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Guayakí Yerba Mate - A Powerful Rainforest Experience

Buzz in the Press
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Buzz in the Press

Buzz in the Press

High-fashion foods

O.N.E. produces both Acai (ah-sigh-ee), the juice of a high-energy, anti-aging Amazon berry, and 100 percent all-natural Coconut Water, said to be nature's Gatorade. Adam's Mangosteen introduces the latest exotic fruit juice with health benefits. Yerba Mate, a "tea" from the Amazon Rainforest, continues its conquest of the exhausted among us, with new unsweetened bottled juices. A complex cause-related Jimi Hendrix branded line, Voodoo Vibe is an effervescent mixed-berry flavored energy drink. A percentage of the proceeds benefits music-related charities."

By Ann Haigh
Wednesday, August 22, 2007

This year's Summer Fancy Food Show, an annual noshfest, is the largest in its 53-year history.

Produced by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, the show shoe-horned 2,300 exhibitors from 72 countries into New York City's vast Javits Center.

Reflecting market trends, the association added a new Natural and Organic Pavilion and increased award categories from 20 to 30 -- giving prizes to everything from Outstanding Cracker to Outstanding Diet and Lifestyle Product. The reconfigured awards program also changed names: It's now the sofi's (specialty outstanding food innovation).

After three days of booth surfing and sampling, some industry trends stand out.

Stacks of snacks
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We're a nibbling nation, but today's snack labels claim more healthful compositions -- low-fat, all-natural, organic, no sugar added. In short, it's a guiltless gourmet world.

Products such as gluten-free crackers and cookies reflect growing nutritional concerns, as does the current focus on premium nuts -- monumental peanuts, cashews, pistachios, hazelnuts, pecans and macadamias. Tasty Pretzel Crisps hit the shelves, offering no cholesterol, no transfats and no fats -- in five flavors.

Curiously, cheese sticks are ubiquitous. Among the best: John Wm Macy's twice-baked, crunchy sourdough twists with fine cheeses and fabulous spices. Popcorn is also climbing in popularity -- seasoned, spiced, candied, even ground, to make a coating for fried items.

But the Outstanding Snack award went to Brent's Micro Brew Fiery Beer Brittle, by Annette's Chocolate Factory, a hellishly addictive confection.

Colossus of condiments

According to Specialty Food Trade, condiments constitute the fastest-growing segment of the specialty market. Believe it. Herbs and spices, rubs, tapenades, marinades, relishes, pickles, sauces, salsas, dips, chutneys, mustards, oils, vinegars, syrups -- we're drowning in condiments.

But exotic salts present the most amazing seasoning revolution. The simple white sodium chloride table salt of yore now pales before gourmet-status artisinal sea salts. They're sourced from around the globe and vary in both texture -- fine to flakey to coarse -- and flavor -- natural to smoked, bacon-flavored and truffled -- with colors ranging from white and gray to black, pink and orange. SaltWorks astonishingly offers more than 50 different salts.

Billions in beverages

Bottled waters abound -- supposedly 800 labels, each fighting for a share of the $50-billion market. Some examples: Llanllyr Source is drawn from an all natural spring on farmland in Western Wales that once was a Cistercian nunnery; Aquadeco claims that its natural spring water comes from an aquifer formed by glaciers.

But buyers beware: Pepsi recently admitted that Aquafina, its stellar-selling brand, is essentially New York tap water. Soon such waters might be required to put PWS -- public water source -- on their labels.

Bottled teas extend the explosive growth of the world's most consumed beverage next to water. U.S. sales of tea -- black, green, red, white and endless herbal concoctions -- rose to $6.5 billion last year, powered heavily by the ready-to-drink segment. Numerous brands, including the refreshing Honest Tea, offer brews that range from sweetened to unsweetened to berry-blended.

Of course, health benefits helped shape today's resurgence of tea, but the hipness factor is also associated with trendy delivery options: loose leaf, bags, cones, pyramids, pillows, sticks (perforated straws to stir and steep) and whole flowers that "bloom." Two recent innovations: From the Republic of Tea comes Tea on Tap -- drink-ready tea -- Ginger Peach, Blackberry Sage -- in a box with a spout that slides into your refrigerator; Teance's Freeleaf bundles whole tea leaves tethered to a string -- dunk the custer and a peony, carnation, jasmine or rosebud blooms.

Functional Drinks go way beyond Red Bull. Juices made from exotic, high-antioxidant fruits and berries, frequently blended with green tea, are nudging out high-caffeine potions.

O.N.E. produces both Acai (ah-sigh-ee), the juice of a high-energy, anti-aging Amazon berry, and 100 percent all-natural Coconut Water, said to be nature's Gatorade. Adam's Mangosteen introduces the latest exotic fruit juice with health benefits. Yerba Mate, a "tea" from the Amazon Rainforest, continues its conquest of the exhausted among us, with new unsweetened bottled juices. A complex cause-related Jimi Hendrix branded line, Voodoo Vibe is an effervescent mixed-berry flavored energy drink. A percentage of the proceeds benefits music-related charities.

To grasp the enormous marketing effort this category represents, check out Function Drinks , with titles and purposes ranging from Youth Trip and Braniac to Urban Detox and Shock Sports; or Functional Drinks which sells Ningxia Red Chinese Wolfberry juice, offering a 100-year lifespan to its imbibers. This outfit also sells drinking fountains for pets.

