2012 sofi Awards: Flavor Trends
Which ingredients and features are heating up this year?user rating
The annual sofi Awards are in full swing. Two days have come and gone in a week-long feast to find the best of the best specialty foods for 2012. A panel of experts and food industry insiders is sampling its way through 1,940 food and beverage products to select Silver Finalists in 30 categories—from Outstanding Appetizer, Antipasto, Salsa or Dip to Outstanding Vinegar. (The judging effort is so massive that it’s split into two parts; Finalist judging for Outstanding New Product and Outstanding Product Line will take place in May.) An awards ceremony to reveal the Gold Winners in each category takes place June 18 at the Fancy Food Show in Washington, D.C., but there’s plenty of tasting and evaluating still to come.
The sofi Awards are run by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, which publishes foodspring.com. What makes being on the scene as the judging occurs so exciting is getting a peek at the top food innovators in every category. Fascinating creations and flavor combinations abound, and trends emerge that you’ll be seeing accordingly on store shelves not long from now. Here are a few we’ve noticed among the first dozen categories.
Seeds Sprout Up
Taking center stage in new cracker varieties are seeds, including sunflower, caraway, poppy and more. But seeds are getting more attention in other categories too. In the Dessert or Dessert Topping category, seasoned pumpkin seeds offer a slightly savory option, caraway seeds are paired with paprika in a shortbread, and sesame seeds invade a caramel sauce, delivering a rich complexity. Sesame seeds surge in dressings, too, from ginger sesame miso sauce to black sesame vinaigrette, and even in the cookie category, showing up in sesame-almond biscotti-style biscuits and rosemary-sesame shortbread.
This floral infusion isn’t just for potpourri. Lavender is showing up in a wide array of products. It appears in a line of floral-infused vinegars and grabs the spotlight in an olive oil encased in a pale purple tin. The fragrant flower pairs up with fruits, like blueberry and pear, in jams and preserves. Lavender is even offering subtle notes to cheeses, such as ale-infused cow’s milk cheese.
Chocolate and other sugary goodness still reins in the Cookie category, but an influx of savory entries are creeping up this year. And these complementary ingredients are going way beyond walnuts and almonds. The aforementioned seeds add a dose of savory in rosemary sesame shortbread and sesame-almond biscuits. Like licorice? You might love such entries as shortbread with burnt sugar and fennel or orange almond biscotti with anise. One brand shows off shortbread’s versatility with bacon and rosemary, paprika and caraway, and roasted garlic and herb varieties. Corncakes, wheat fingers, and goji berry cookies with walnuts and ginger round out this rising trend.