel guilty for indulging.

The decorative 3 oz. boxes are perfect for gift basket arrangements and for in-store impulse purchases for customers to enjoy.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Specialty Food Sales Break Records

Americans have a growing appetite for specialty food. U.S. sales of specialty food and beverages reached $88.3 billion in 2013, a record high for the fourth year in a row and a jump of 18.4 percent since 2011.
Cheese dominates specialty food sales at retail, with $4 billion in sales in 2013, followed by the categories meat, poultry and seafood; and chips, pretzels and snacks. The fastest growing categories are nut butters, eggs, and frozen desserts, according to new research from the Specialty Food Association.

“U.S. consumers are more sophisticated and discerning about their food choices than ever before,” says Ron Tanner, vice president of philanthropy, government and industry relations for the Association. “Retailers and restaurants of all kinds are responding by offering more specialty foods crafted by makers of artisanal cheeses, innovative vinegars, and health-oriented snacks.”

The outlook for retail is robust, with sales at specialty food stores and natural markets skyrocketing by 42.4 percent and 33.8 percent, respectively, between 2011 and 2013. Mainstream supermarket sales growth was more sluggish, at 6.9 percent.

Foodservice sales at caf√©s, fast-casual chains, restaurants and venues from casinos to cruise ships represent one fifth of the specialty food market. Sales in this sector remained steady at $18.1 billion in 2013, but manufacturers report it is their slowest-growing sales channel. Importers, however, report growth.
Distributors of specialty food say non-GMO has the highest potential for growth of all product claims during the next three years. Seventy percent of retailers surveyed cite “local” as the claim that interests consumers most today. Energy bars had meteoric growth in 2012; in 2013 the category lost some steam, ranking 21st in specialty food retail sales vs. seventh in 2012.

These finding are included in The State of the Specialty Food Industry 2014, an annual report from the Specialty Food Association prepared in conjunction with research firms Mintel International and SPINS. The report tracks U.S. sales of specialty food through supermarkets, natural food stores and specialty food retailers and includes surveys of food manufacturers, importers, distributors, brokers and retailers. Specialty foods are broadly defined for the report as products that have limited distribution and a reputation for high quality.

Editor’s Choice: PackIt

One dilemma I’ve faced quite often (and my children too) is how to pack a lunch and keep it cool for extended periods of time, especially when the weather gets real hot.  But now that I’ve tried the PackIt freezable lunch cooler that dilemma has been solved.

The PackIt freezable lunch cooler keeps food and drinks cold for up to 10 hours and the best part is you don’t need to add a messy ice pack. (There have been way too many times my kids have left the ice packs in their other lunch bags and they sweat and leak all over).

With the PackIt all I have to do is put it in the freezer overnight, remove it in the morning, pack it and it’s ready to go. I like the convenience and I feel better about how long it stays cold, especially sitting in a school locker or a hot car.

It also folds up to the size of a paperback book so it’s very compact in my freezer. The designs are pretty and creative as well. And the product is free of harmful chemicals and made with nontoxic food-save materials, so that is an additional benefit I would be looking for.

If you are like a lot of families who need to pack a lunch or snacks for work, school, activities or day trips, you should give the PackIt a try. The company also makes really cool wine chillers too.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Editor’s Choice: Lid Pocket

This past week I had the pleasure of discovering the Lid Pocket when I used my slow cooker to make my St. Patrick’s Day dinner. I am a huge fan of slow cookers, because I love the convenience of throwing a variety of ingredients into a pot and arriving home to the wonderful aroma and the spectacular results of what turns out to be a delicious meal.

One problem with the slow cooker though, (at least mine, which is the large size) is that the lid often causes condensation that drips all over and makes a mess. And there’s not ever a convenient place to put it down. But the Lid Pocket holds the cover in place and out of the way, collecting condensation with its built-in reservoir. It also frees up your hands if you need to stir or add spices or ingredients.

The Lid Pocket is designed for use with nearly all slow cookers.  It fits the three-quart slow cookers all the way up to the large round and oval slow cookers. It is BPA-free, dishwasher safe and stores conveniently inside the slow cooker. I like that because space is always an issue inside my cabinets!

It’s a pretty clever concept that works like a charm. This would make a great hostess or shower gift.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Editor’s Choice: Mayana Chocolate

I had the pleasure of testing three very unique, luxurious and indulgent chocolate bars this week from Mayana Chocolate: The Fix Bar, The Kitchen Sink Bar and The Space Bar. The first thing that I noticed was the beautiful composition and design of each piece, more like a work of art that I didn’t want to mess up! And the size of each bar was so thick and filling, making for a rich, chocolate bite that I just had to share with my family.

The Fix Bar (my favorite) consisted of Vanilla Bean, Shortbread, Fleur De Sel Caramel and 66 percent Dark Chocolate. I could really taste that pop of salt that counter-balanced the sweetness of the chocolate and caramel. Each bite was like a nice little surprise on my tongue.

The Kitchen Sink Bar was an explosion of flavors, with Pretzel, Milk Chocolate, Crisp Rice, Peanut Butter, Fleur De Sel Caramel and 66 percent Dark Chocolate. Just like its name, it has everything you could possibly crave in one sweet snack.

The Space Bar was very satisfying with Toasted Almond Nougat, Vanilla Bean, Fleur De Sel Caramel, and 66 percent Dark Chocolate. One heavenly bite was followed by another.

Mayana Chocolates is the winner of several awards and its line of artisan candy bars features the same artisan techniques and ingredients as its fine chocolates. You can really taste the passion that goes into these beautiful, indulgent bars. They were an exquisite taste experience.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Editor’s Choice: Seely Mint

There’s nothing more refreshing than the cool, crisp taste of mint. When I sampled a Seely Mint Patty, I was amazed at the fresh and clean flavors of this patty compared to others I have tried. And the reason, I think, goes back to the history of the Seely family farm. Located in Clastskanie, Oregon, it grows, harvests and prepares the highest quality peppermint and spearmint oils in a secluded valley nestled between the coast range and the Columbia River.

It’s the combination of the mild coastal climate and dark river bottom soil that produces a sweeter, smoother mint of premium quality and flavor. The family also harvests only once each summer when the mint flavor components are at their optimum levels.

The outside of the patty has a luscious coating of Belgian bittersweet chocolate and the mint inside is a rich, thick filling that counter balances perfectly. I also found the generous size of the mint patty to be very satisfying.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Editor’s Choice: RiceSelect

When faced with the choice, I usually pick white rice over brown, even though I wish I could find a brown rice that would appeal to me as I could use some whole grain alternatives. But now that I’ve sampled RiceSelect Texmati Brown Rice, I can honestly say I’m a convert. 

I ate this as my main course—not even as a side—and I was happy to indulge. The aroma as it cooked (I microwaved mine) was enticing enough, but the flavor was unique and outstanding, and the nutty, fluffy texture was terrific. I was pleasantly surprised at how good this tasted but even more pleased at how good it is for you. The all-natural, whole grain is a smart choice for a healthy lifestyle.

Although I ate mine as the main course, this would be great paired with seasonings, sauces, stir-fries, soups, pilafs or stuffings too.

I can’t recall having tasted such a good brown rice before. I’m glad I found one that not only appealed to my taste buds, but to my quest for improving my eating habits as well.