Now if you haven't tried this - get on the bandwagon! The combination ROCKS!! Of course, I love caramel, so this is right up my alley. And I did a review of those amazing Sea Salt Caramels from Chocolate Modern http://motivationbychocolate.blogspot.com/search/label/Chocolat%20Moderne
What I found interesting about the article was it discussed how American Food trends evolve. Apparently there are five stages (and it takes about ten years for a food item to move through all five):
1.) Chef's indulgence (with the caramels, the trend started with chefs in France, was adopted by chocolatiers, then chefs in the US)
2.) High-end food magazines and specialty food shows
3.) On menus at the more inventive chain restaurants or sold at retailers like Williams-Sonoma
4.) Appearance in a main stream woman's magazine, a larger restaurant chain, or even in supermarkets as a premium item (Starbucks just began selling salted caramel boxed hot chocolate and back in April Haagen-Dazs introduced a reserve brand of salted caramel ice cream (yum! I bet it's awesome!)
5.) Becomes a supermarket staple Wal-Mart has rolled out salted caramel in a box of salted truffles.
Well, I'm not so sure about this - Oprah (in her mainstream woman's magazine was talking about Sea Salt caramels many years ago - she found a brand made in France. They were delicious! I know, because when Oprah talks about food, I listen.)
The article also gives credit to Obama because apparently he likes Fran's Salted Caramels. (Good grief, does Obama get credit for everything?) I think salted caramels were popular way before Obama started buying them, but hey, it is the New York Times article. (Obama also likes Nicorette Gum - I wonder if they too have had a spike in sales?) I did read an article recently that featured Mariska Hargitay and she loves Fran's salted caramels as well. Maybe we should just site the overall celebrity factor - maybe stage 3.5. Celebrities embrace trend.
But also, this is just a damn good combination. You don't have to have a weird sophisticated palate; I bet almost everybody likes this. It really is already around - we love Pay Days and Turtles and caramel corn and lots of things that combine salt and sweet.
The next food she predicts will be a big hit is Quinoa - a whole grain. I actually know about Quinoa, and I say maybe because it is a pain to prepare. I don't think it has the same mainstream allure as salted caramel. But if an incredible product is made with it, it might make it. But I think it will because people want the fiber and health benefits rather than the flavor of Quinoa. To me this is like saying flour will be the next big thing.
But it is interesting how ideas, products, and information flow though a culture. In America it starts with experts, them goes through the market place (with the help of the media and celebrities) and if it's good enough, we all buy it. (I have to say, though, I bet the sea salt truffles at Wal-Mart don't hold a candle to those French caramels.) Lots of products don't go all the way because only a few of us like them and that's okay.
I wonder what the big food will be in 2009? I think candy is getting more crazy and decadent (beer and chocolate, vegetables and chocolate, weirder combinations will keep coming) AND at the same time, there is a push for nostalgia and penny pinching. The spectrum is only getting longer. I think 2009 will be a very good year for candy. (And apparently for Nicorette.)