Nearly 20,000 foodies convened at San Francisco’s Moscone Center in January for the 2016 Winter Fancy Food Show, and while the gathering still very much belongs to the world of natural, specialty and gourmet foods, beverages continue to increase their booth count at the bi-annual trade show.
The further use of coconut as an ingredient (beyond just its juice) was one recurring trend that could be seen across a handful of brands and categories, from established leaders to first-time exhibitors. Vita Coco, for example, was at the show sampling its new chocolate variety, adding coconut milk and cocoa powder to its core product. Then there was Califia Farms, which debuted its new Better Half creamer line, a Half & Half alternative using coconut and almond creams.
“There are a lot of millennials who would never get near creamers because of the artificial perception of products like Coffee-Mate and International Delight,” said Califia Farms CEO Greg Steltenpohl. “This product allows us to introduce them to a natural approach.”
Califia recently completed an initiative to become carrageenan-free and reduce the use of gums across its entire range. Steltenpohl said that the use of coconut in the Better Half line still helped to give the product its “mouthfeel satisfaction.”
Coconut cream wasn’t limited to dairy alternative products either. Jones Soda Co. is using the ingredient in its newest offering, Lemoncocco, a brand based on a classic Italian recipe blending lemon and coconut cream flavors.
Speaking of soda, craft varieties were another category well represented at Fancy Foods. Sipp Sparkling Organics, fresh off the announcement of the brand’s placement in 1,200 Target stores, had its upcoming line of 10.5 oz. cans on hand. In its canned format, Sipp will come in 12-packs, and while those are designed primarily for the food service channel, they will also be sold at retail for a suggested price of $1.49 per can. In October the brand entered the Union Station Shake Shack in Washington, D.C., and has since entered several more of the burger chain’s locations.
Other craft soda brands with distribution gains at Target to report included DRY Sparkling, which recently entered more than 1,000 stores and Fentiman’s whose Curiosity Cola, Cherry Tree Cola, Rose Lemonade and Dandelion Burdock flavors can now be found at 900 Target locations nationwide.
Two and a half years after its initial launch at the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City, Found Beverage Co.’s infused sparkling waters came to the Moscone Center by way of beverage broker Brands Within Reach, which became the exclusive distributor for the brand in the United States in 2015. Found’s still and sparkling waters are about to get a label revamp, designed for a minimalistic look. Also in attendance were Portland-based Hotlips soda, Pok Pok Som, and Joia, whose team revealed that a zero-calorie variety is in the works.
The event also saw the debut of heat-tinged beverages like Sipp’s Blood Orange soda, which is blended with a hint of jalapeno and Hint’s Lemon Cayenne flavor, part of the debut of its caffeinated Kick line. The rise of spiced flavor extensions could also be seen in the cocktail mixers category, evidenced by the debut of Owl’s Brew’s ‘Wicked Green’, a green tea-based mixer with habanero peppers, and Cocktail Crate’s new Spicy Michelada. Cocktail Crate recently entered Whole Foods’ southwest and mid-atlantic regions by way of DPI and KeHE distributors, respectively.
On the whole, cocktail mixer brands doubled down on the category’s strong showing at last June’s Summer Fancy Food Show, with some companies sharing product updates just six months after making their Fancy Foods debuts. Barsmith, for example, came back with two new additions to its cocktail syrups line: a Shandy, made with hops and citrus and designed to be mixed with beer, and Oregeto, an almond syrup.
As evidenced by exhibitors in craft soda and cocktails mixers, engaging consumers’ palates with spicy, savory and succulent ingredients is a primary aim for line extensions. Speaking with company executives at the show, it’s clear that’s what customers want — and brands are delivering. Meeting consumer demand for bold flavor profiles is part of the reason for rapid sales growth in mixers, which now represent the fourth fastest-growing category in the grocery channel, according to recent sales data cited by Mark Mahoney, the co-founder of mixer brand Powell & Mahoney.