Latest trends in specialty foods at WFFS

By Beth Newhart

- Last updated on GMT

Out-of-the-box flavors and ingredients are carving out space in healthy dairy products from cheese to beverages.
Out-of-the-box flavors and ingredients are carving out space in healthy dairy products from cheese to beverages.

Related tags Specialty food association Specialty cheese Non-Dairy Functional ingredients

The Winter Fancy Food Show (WWFS) last week featured 1,400 companies and more than 25,000 attendees looking out for the latest trends in food and drink. More functional and plant-based CPGs are on the dairy horizon for 2019.

The specialty foods market consists of products that fall under categories like artisan, hand-crafted and small batch. Innovative packaging that features biodegradable, edible or natural materials and items that leverage technology or disrupt traditional formats are also considered outside the norm. All were on display at the Specialty Foods Association’s (SFA) WFFS in San Francisco.


Plant-based across the board

Vegan products continue growing with alternatives to milk, yogurt, cheese and ice cream. In specialty, plant-based products hold a 3% share of the market and grew 10.1% between 2015-2017.

Non-dairy yogurt alternative launches are lining grocery shelves, particularly with the recent mainstream announcement of Non-Dairy Chobani. But specialty brands have pioneered the movement. The Coconut Collaborative has sold a collection of dairy-free ‘coconutmilk’ yogurts since 2014, and also sells three flavors of Little Coco Nutters dairy-free kids’ yogurt alternative pouches. hold a 68% share and grew 10.5% in the same time period.

Follow Your Heart has been developing dairy-free products since 1970, including alternatives to mayonnaise, cheese, eggs, salad dressing, dips and spreads. This month it introduced a line of 10 non-dairy yogurt alternative flavors, made with a coconut base and fruit.

On the indulgent side, traditional ice cream brand Coolhaus debuted a non-dairy line at the WFFS, available in March, that includes pints, sandwiches and bars. Flavors like Peanut Butter Fudge Chip, Chocolate Campfire S’mores and Dirty Mint Chip are made from a base of pea, brown rice and cocoa butter.

Beyond Better Foods’ low-calorie ice cream brand Enlightened also ditched the dairy just before the new year. It features seven new non-dairy flavors containing 100 calories or less per pint, as well as five new bar flavors: Candy Bar Crunch, Monkey Business and Peanut Butter & Jelly, to name a few.


Plant bases like pea, sunflower and coconut are also inspiring new innovation in beverages. Rebbl has new flavors in its line of organic ‘coconutmilk elixirs’ including Schizandra Berries & Creme and Ashwagandha Chai; in addition to its high-protein line that contains 12-16g of plant protein, sourced from sunflower, pea and pumpkin.

Functional ingredients and flavors

Out-of-the-box flavors and ingredients are carving out space in healthy dairy products from cheese to beverages. Some of the more popular additives include turmeric, hibiscus and espresso.

In collaboration with chef Cortney Burns, who specializes in cheese, butter and yogurt production, functional CPG brand Render Foods is introducing Weyla: a beverage blend of whey, fruit, herbs and spices. Flavors Strawberry Fennel Tarragon, Cranberry Ginger Hibiscus, and Blueberry Juniper Orange are all launching early in 2019 with less than 50 calories and less than 7g of sugar per bottle.

Clio Snacks launched, in 2018, the first dark chocolate-wrapped Greek yogurt bar in the US. It already included flavors like Strawberry, Espresso and Vanilla and has now added Peanut Butter to the line. With 8g of protein per bar they are marketed as a healthy innovation in the dessert alternative category.

sous vide

Les Trois Petits Cochons (Three Little Pigs) is tackling functional, convenient breakfast food with its new line of Sous-Vide Egg Bites. Four varieties in Bacon & Swiss, Spinach & Feta, Prosciutto & Gruyère and Ham & Espelette are made using cage-free eggs and similar to the popular egg bite options from Starbucks. But Les Trois contains fewer carbohydrates and about half the sodium compared to Starbucks.

Utah-based Beehive Cheese has been making cheese with locally-sourced ingredients since 2005. It’s known for unique flavors like Barely Buzzed with espresso and lavender, Fully Loaded with rye whiskey and new Red Butte Hatch Chile with hatch chilies.

The cheese industry is anticipating a rise in popularity for grilled, fresh and mixed-milk cheeses, according to the SFA. Halloumi, Camembert, kasseri and Manouri are all pegged for growth in grilled food options.

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