ECRM’S Center Store Program: 8 Trends to Watch

Can't attend all the virtual expos? Trendspotter Nancy Trent has you covered! Here's a sampling of the trends she spotted at the ECRM center store show.

Variety of spices and herbs on kitchen table.

Earlier this year, companies in the Center Store industry—which included Snacks, Confectionery, Beverages, Dry Grocery including Baking, Canned Foods, Breakfast, Coffee/Tea & Cocoa, Condiments & Dressings, Dry & Boxed Foods, Sauces & Spreads categories—met and presented their products and capabilities to buyers from across all retail channels at a virtual ECRM: Center Store Program. We met with the brands to learn what is hot and new in the center-store world, and we discovered a lot of trends we cannot wait to see take center stage.

Healthy ethnic foods      

Since America is the melting pot, we love to try cuisines from all around the world, and we love it even more that a lot of these foods are actually very good for us. SLT Foods built their heritage on their premium quality basmati rice and recently launched ready-to-eat lentil curries and flavored rice, plus there’s an organic brand. These foods are healthy, delicious, and convenient.

Michka Foods introduces healthy fare from around the world. They bring us pomegranate juice from Georgia, dates from Saudi Arabia, basmati rice from India, and more. All of their products are ready-to-eat making eating healthy and delicious foods easy and convenient.

LQC’s Coco Goods makes coconuts come from Vietnam accessible. Whether you drink the juice, cook with the oils or milk, put it on your skin or in your hair, there are so many different uses and forms of coconuts that are so good for us.

Category leaders from around the world

If you are in Italy, PONTI is the clear and obvious choice for vinegar. They are Italy’s #1 vinegar with 46% retail market share, 90% household penetration, and 100% brand awareness. As they further establish themselves in the U.S. market, it is expected that Americans will gravitate to the best trusted and known brand used by Italians.

Canada is home the best maple syrup and The Maple Treat Corporation is bringing their delicious flavors to the states. Their newest products are fruit and agave syrups; unique syrup flavors including fig, red sour cherry, blackcurrant, apple, organic maple agave and organic agave. Their products are made in the purest tradition while respecting the high standards of today.

Consumers cannot get enough of Himalayan pink salt from Pakistan, and Saltean makes it easier than ever with all of their innovative salt products. They have come up with new and smart ways to cook with Himalayan pink salt from their brine egg for cooking a turkey and poultry, to their Sole Jar that comes with salt sucks, to their salt cooking blocks to salt shot glasses. There is a way to infuse Himalayan pink salt into every meal.

Everyone knows and loves Italian olive oil, but we should not forget about Greek olive oil. People in Greece consume more olive oil than any other country and ASTARTE ORGANIC brings the U.S. the most authentic, flavorful, organic, extra virgin olive oil one can find from their native lands in Crete.

Sweet options turned healthy

I think everyone can agree they love sweets and desserts, but do not love the negative health concerns associated with them. These companies are providing you with better alternatives.

NaTivo Wellness brings us sweeteners, baking products, and condiments that better your health by keeping sugar out and sweetness in. NaTivo allows you to feel good about what you are putting into your body by being USDA organic, Keto-friendly, non-GMO, vegan, and free of sugar, gluten, and phosphates.

With over 40 years of experience, Stephano Group has been producing granola, oatmeal, bars, and snacks. They are committed to revolutionizing the world of breakfast cereal, while delivering products consumers love. Breakfast cereals and snacks don’t need to be full of sugar to taste good and Stephano Group proves that point.

Lehi Roller Mills is a great option for those who love to bake but also love good health. They offer one of the only vegan baking mixes on the market that packs incredible flavor into every bite. Their secret: They use high mountain flour that makes everything taste better. Indulge in pancakes, waffles, raspberry muffins, and double fudge brownies without the guilt.

Easy ways to elevate your foods

While everyone was staying home more often this past year due to the pandemic, that meant a lot more home-cooked meals. This could be taxing for anyone who is comfortable in the kitchen or does not enjoy cooking. These companies are here to help with products that can help take meals to the next level.

Fruit of the Land Products are farm to jar. They grow farm fresh ingredients and produce to create specialty, award winning wine and fruit preserves, spreads, tapenades, wine jellies, nut butters, honeys, jams, sauces and more. All of their products can be added to meals to upgrade and elevate a simple dish and turn it into a restaurant-worthy meal. So, no matter your skill level in the kitchen, you can whip up delicious and impressive food.

