Healthy Is Haute at Fancy Food Show

Gourmet pasta sauces, cheeses, salsas, crackers, corn chips, teas and sparkling fruit juices might not seem to have much in common.

But many of those featured at this year's Fancy Food Show (search) in New York did share one thing: the "all natural" label.

"There certainly are more all-natural products here than there were in the past," said Ron Tanner of the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (search), which sponsors the Fancy Food Show. "Producers recognize that that's what people want. … We're seeing more organic products as well."

In fact, the word "healthy" was on the lips of many who were showing off their fine foods earlier this week in New York City.

When describing Casabe Gourmet's gluten-free, cholesterol-free crackers — made from the yucca plant — company vice president Valentina Espinosa called the traditional Venezuelan snack "very, very healthy."

And Giovanni Giacobazzi of Donelli, which makes Gavioli sparkling fruit juices in champagne-style bottles, used the "H" word to describe his company's product, too.

"It's a healthy drink full of vitamins and minerals," he said. "It has no sugar, no water and no preservatives."

Among other all-natural offerings at this year's Fancy Food Show: Source Atlantique's Mario Cisaro line of pasta sauces, made with fresh Southern Italian ingredients like San Marzano tomatoes; Plocky's hummus chips and corn tortilla chips in red beans and rice, black beans and rice and three grain; The Fine Cheese Co.'s cheeses and crackers in flavors including rosemary, fennel, red hot chili, chive and celery; Pacific Chai's teas; Kettle potato chips; and Athena's Silverland Desserts cookies and brownies.

But the all-natural trend isn't the only one sweeping through the fancy food industry. Cold beverages are hot this year, too.

"One of the biggest growing categories this year was cold beverages," Tanner said. Growth in that category has been 39 percent over the last two years, he said.

Upscale sparkling fruit juices in fancy bottles by Gavioli — in red grape, white grape, green apple and peach — and Kristian Regale — in pear, apple, peach and orange — are part of the trend, as are regular organic fruit juices. Gourmet teas are also doing well.

Fancy cheeses are another booming business. After all, they're the perfect complement to the wine that Americans are increasingly consuming these days.

"There is tremendous growth in cheese products, especially American cheese products," Tanner said.

Among the more interesting varieties at the Fancy Food Show was halloumi (search) from the island of Cyprus, a goat's and sheep's milk blend that can be fried or grilled without melting and eaten plain.

The barbecue industry has also taken off this summer, even more than usual.

"It's really popular this year," said John Butcher, co-owner of Smokin' Joe Jones, which makes a line of barbecue sauces. "There's a lot more [of it] on the Food Network." Butcher said sales of barbecue-related items are up.

Salsas and other spreads in unusual flavors were featured at the show, too. Riba Foods' Arriba! salsas, for instance, come in berry mango, garlic and cilantro, raspberry chipotle and mandarin avocado, to name a few. The Fine Cheese Co. offers a host of spreads to go with its cheeses and crackers, including fig, quince and lime and chili.

And chocolate is still all the rage — the darker, the better.

"There were a lot of chocolates here, and dark chocolate is big," Tanner said. "People are looking for foods that are refreshing and that satisfy their sweet tooth without being overly sugary or overly processed."

Americans are also demonstrating expanding tastes, according to Tanner.

"There's a lot of interest in products from the Middle East and Asia," he said. "American palates are going way beyond American food."

However, not everyone is into fancy, healthy food.

Kevin Moore, 19, of Queens, N.Y., says his favorite eats include burgers, fried chicken, french fries and potato chips.

"I don't worry about health concerns," he said. "I just eat what tastes good."