Summer Fancy Food Show Observations
The Fancy Food Show took place this year in Washington D.C., instead of its normal location at the Javits Center in New York City, which is under renovation. Surprisingly, the July timing (very hot and humid in D.C.) and change of venue did not seem to have a major impact on attendance.
The show was packed on the two days that I attended and most companies I spoke to reported having quality visitors in their booths. I observed some common trends and innovative new products which I will describe in more detail here. Click here for the Summer Fancy Food Show Photo Gallery.
Restaurant to Retail
I attended a workshop on the topic “Restaurant to Retail Product Trends” (click here to view the Restaurant to Retail Presentation) given by Kara Nielsen, “Trendologist” at the Center for Culinary Development and David Sprinkle with Packaged Facts. One interesting point was that restaurant trends no longer start just from fine dining, but from a broader, more “populous” landscape, including street food, bar snacks, campus food service, and beer gardens. They described some international products that are of interest for the U.S. market, including a number of Japanese products derived from miso. In fact, I saw many companies at the show exhibiting Japanese cuisine-inspired products.
I read recently that when a disaster happens in a particular region, often there is a subsequent spike of interest in foods from the affected area. The truth of that was certainly proved at the Fancy Food show. I observed numerous booths selling Japanese-style products, including Tonton, which was showing a line of sauces made with authentic ingredients from Japan. This business was started by Yoshi Shioda, whose Restaurant Tokyo (opened in Charlotte, N.C. in 1984), offered authentic Japanese cuisine at a time when sushi was still an exotic and unknown dish for most Americans. Delice Global was showing Taiyaki, a Japanese fish-shaped cake. ICrest was showing a line of Yatta (which means “I did it” in Japanese) brand products such as Panko crumbs, Maifun Rice Sticks, Sushi Nori, etc
Translating Asian Concepts to American Palettes
I observed many companies offering what I would call “Asian-ness translated” type products. One such purveyor is SnapDragon Pan-Asian Cuisine, whose tag line is “journey to the culinary capitals of Asia where every stop brings a new taste discovery.” Their products include Vietnamese Pho, Rice Noodle Soup Bowls, and Wasabi Cashew Crunchies.
Appetizer Adventures, touting “Bold New Tastes to Explore,” has a line of “taste of” products, including “A Taste of Beijing” as well as more European concepts like “A Taste of Tuscany.” Modern Day Masala, “where American life meets Indian cuisine,” takes the labor and guesswork out of Indian spice preparation. Many companies offer sushi kits – I was especially intrigued by Japan Gold’s Sushi Kits marketed as “Sushi for Dummies,” as well as Miso to Go and other products designed to help people with Japanese cuisine. Finally, there was Kaurina’s, offering Indian ice cream “dessert bars.”
This concept is hot these days, as evidenced by the popularity of TV shows featuring chefs and the growth of restaurant-branded retail products. Chefs have a lot of credibilities that can spill over to their branded products. At the Fancy Food Show, I saw many chefs working the booths, including very well-known folks
like Cat Cora, who has a line of Cat Cora Kitchen products made by the Gaea company (and was the featured speaker at the show’s awards ceremony). Colavita, which had a major presence at the show, is a brand that takes the culinary arts and the development of chefs very seriously, providing the financial support for the Colavita Center for Italian Food and Wine at the Culinary Institute of America in New York. Colavita has aligned with Master Chef Ken Arnone. There were many restaurants (small and large) dipping their toes into retail waters, ranging from a well-known restauranteur such as Davio’s to a small Thai restaurant, Thai Feast.
There were gluten-free products everywhere. In fact, it now seems that gluten-free is a benefit that most companies will try to offer, whenever possible. It was interesting to see even Cabot Cheese advertising their products as “naturally gluten-free.”
There was plenty of quinoa at the show. You can tell it’s become mainstream when it’s offered under the Near East label. I asked around about what was the next up-and-coming ancient grain and heard about “teff,” which is an ancient North African cereal grass. I found it on Bob’s Red Mill website.
Other Cool Innovations
Elizabeth Jean’s Homemade Pie Kit, an assembly kit for making fresh apple pie, even includes a pop-up timer.
BLK – literally, bottled water that’s black. It’s a naturally black Canadian spring water that offers natural minerals and nutrients derived from fulvic acid. Could this be the next “hot” (or should it be “cool”) water product? They certainly have their work cut out for them convincing consumers to buy what to most will appear to have come from a less than the pure source.
Dean Jacob’s is offering a line of Advanced Spray Technology oil spray, made without propellants, additives or preservatives. A key benefit is that it is not flammable.
Todd’s Dirt Seasonings – a very creative name for a line of seasonings in a competitive category.
Buddy’s Fruits – a line of blended fruit in pouches that offers a snacking alternative to whole fruit
Yanni Grilling Cheese, from Karoun Dairies, is a Mediterranean cheese made specifically for grilling.
Osem Whole Wheat Pearl Couscous is a new and healthy side-dish offering.
I have to also mention that Hancock Gourmet Lobster and Cal Hancock, whom I got to know when managing Gorton’s mail-order business, won 3 more Sofi gold awards, including the very prestigious “Best Product Line” award which is the equivalent in the foodie world of winning the Oscar Best Picture award. Hancock Gourmet is a perennial Sofi awards nominee and has won many awards at previous shows.
Top 4 Takeaways
Here are my top four takeaways from this summer’s Fancy Food show:
- Look for more growth in Asian-inspired products, particularly Japanese products.
- If you can claim your products are gluten-free or can reformulate them to be so, you should consider promoting this popular benefit.
- Restaurant-branded and chef-inspired products are experiencing high growth, presenting potential opportunities for food marketers.
- Look to the street, such as Street Food Trucks and to popular venues like Beer Gardens for up-and-coming food trends.
As always, if you’d like to discuss how these trends might apply to your product or business, contact me here.