The trend was clear at the 40th annual International Fancy Food & Confection Show earlier this month. Decadent chocolate treats, fried foods and heavy cheeses were certainly present. But so was a larger focus on spices and herbs as a way to substitute flavor for fat.
"There will always be a niche for triple-cream brie and pate with astronomical levels of cholesterol," said Mike McGovern, associate editor of Showcase, the magazine of the show's sponsor, the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade. "But increasingly, consumers are looking for specialty foods that are also heart-healthy."
Flavorings and light sauces, like curries and salsas, were particularly popular at the show.
Ethnic food has always been ubiquitous. But while the focus was once on rich Italian or French offerings, this year many companies touted lighter Mediterranean or Asian foods. Morocco, with its couscous and salads made from other grains, was exhibited in the international pavilion for the first time since the show began in 1954.
South Korea was a first-time exhibitor; others among the nearly 20 international showcases included Sri Lanka, South Africa and Australia.
"In part, it's a reflection of the influence of new immigrants," Mr. McGovern said. "Even our U.S.-based exhibitors include more Thai-Americans, people of Asian or Mexican descent."
The show attracted 30,000 retailers and other food industry representatives to 1,300 booths.
Among this year's eye-catching new items were Meshuga Nuts, from a Rafael, Calif., company of the same name; Bone Suckin' Sauce for barbecue from Ford's Foods, Raleigh, N.C.; and the Chocolate Anatomy Kit, for melting chocolate into body part shapes from Hearts & Flowers Candy Co., Hicksville, N.Y.