Some favorites

Tyrrell's Potato Chips: Taste the prince of potato chips. This small UK company grows its own potatoes from seed, then hand-fries them in small batches to achieve fresh and inspired chips. Tyrrell's Sweet Chili & Red Pepper Chips won Outstanding New Product 2007, besting thousands of other foodstuffs. They'll also soon be making another great potato product -- premium vodka.

RealWasabi Toss that faux green nostril-stinging stuff. This company grows true wasabi japonica rhizomes in North Carolina, harvested fresh to order and air freighted on ice. If you don't want to grate your own, order powders, pastes, marinades, sauces and dressings -- mirin, balsamic and ranch. Best of all, though, are the wasabi dusted nuts -- especially pistachios, piquant yet smooth.

Brookfarm : Pam and Martin Brook grow magnificent macadamia nuts on their sub-tropical farm in New South Wales, Australia. All are sustainable, natural, kosher-certified and delicious. Their products include: macadamia nut muesli; macadamia nut oils (premium grade; lemon and myrtle infused; and lime and chile pepper infused); and sublime whole nuts (oven-roasted -- with sea salt; with Kashmiri chile pepper and sea salt; and with bush pepper spice and sea salt).

Vermont Butter & Cheese: Co-founders Allison Hooper and Bob Reese craft European-style artisinal dairy products -- possibly the best on the planet. This year, their Bonne Bouche, a hand-ladled, ash-ripened goat cheese, took home the gold for Outstanding Cheese. Their Bijou Single aged cheese was a finalist in the New Product category.

Cypress Grove Chevre: Another leading cheesemaker, Mary Keehn won Outstanding Product Line for her family of fresh, soft-ripened and aged goat cheeses, including the best-selling Humboldt Fog. Consistent high quality differentiates her unique variety of cheeses tagged with wonderful names like Peewee Pyramid and Truffle Tremor -- sure to shake-up your taste buds.

Theo Chocolate: Winner of the highly-competitive Outstanding Chocolate Award, Theo Organic Fair Trade Artisinal Confections claims to be the only 100 percent organic, fair-trade and U.S.-manufactured chocolate in the world. Company founder Joseph Whinney searches the world's cacao-producing nations for the best organic, sustainably-grown beans, which he imports and roasts himself. Dark, single-origin, high-cacao-percentage bars deliver intense, nuanced flavor. Those preferring more relaxed chocolate, even intriguing milk chocolate creations, can enjoy 3400 Phinney bars, named for the street address of the Seattle factory, which you can tour.

Fran's Chocolates: One of the finest chocolatiers in America, Fran Bigelow hand-crafts divine chocolates, soft caramels and other confections, in small batches, using exceptional ingredients. This year her Premium Hot Chocolate -- drinkable iced as well -- took a gold medal, while her luscious Hazelnut Diamonds claimed silver.

Ciao Bella: Always a winner, this high-end artisinal maker of gelati and sorbetti constantly expands its repertoire. Italy-born executive chef Danilo Zecchin drives amazingly creative, delicious flavors -- chocolate jalapeno, pistachio, apricot chardonnay and hazelnut biscotti. This year Blackberry Cabernet Sorbet captured Outstanding Dessert, while Lebanese Yogurt Sherbet emerged as Outstanding Foodservice Product.

Duchy Originals: Fast becoming the embodiment of the best of British food and drink, HRH Price of Wales' Duchy Originals offers a line of natural, organic, high-quality items -- sustainably produced and environmentally conscious to the 'nth degree. What began with one Oaten Biscuit has expanded to more than 200 iconic UK products. So far, only biscuits, jams and condiments are available in the U.S., but more will follow. All profits go to Prince Charles' Charities.

D'Artagnan: Everything from D'Artagnan is a triumph -- preservative-free charcuterie; all-natural duck and pork products; foie gras; game. Note as very splendid: Petite Mousse Truffee (organic chicken and turkey mousse studded with black truffles and port wine); hearty Gascon terrine of duck, port, prunes and Armagnac; and a duo of truffled butters -- one with white truffles, the other with black.

Dave's Gourmet: Known for his hot sauces, packaging innovation and outrageous sense of humor, Dave Hirschkop now leaps with a marketing wink into politics. His line of hot sauces, with labels featuring caricatures of the presidential hopefuls, lets you vote by purchasing a jar. He's even added two candidates -- Dave and Nonov Deabove. Track the race on his Web site. Last we checked, Nonov Deabove was in the lead. Profits go to the American Cancer Society.

Fizzy Lizzy: Fizzy Lizzy's all-natural line of fresh fruit juices and sparkling water -- with no added sugar, corn syrup, gums or artificial colors -- makes for smiles. The bright flavors include Red Hill Pomegranate, Gulf Coast Tangerine, Mount Fuji Apple, Lone Star Grapefruit, Yakima Valley Grape, Pacific Raspberry Lemon, Costa Rican Pineapple and Northern Lights Cranberry.

Pierre's Ice Cream: In tasty pursuit of the high-antioxidant grail, Pierre's developed Hola Fruta, a super-premium, all natural, pure fruit sherbet. The initial release brought seven flavors -- Margarita, Peach, Pina Colada, Pomegranate, Pomegranate & Blueberry, Raspberry and Strawberry. Cholesterol-free and low- fat, the delicious frozen treat seems a virtuous diversion.