A few weeks back we visited the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago, celebrating its 100th anniversary. With hundreds of exhibitors and innovative products, we want to share with you some of the products that really caught our eye and that we consider a glance at some of the rising trends.
Everything Plant Based
Vegan products definitely had a huge presence in the show with products designed both for retail and restaurant. With lines and lines of people waiting to try the “vegan egg” by Just, or the “fish free tuna” by Good Catch, we were amazed by how brands have mastered to replicate animal flavors and textures.
But the brand that really stood out from the rest, in our opinion, was Ocean Hugger Foods. Instead of trying to nail the perfect replica, it uses simple products, such as seasoned tomatoes with an amazing texture that showcases the product’s simplicity and naturality and integrates complex flavors that result in an amazing seafood-like taste. Also, it allows users to have all the freshness of raw meats, unlike most of the imitations that tend to be designed to eat cooked.
We believe that we will start to see a shift towards simpler solutions that won’t really fit under the “imitation” category, but will begin to create a category of their own.
The Happy Aisle
There’s nothing better than getting to the drinks section after hours and hours of walking around, specially if you get to try out fun formats and new add-ons.
There are new ways of consuming alcohol, and boozy ice cream is one of them. With around 8.6% of alcohol volume (regular beer has around 5%), Arctic Buzz is far from being a subtle treat. Don’t get us wrong, we loved it, and we’re interested in seeing how it positions itself in consumer’s routines. More than replacing alcohol, we think it’s the perfect disguise for “drinking” on a Monday after a long day and will sure become a “me time” icon.
As for the add-ons, we tried out Twang Reserve Cocktail Rimmers, and it might be our favorite product in the whole show. It consist on either salt or sugar based rimmers with a variety of flavors and all natural colors. From ruby red grapefruit to sriracha, their strong taste definitely changes the drinking experience and adds new flavors that offer a certain dynamism and personalization to the drink of choice by challenging a commoditized territory with tons of potential.
The End of Carbs
It’s funny how there’s this trend of grains replacing meats and meats replacing grains in the attempt of making everything a friendly option for everyone. We had the chance to try Trident Seafoods fish noodles packed with protein with the claim of being “comfort food with less carbs,” and it sure was.
Following the same principle, Ri Wang Foods create all kinds of carb replacement focused on asian dishes; like rolls and dumplings made of fish and other meats with varied fillings that help preserve the traditional eating dynamics and formats without committing your carbs intake.
With a plant-based approach, we fell in love with the brand Hodo with its noodles and sheets that contain around 17g of plant protein per serving made from yuba, which is the hand skimmed top layer of warm soy milk. Besides this amazing alternative, the brand is constantly finding new ways to collaborate with chefs and create recipes that make healthy eating fun and ever-changing. We definitely expect to continue seeing a rise in carb replacing products with even more complexity.
Tea has been an icon of tradition for ages, and Rishi Tea & Botanicals is redefining its positioning. We tried out the butterfly pea flower powder, which has the property of changing colors when combined with certain ingredients. Not only does it gives the opportunity to take an awesome Insta-story, but it offers unique experiences through natural ingredients packed with varied benefits. By understanding how nature works, the brand creates new rituals and consumption opportunities while introducing functional ingredients to once distant territories, such as mixology, but without it feeling imposed.
Following the idea of traditions evolving with trends, we hit the international section, and we were amazed with the variety of tofu based products from Japan by Tanaka Shoku. From tofu “jerky” to specialty snacks designed to be paired with drinks, it feels like a “natural” way to propose vegan experiences without any, well, vegan claims, and we believe that there’s value in speaking about traditions that naturally respond to trendy movements rather than doing it the other way around.
The Ubiquity of Sustainability
We were definitely expecting to see tons of ecological initiatives, and we did. We got to know Hay! Straws, which are straws made from wheat stems, a natural occurring byproduct of wheat production, keeping its disposability while avoiding sogginess. It’s a smart, minimally processed product that sure joins the straw-volution we’re facing in a clever way.
We continued walking and saw a sign that said “Did you eat your spoon today?” We sure haven’t. Planeteer LLC is a company creating edible spoons that come in varied shapes and sizes and have different flavors, such as Indian Masala and Chocolate Delight. Not only is it an eco-friendly solution, it also adds new layers of flavors to the overall experience, similar to the cocktail rimmers but with a sustainability background. We think that solving an existing problem while enhancing the eating experience is the best way to give businesses more than one reason to invest a few more bucks in products like these.
Finally, we got a glimpse of what the new normal for kitchens will be anytime soon thanks to Urban Cultivator. This company is making it possible for users to have the tools to grow their own food with appliances that are beautifully designed and that are meant to seamlessly fit into kitchens as we know them, making it easier to take an active step towards everyday sustainability.
We believe we had a glance of the trends that just a few years back seemed to be designed for a niche market, but are now shaping the future restaurant experience, and we can’t wait to see how existing restaurants adapt to them and the new experiences that will come along.