Spotted on Shelves is showing off what was in the aisles at this year’s Summer Fancy Food Show (FFS) in New York City. I scoped out new products from familiar brands and interesting things from up-and-coming companies.
As is the nature of trade shows like this, I was plied with free samples and the occasional tote bag. This did not affect what was chosen to appear in this column or my opinions of the products, but it did affect my waistline.
One of the biggest product groups at the Fancy Food Show were chips, puffs, and popcorn. It felt like there were 100 or more varieties of baked, fried, puffy, crunchy things vying for my attention – most of them screaming their health benefits. Less fat! High protein! More Fiber! Less carbs! Plants! Superfoods! Animal friendly!
Personally, I’m not in the chips game for the healthy eating – I’m in it for the yum. So I compiled some of the tastier snacks from the show, regardless of their health status.
Xochitl chips – Sprouted Red Corn & Multigrains and The Dipper
Tired of losing your Xochitl chips in a heavy salsa? Personally, I like sending out chip rescue parties for those left behind. But these new chips are stronger and won’t break as much as the original – delicate – Xochitls. These taste like the basic Xochitl, but thicker. The Sprouted came off to me as slightly more textured than the original and a bit earthier flavor, but not a huge departure.
Available in grocery chains nationwide starting September/October.
Fuller Foods Serious Cheesy Puffs – Asiago & Black Pepper, Blue Cheese & Jalapeno and Sriracha & Cheddar
These are billed as “absurdly large” cheese puffs. They were longer than most, but not insanely. I live in New York, I have an extremely high bar for the word ‘absurd.’ They were tasty, though. More nuanced flavors than the standard day-glo orange dust. The Sriracha was hot! Asiago Black Pepper was a solid, mild cheesy flavor. My favorite was Blue Cheese Jalapeno – a great combo of umami and low-level heat.
Available now in grocery stores nationwide.
SunTropics Banana Chips – Maple, Sweet Chili, Salted Caramel
On the sweet side, these banana chips had a great hard sugar crunch. I tried the maple because I’m a maple fiend, but was skeptical because it’s a flavor that can go very (artificially) wrong. These were pretty true to nature, however, and didn’t overpower the banana base.
Launching late 2018/early 2019, first on Amazon, then select retails stores.
Sun Tropics Mochi Rice Bites – Sriracha, Tokyo Curry, Tamari Soy Sauce and Sea Salt
These had the usual texture and feel of a puffed rice snack, but with unusual flavors. The Tamari Soy Sauce bites were sweeter and far less salty than I expected. Tokyo Curry were saltier (a good thing in my book) and had a strong curry powder flavor with a low level of heat.
Available at West Coast natural grocers & specialty stores within the next 2 months, wider distribution to follow.
Epic Provisions Oven Baked Pork Rinds – Chili Lime, Pink Himalayan Sea Salt, and BBQ Seasoning
Epic Provisions, best known for their jerky, are introducing new varieties of their pork rinds – baked this time. I’m not much of a pork rind eater – I only tried them for the first time ever this year. I tried Epic’s Pink Himalayan & Sea Salt and Chili Lime flavors. The salt version was tasty but not overly-salty. Chili Lime definitely had chili – slightly more than I like (keeping in mind I’m a lightweight) but I couldn’t detect the lime. Both were far less greasy than the standard pork rind.
Available now in select Cost Plus World Markets, select Whole Foods starting this week.
Beanitos Bean Chips – Zesty Ranch and Red Hot Cajun
Beanitos Bean Chips Dippers – Sea Salt, Twist of Lime, and Sea Salt & Pepper
Beanitos Baked Bean Crunch – Mac N’ Cheese, Jalapeno Con Queso and Fuego N’ Lime
These read as bean-based alternatives to your usual tortilla chips, nacho chips and cheese curls. I thought the Dippers were the best of the lot. The Twist of Lime flavor could have passed a blind taste-test with Tostitos Hint of Lime Chips. The Zesty Ranch and Red Hot Cajun did taste like Doritos, but with less of the over-the-top zest of the originals (could be good or bad depending on where your taste lies). The Baked Bean Crunch curls had good flavor – the Fuego N’ Lime in particular, but had a denser, softer texture than a Cheeto.
Available in grocery stores starting in September/October.
Popsalot California Popcorn – California Almond, Brazilian Cashew, Southern Pecan, Hawaiian Macadamia, Saigon Cinnamon, Clandestine Caramel, London Kettle, Costa Rican Cocoa, and Moroccan Harissa
I tend to gravitate towards popcorn before chips or cheese puffs, so I was happy to find a company at the Fancy Food Show that had an extensive and thoughtful variety of caramel and kettle corns. They were all delicious and exactly as described, but two flavors stood out as particularly unique. The Costa Rican Cocoa was a dark, earthy chocolate – only a little sweet. The Moroccan Harissa was a unique flavor for a mass-market popcorn – spicy and savory, but not cheesy.
Available now in select grocery stores, department stores and Amazon.
Vegan Rob’s Dragon Puffs and Creamed Spinach Puffs
I’m not vegan, but Vegan Rob’s vast flavor array caught my eye. Turmeric, Jackfruit, Brussel Sprouts – if it grows in the ground or on a tree, I think Vegan Rob can make a puff of it. I did not try his latest – Dragon Puffs – I guessed from the flame-kissed bag that it was gonna be a hot one. I did try a prototype they were showing for a Popeye-themed Creamed Spinach Puffs. They had a subtle spinach/salad greens flavor with a hint of cream. The texture and crunch were just right – in line with a Cheez Doodle. I liked them.
Dragon Puffs available now online, coming soon to grocery stores and health stores.
Popeye Spinach Puffs were a prototype product for testing at the show.
Aree Crisp n Chips Almond and Rice Snack Mixes – Black Pepper & Honey Mustard, Sriracha & Cheese, Butter & Corn, Rosemary & Tomato, and Barbecue & Salt Vinegar
From the makers of Danielle fruit & veggie chips, these were combos of an almond-based flat chip and a puffed rice cake, meant to be eaten together. Each element is a separate flavor designed to pair with the other. The standout varieties for me were the Butter & Corn and Rosemary & Tomato. The corn was a typical corn chip and the butter was a bright, dominant flavor, but not in a fake ‘movie theater butter’ kind of way. While the rosemary was hard to find, the tomato was an authentic and pleasant flavor.
Available online starting in Fall/Winter, retail availability TBD.