29 New and Tasty Things I Ate at the 2019 Summer Fancy Food Show
From an amazing take on Chex Mix to a new competitor in the non-dairy ice cream space, here's what I experienced.
Besides boasting of a city block's length of booths dedicated to cheese, the Summer Fancy Food Show, held annually in New York City's Javits Center, provides a chance for entrepreneurs to show off their new, innovative and hopefully tasty products to retailers, distributors and others.
The show takes up three levels of the convention center, with the main floor dedicated to cuisines from around the world, the bottom dedicated to growing packaged food brands and the top floor for recently created startups. I spent most of my time speaking with the entrepreneurs in that latter space, while doing quick walkthroughs of the other levels.
There's too much food for one person to take in a single visit, but here are 29 companies (and their products) that caught my eye.
There have been a few attempts to make a coffee soda; even Coca-Cola tried its massive hand at it with a product called Coca Cona.
Cafello is a new attempt at the initiative to combine coffee and soda, and one that's pretty damn tasty.
Greek yogurt may be suffering from stagnant sales, but that gives other dairy items a chance to shine. Snackable cottage cheese has seen some resurgence, so why not ricotta cheese?
RifRaf has both sweet and savory options. I tried the Meyer Lemon variety, and it was surprisingly good.
A spread made of datesWanna Date is spreadable and tasty. It is also low in sugar and vegan, making it another good option for sandwiches or crackers.
Frozen Moroccan foodThis spread came courtesy of Foussi Foods, a new brand that wants to bring Moroccan cuisine into people's homes by way of the freezer aisle. I tried its sweets along with its bread and dip, and I'm hopeful the company is successful in its efforts.
Vegan baking kits
Baking can be fun, but what if you're vegan. SimpleVGN is a baking mix that just needs wet ingredients such as almond milk to get going. It even comes with its own proprietary egg replacement.
I tasted the company's carrot cake, complete with frosting, and it was delicious.
Falafel and plant-based tzatzikiOne of the highlights of the show was Fabalish's plant-based tzatziki (typically made with yogurt). This version was made of aquafaba, the liquid found in canned chickpeas, and tasted exactly like its dairy counterpart. The company also makes excellent falafel, which is sold frozen. It will also soon introduce chocolate chip blondies made from chickpeas.
A taste of TunisiaMohamed and Tara Belouafa are the founders of Zonzon Organic, makers of Tunisian-inspired sauces, which pack a lot of flavor. They'd be great for pasta, seafood, poultry and probably lots of other things.
Avocado Leaf teaWho knew that you could make tea from leaves of avocado trees? Well, the people behind the company aptly called Avocado Leaf Tea.
Nuts for hemp
CBD was a key player at Expo West, but I didn't see many products with ingredients derived from marijuana at the Fancy Food Show aside from these nuts by A Boring Life with hemp extract.
New York heat718 Heat Factory is a hot sauce brand with a lot of New York pride. Lawyer-by-day Leilani Kali Rivers is the co-founder of the company, and the sauces are based on the recipes of her 94-year-old grandmother from Panama.
A different take on barsBlake's makes bars that are free from the top-eight allergens. What also sets them apart is the inclusion of quinoa and chickpeas. Its Pineapple flavor was quite tasty, and it had a nice chewy texture, unlike most gravelly bars.
Mushrooms as a snackMudLrk is a company with interesting products and an interesting founder. Its line of snacks include baked jackfruit, which is naturally sweet, along with flavored shiitake mushrooms, which have a nice, crispy texture. All its packaging is compostable. The founder, Trace Ostergren, was inspired to create the snacks based off his time living in Beijing during his teenage years and beyond.
A natural burger replacement
Vivian Me-Hae Lee believes vegetarians and flexitarians will swap out their burgers for mung beans. The Mung Dynasty Foods product will come in bites and patties and be sold frozen.
Let's ChaatI remembered this company's Indian-inspired snacks from last year's show. The Chaat Company is back with a new format: chickpea chips with thick dips.
Bringing the heatHillside Harvest's original sauce set my mouth on fire in a good way. The Caribbean-inspired sauce is made with peppers and fruits, which gives a sweet introduction with a fiery kick.
A new contender in non-dairy ice cream
Oat milk is the latest craze in alternative milks, and it proves to be an excellent base for ice cream. Oate's vanilla was spot on for its dairy ice cream counterpart, while its coffee flavor was also amazing.
African flavorIt's safe to say there aren't many African-inspired food products on the shelves. Hapi African Gourmet offers a peanut sauce and sunflower sauce that will bring the continent's flavors to your kitchen.
Empanadas in your freezerThese Argentinian empanadas from Cocina 54 are a major step up from Hot Pockets -- or whatever you have lingering in the back of your freezer. The company will soon introduce a bite-sized version for snacking as well.
Thai sauces at homeThaifusions sauces are basically your favorite Thai restaurant in a jar. These incredible condiments look to be the only thing you need to make your own Southeast Asian cuisine.
Sweet potato cookiesThese delicious vegan cookies from Off Our Rocker use sweet potatoes as their base.
"Chicken" salad from tempehEven Barry Schwartz says that tempeh, an Indonesia protein, can be a hard sell. But he's proud of his new product, Chickenless Salad, which does indeed match the texture (and some of the flavor) of its poultry counterpart.
A spread with attitudeSpread-Mmms makes an olive tapenade, orange marmalade and other spreads. But what's most eye-catching is its cool branding, which is inspired by 1950s era pin-up girls. The cartoon woman on the label is named Sergeant Spread-Mmms, by the way.
A better Chex mixLoloyum created one of my favorite treats at the show: a much better version of Chex Mix. It's inspired by a Hawaiian snack mix that uses Chex Mix as a base, but this version uses natural ingredients with flavors including Matcha and Japanese Seven Spice.
Mushroom coffee that's good?
I was surprised that I actually enjoyed Mushroom Coffee from Sun Alchemy. Its Matcha Latte and Golden Latte were also quite good, and the company has many drink mixes to choose from.
Better-for-you ice creamRe:Think Ice Cream boasts that its products contain less calories and sugar and more protein than other brands. That's all well and good, but I was just happy it offered Coconut Matcha and Cardamom Pistachio flavors.
Creating adventurous eaters
Let's end this roundup with a look at some companies creating products for babies and kids.
First off is Lil'Gourmets, founded by Kraft Foods veteran Shibani Baluja. It offers your little ones interesting flavors such as Sweet Potato Curry, Moroccan Butternut Squash and Cinnamon Beets & Apples. And, yes, adults can eat them too.
Diversifying young palettesKekoa Foods has a similar mission of introducing diverse ingredients to babies. It boasts of incorporating herbs, roots and spices into its lineup of products.
Finger foodsLittle Pickins makes chicken and turkey balls packed with vegetables for young children. It looks like a good way to introduce littles ones to ingredients they may not be used to.
Peanut butter for babies
MeWe aims to provide a way for parents to introduce peanuts, a top allergen, to their babies (it's better to do so at an earlier age). The product comes in tubes and is easier for toddlers to swallow that typical peanut butter.
The company is a nonprofit and uses its funds to help treat and prevent childhood malnutrition.