New fancy food brands marry nutritious, delicious

Healthy and indulgent met in a slew of new products at the Specialty Food Association’s Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City over the weekend, from veggie-packed ice cream to chocolate with healing powers.

Millennials are the biggest buyers of specialty foods and consumers age 18-to-23 are catching up fast, according to data from the Specialty Food Association and Mintel. Both groups stress quality and transparency about nutritional and ingredient information as key when deciding on a specialty food.

Many of the entrepreneurs who created some of this year’s new brands were consumers themselves, in search of something better to solve challenges in their lives or feed their own cravings for nutritional sweets.

Jessica Levison’s kids loved the ice cream she sold in her scoop shop but showed much less enthusiasm for the veggies on their plates. The solution? Peekaboo Ice Cream, a treat that offers all the flavor of the traditional sweet treat but is made with healthy vegetables in flavors including Strawberry with Carrots, Vanilla with Zucchini and Chocolate with Cauliflower.

Unlike many of the show’s food entrepreneurs whose inventions are brand new, Annie Bassin created her Annie’s Ginger Elixir more than two decades ago to help heal her own colds and bronchitis. Bassin, a graphic designer by training, started sharing the drink with friends who were under the weather and now she’s taking it to market in distinctive square bottles.

Priyal Bhartia grew up in India, where popped water lily seeds were a snack as common as popcorn is in the US. She introduced friend Nadine Habayeb to the snack and together the pair created Boston-based Bohana to market their version of the treat, which is vegan, gluten-free and contains 3 grams of plant protein in a 120-calorie serving.

Angelika Kaprelian had dreams of opening a vegan bakery and went to culinary school to learn the skills she would need, but life took another direction and Kaprelian spent 17 years in the corporate world of advertising before revisiting and revising her original dream. She created a line of raw snacks and cakes called Love Love Edibles, made without refined sugar and with ingredients and flavors that make them appropriate for eating occasions throughout the day.

Tisha Agarwal is a runner and plant-based chef who created 3PM Bites, a line of raw snacks made with dates, hemp seeds, flax and other organic ingredients she bills as “no guilt treats.”

For Taylor Hay and Victoria Bell, a new relationship quickly led to the creation of a food business. The Boulder, Colo., pair met online eight months ago and one month into the relationship Hay and Bell created a flavored nutritional yeast line called Pop Zest.

Noosh Brands has created a line of flavored almond butters in squeezable pouches, as well as a protein powder and oil made from the nut. The products are made with simple ingredients – the powder and oil are made from nothing but almonds, for example – and they fit into vegan and paleo eating styles. They also offer a taste of indulgence and the best-seller so far is Birthday Cake Almond Butter.

Flava Naturals also touts its healthy properties. The bars are made with chocolate that’s high in cocoa flavanols, antioxidants that early studies have shown may boost brain power and heart health, said founder and President Alan Frost. That said, they’re still candy. Frost, a former biotech exec, worked with international chocolate brand Barry Callebaut to develop the chocolate, which starts with high-flavanol beans and is naturally processed at low-temperatures to keep from killing off the flavanols.

Some of the other new products on display:

  • LemonKind shelf-stable vegetable and fruit juices in pouches.
  • RIND Snacks, dried fruits made with the vitamin-packed peel.
  • Wrapioca, a single-ingredient Brazilian product that turns from tapioca beads into a wrap in the skillet.

Breaking news from the Summer Fancy Food Show


Califia Farms announces new funding and celebrity investors. 

Plant-based milk, coffee and yogurt brand Califia Farms has raised $50 million in a new funding round and announced a group of celebrity investors including Karlie Kloss, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jared Leto, all of whom promote a plant-based lifestyle, the company said Monday. The group also includes Brian Kelley, Shaun White and Tyler Hubbard.

The brand has also named long-time investment banker Sandeep Patel as its new chief financial officer.

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