Since 1955, the Fancy Food Shows have been North America’s largest specialty food and beverage marketplace. Between the Winter Show in San Francisco and the Summer Show in New York City, the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade events bring in more than 40,000 attendees from more than 80 countries to see 260,000 innovative specialty food products, such as confections, cheese, coffee, snacks, spices, ethnic, natural, organic and more.
As a rule, I tend to go to each one once every two years, mainly to allow time for new products to develop and trends to become a little more fully formed. And from a social studies point of view, you could probably get a feel for the general state of a country’s economy by what is on offer to the global marketplace.
I don’t think this time round was any different, so without further ado let me just paint a quick picture in very broad brushstrokes. There will be other posts based on my favourites and interesting finds later. I would like to add that the countries below weren’t the only ones – just ones that caught my eye for one reason or another.
The strongest themes coming through were Southern favourites and comfort foods: think barbecue, gourmet macaroni cheese, shrimp and grits, biscuits and pickled okra. In fact pickled anything was popular, with a number of companies offering up their take on sweet and sour cucumbers, bread and butter pickles and more.
Greece and Spain
Unless you’ve been living under a stone, the economies of these two European countries have been hogging the headlines. Both desperately need growth from exports, and yet the majority of brands and products shown didn’t necessarily highlight the diversity and quality of their respective cultures. Not unique to them, but olive oil was the main export item on the majority of Mediterranean exhibitor stalls. Much has already been said about the provenance of olive oil and its quality, and in such a crowded market, I did wonder how so many producers would catch buyer’s eyes, so special mentions go to Pons olive oil, who are doing oil for babies and infants and Au olive oil, which is basically a blingtastic gold packaged range, both from Spain.
Mexico and Chile
Although there were (as usual) a lot of Tequilas on offer, both Mexico and Chile are going to be the next ones to watch – agave products, spices and preserves showed innovation, while remaining true to traditional recipes, while Chile showcased pure Patagonian waters, wine and super fruits.
Going for a big push at the show, they sponsored a session to highlight the diversity of Korean cuisine and the opportunities for sales within the US marketplace. Although I didn’t go to this session, it was interesting to see everything from functional drinks, to black garlic and confectionery. Korean food is very popular in the US, and is certainly in the popular consciousness, so it will be interesting to see whether it makes the leap into mainstream.
These shows are a huge investment for exhibitors, so special mention should go to China, Tunisia and Morocco for spending a huge amount of effort on having vast lavish stands…but with really poor content, and producers who just didn’t seem to want to be there (yes, I’m talking about you, lady who was busy stuffing her face and talking on her mobile with her back to the visitors).