11 new products you'll see in Austin grocery stores soon (we hope)
The Fancy Food Show is a foodie paradise.
Unlike the rival natural food-focused Expo West (and Expo East), the Specialty Food Association’s twice-a-year Fancy Food Show is unabashedly more upscale, but you’ll also find plenty of products that are already in everyday grocery stores or will be soon.
In Wednesday's food section this week, I explained how the Austin-based Siete Family Foods climbed to the top of the local consumer product good (or CPG) scene, including a rooftop party in New York City’s Meatpacking District, and what it’s like walking through the Fancy Food Show with Cathy Strange, who is a global buyer for Whole Foods.
There were dozens of Austin food companies at the show, but one of the main reasons I was at the 34,000-attendee show was to try new products from some of the other 2,000+ companies with booths set up in the Javits Center.
There’s no way I could have tried all the snacks, cheeses, chocolates, charcuterie and desserts. I did sample more than 100 products, and here are the top 11 products that I'd like to see in local grocery stores.
A few of these items are already sold in Austin-area retail outlets, but most are still trying to break into the Texas market. All are available online.
Moon Cheese — It’s only a matter of time before we’ve all had Moon Cheese and can talk about the first time we tried it. These crunchy bites of cheese are made with one ingredient — cheese, Cheddar, Gouda or Pepper Jack — but somehow, the makers figured out how to make it crunchy instead of soft. You can find it at Starbucks, Whole Foods, Costco and online.
Nora — Nori, the seasoned Japanese seaweed strips, are a snack where it’s easy to eat the whole package without realizing it, and these tempura-fried nori strips will catch your attention. You still might eat the whole bag, but only because you can’t believe these nori strips are so crunchy and hearty. The company sells bags of these snacks in New York City and in Canada. For now, Texans will have to try them via Amazon or the Nora website.
Yolélé — This African (by way of Brooklyn) food business, co-founded by Senegalese chef and cookbook author Pierre Thiam, sells fonio, a supergrain native to West Africa that cooks up like a fine couscous. You can mix the fonio with herbs for a light salad or you can simmer it into a polenta. For now, you can buy the product only on Amazon.com.
Laird Superfood — Surfer Laird Hamilton’s company makes a number of powdered mixes made with ingredients like dried mushroom powder, which can make a surprisingly good coffee substitute, and dehydrated coconut water, which can make a better-for-you Gatorade. The company was sampling its delightfully rich but dairy-free creamers, made with coconut milk powder, coconut sugar and coconut oil, which are available online.
Mylk Labs — The Los Angeles-based oatmeal-on-the-go company sells these cups of quick oats mixed with roasted nuts, coconut sugar and a touch of salt. You can already find them in Austin at Royal Blue Grocers, Sa-Ten, Moontower Café, Brentwood Social House and Jugo.
Path of Life — This frozen food company makes microwaveable rice, grain and vegetable mixes, and they did well with three new flavors: cilantro lime, saffron, and ancient grains and seeds with roasted pumpkin seeds. You can already buy their products at Mr. Natural, Randalls, Sprouts and several other national retailers, and these new varieties will be rolling out soon.
Mansi — Calamansi is a lemon-like fruit grown in the Philippines that is used to make a sweet-sour drink that tastes like a souped up lemonade with an extra kick of acid and sugar at the end. Mansi, which already makes a calamansi drink that hasn’t quite made it to Texas stores yet, is now selling one mixed with sweet tea, which you can find online.
Spot Dessert Bar — This New York ice cream shop is known for its Asian-inspired desserts, including an ice cream that is flavored with misugaru, which is combination of grains used to make a Korean drink that is often consumed as a meal replacement. As an ice cream, it's just savory enough to balance out the sweetness of the cream, and although the product isn’t available outside New York City (yet), misugaru is something I could see taking off here, much like matcha.
HopTea — I could have finished a whole can of this Boulder-based brewery’s alcohol-free tea, which is brewed like craft beer but with a tea base. The low- or no-alcohol drink industry is booming right now, and this company already has a taproom and brewery in Boulder, where you’ll find an array of these booze-free beer alternatives, almost all of which have no calories. The drinks will hit Austin stores soon, but until then, you can buy all six flavors online.
Mimole — This company sells two kinds of mole straight from Oaxaca, a mole negro and a mole rojo. Both come in a large bag that you can use to make a large or small quantity of mole by mixing the paste with chicken or vegetable broth to make a sauce for tortillas, chicken or fish. To get this product, you’ll have to go to Amazon.com.
Matzo Project — These Brooklyn food entrepreneurs created a lovable Jewish grandmother as the brand icon for their everything bagel-seasoned matzo, matzo-based chips and matzo ball-making kits. I love the light flakiness of the matzo chips, which you can buy online or locally at Stanzeski's Cheese, Wine & Charcuterie in Georgetown.
Other highlights: I loved the mini stroopwafels from Double Dutch and the lobster grilled cheese sandwiches from Hancock Gourmet Lobster. Edouable’s edible cookie dough, with its spoon hidden under the lid, made me smile, and Sunday Provisions’ pecan butter, which is made with Texas pecans, made me wish I could buy a jar at Central Market. That’s the best thing about these food shows: Even though you might not be able to get some of these products yet, the good ones make their way here eventually.