As farmers, cottage food operators and on-farm food service entrepreneurs, we’re always on the watch for the latest emerging trends, whether they delve into changing culinary preferences, ingredients, food products or a new-fangled way of eating or drinking something.
At the nation’s largest, annual foodservice trade show, the NRA Show, hosted by the National Restaurant Association (NRA) in Chicago’s McCormick Place Convention Center, you’ll get a taste of America’s palate at the moment. Some years it’s a very clear trend, like at the NRA Show two years ago and the gluten-free craze. Exhibitors tried to outdo competition with better tasting pizza crusts, muffin mixes, and cookies. They succeeded! Serving delicious gluten-free breakfasts at Inn Serendipity B&B and Farm is now a breeze, particularly with the various one-to-one flour substitutes like Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All-Purpose Flour and Deya’s Gluten-free Cake Flour.
According to the National Restaurant Association’s annual What’s Hot? survey of professional chefs, hyper-local sourcing, that includes restaurant gardens and onsite beer brewing, plus locally sourced produce, meats and seafood are among the top trends. This bids well for homesteaders near upscale urban centers who are looking to sell what they raise.
The following trends and innovations surfaced as we wandered the aisles of the NRA Show in 2017:
Exotic goes mainstream while cutting back on the sugar. Processed sugar may be on its way out, but that doesn’t mean we Americans have lost our sweet tooth. Enter more traditional tropical fruits and vegetables from Latin America that satisfy those cravings in a healthy fashion.
“Plantains are naturally sweet and a restaurant alternative to sweet and white potatoes,” shares Valeria Lytton with MIC Food, a Miami-based distributor of frozen, value-added tropical products. “Plantains have the same taste profile as sugar but it all comes naturally from the fruit.”
Many of MIC Food’s products may soon find their way into school cafeterias as options for those seeking less sugar. We also loved their yucca fries and boniato, a less sweet version of a sweet potato, popular on the Caribbean islands. For farmers willing to try something tropical in your hoop houses or growing fields down south, new niche crops like yucca might be worth exploring.
Going to the Source for Ingredients
Just about everyone has had a latte or mocha in America. According to the Specialty Coffee Association, one in three adults drank a cup of specialty coffee yesterday, up from 25-percent just five years ago. For some, the days of “plain” drip coffee have been usurped by espresso drinks and specialty coffees. This spectacular growth in coffee consumption coincides with the thirst for real food.
Lavazza coffee sets the bar for “point of origin” 100-percent Arabica coffees, savored without the need for sugar or milk due to its quality. According to research presented by Tradecraft, 74-percent of the Millennials identify themselves as “authentic” and seek experiences that reinforce that authenticity.
“If something is good, it should be drunk by itself, in its natural essence, to taste the flavor of it,” explains Salvatore Foto of Lavazza, an Italian coffee company. “We source our coffee from single origin sources and do not over roast the coffee, which would bring out too much acidity.”
Lavazza’s Kafa coffee originates from the original coffee plant and takes its name from a small region in Ethiopia, where this coffee grows naturally and is hand-harvested. Kafa illustrates the trend of authentic products derived from the source with a “reserve” appeal as it is only available in limited amounts as the coffee cherries are picked by hand, one by one. Lavazza also showcased their Tierra Origins coffee, produced in collaboration with the Rainforest Alliance with the goal of improving the social and environmental conditions and production techniques of a number of coffee-growing communities in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Vietnam, Brazil, India, Peru, Honduras and Colombia.
Induction Cooking Without the Need for all New Pans
Cooking by induction is among the most energy efficient ways to cook, since heat is transferred by magnetic induction rather than the more energy wasteful thermal conduction. The induction cooktops cook faster and lose less heat. However, induction cooktops are more expensive than the more common gas or electric ranges, and they require special pots and pans design specifically for their use.
Thanks to Panasonic’s new Met-All Induction Cooktop Range for the food service industry, this is no longer the case. Their induction cooktop is compatible with any metal cookware, including copper, stainless steel, iron and aluminum, earning it a 2017 Kitchen Innovations Award from the National Restaurant Association. Now, we just need a consumer version and we’re ready to go for our farmstay B&B breakfasts and cottage food products!
Lisa Kivirist, with her husband and photographer, John D. Ivanko, have co-authored Rural Renaissance, Homemade for Sale, the award-winning ECOpreneuring and Farmstead Chef cookbook along with operating Inn Serendipity B&B and Farm, completely powered by the wind and sun. Both are regular speakers at the Mother Earth News Fairs. Kivirist also authored Soil Sisters. As a writer, Kivirist contributes to Mother Earth News, most recently, 9 Strategies for Self-Sufficient Living. They live on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin with their son Liam, millions of ladybugs and a 10 kW Bergey wind turbine. Read all of Lisa's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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