And now, from the partially-obstructed-view cheap seats, your faithful food correspondent, Miss Ginsu, launches a paper airplane dispatch on the trends in taste.
For your munching pleasure, a quick survey of the latest culinary currents:
• "Organic" is like, totally over.
Now that Walmart owns Organic, that label is sooo last decade. Rumor has it that ubiquitous Stonyfield Farm has been shorting its longstanding clients on Organic yogurt in order to better supply the low-price leviathan. What's hot? Local, artisanal foods. Real food made by real people who really care. Every savvy grocery exec on the block is reading "The Omnivore's Dilemma" and taking notes. Expect to see the grubby, mud-caked mugs of (regionally appropriate) farmers and ranchers in a food retailer near you.
• Snacks cooked in kettles.
Ain't no party like a kettle-cooked party... not only are we seeing an upsurge in crunchy sweet-and-salty treats from the food indies (via Kettle Foods, Hain (under its Terra brand), and the previously mentioned "ike & sam's" line, for example), but industry heavies such as Frito-Lay are also burnishing their kettles.
• Coconut water.
Yup. Coconut water is one more in that long lineage of niche foods that see consumer consumption gains once the marketing hacks start to sing the good health song. (Think: soymilk, pomegranate juice or the Amazon acai juice currently making rounds through metro juice bars.) When I worked in kitchen prep, coconut water was considered useless runoff. Health drink? Hell... we just drank it. Now the folks on the kitchen prep crews will have to fork over every precious drop of this electrolyte-rich liquid to the health-conscious public.
• Awareness of varietals and, yes... geographic origins.
When my corner bodega starts shilling Tropicana 100% Valencia Orange Juice, it's time to take a hard look at consumer awareness of produce varietals. It ain't just for food nerds anymore. I'm betting we're going to start seeing many, many more products in the standard grocery arena that would once have been considered high-end specialties. Sumatran iced coffee. Ginger Gold apple juice. American Artisanal Cheeses.