Elda’s Kitchen makes small-batch, artisan made, all-natural, flavorful cooking and grilling sauces that bring people together. Based on her mother’s recipes and passion for cooking that fostered family and memories, founder Brianne was inspired to provide these sauces to everyone. Whether you are adding these sauces to meat, veggies or pasta, they are sure to be delicious, satisfy a crowd, and bond relationships.

Let’s be honest, anytime a recipe calls for one clove of garlic, we add at least four, and KATAYAMA USA understands and supports that, but they also don’t stop there. They create innovative food that is out of the ordinary, with garlic, ginger, chili, and vegetables in all different forms. From chopped, minced, in brine and in oil, these ingredients will add lots of flavor to a variety of dishes. The possibilities are truly endless.

BBQ season is 12 months a year

Coming from the BBQ capital of the country, Smo’ Better Food Company is a Texas-based brand bringing kosher options to the world of BBQ. They are introducing a unique rub to give any food a fun, tasty, and sustainable twist. Everyone wants to be a great chef and their Rabbi Rub makes it easy.

The Lavoie brothers live and breathe all things BBQ, which lead them to create House of BBQ Experts, a Quebec-based company with a common passion: the grill. To them, grilling is more than just a method of cooking food, it is a lifestyle. They have 6 stores and can also be found in hundreds of grocery stores; they offer high quality BBQ sauces, dry rubs and BBQ tools.

Spicy hot is here to stay

There is no surprise here: Spicy foods are still trending, and they do not look like they are going anywhere. Sioux Honey is known for their regular honey, but they are kicking things up a notch with their new hot honey infused with natural heat of spicy red chilies. Whether drizzled over fried chicken or pizza, paired with cheese and crackers, or stirred into a cocktail, this honey adds mouthwatering sweet heat to just about anything.

How güd is your food? Das Güd Spice Co.’s hot sauces, barbeque sauces, seasonings and drink mixes add flavor and heat without overpowering your palate. Step your food up a notch with their award-inning, hand-crafted, gluten-free products. Don’t like spice? Fear not, they do have varieties that will not set your taste buds on fire, too.

You would not think of spice and heat when you initially think of a pasta company, right? Well, PAGASA is thinking outside of the box and disrupting the pasta industry with their Della Casa brand of artisan pastas. These are flavored pastas that come in chile poblano, chipotle, jalapeno, and chorizo varieties. This is a new and exciting way to change up your regular spaghetti.

Caribbean delights                                      

Caribbean food is a broad term that encompasses dishes from more than two dozen countries. Well, we met with two Caribbean companies who are bringing their food state side and we think Caribbean cuisine will be the new craze.

Island Paradise Delights offers authentic Caribbean products including sauces and beverages from Jamaica. They are also introducing a widely popular Caribbean dish—oxtail—to the U.S. market, that takes far less time to cook than it used to. As it is introduced to retail, it will be cooked and already prepared, and Americans are sure to love this authentic dish.

Another Caribbean company with Jamaican influence is Caribbean Dreams. Being the largest tea manufacturer in the Caribbean, they incorporate all the flavors of Jamaica and the surrounding islands into their drinks as well as their other products.

Inclusive charcuterie boards                    

People are always trying to out perform one another with who has the best charcuterie board, and these companies make it easier to compete. Robert Rothschild Farm is extending their current line of dips, sauces, fruit spreads and condiments to a Premium Reserve line of spreads geared toward charcuterie. They are developed with meat and/or cheese or vegan pairings in mind. They all have clean labels and use all-natural ingredients. They will be sure to impress on each and every board.

No charcuterie board is complete without sweet and savory elements, and United With Earth is your answer with dates, figs, nuts and Persian cucumbers. Originally catering to a Middle Eastern clientele, United With Earth saw the potential of taking their products mainstream as society became more health conscious. They are now an everyday ingredient that goes beyond the board and can be found in so many recipes.

Related: ECRM’s Snack, Winter Program: 10 Trends to Watch
ECRM’S Virtual Coffee, Tea, and Cocoa, Winter Program: 8 Trends to Watch