Fancy food makers take Manhattan later this month

Some 2,670 international companies serving samples of everything from rich gourmet chocolates and cheeses to raw food snacks and organic treats will fill up New York City’s Jacob Javits Center for three days later this month, packing the place with the flavors and scents of the next big trends in specialty food.

The Specialty Food Association’s 62nd annual Summer Fancy Food Show, which starts June 26, is expected to bring in about 25,000 attendees from restaurant, retail and foodservice companies ranging from independent eateries and gourmet markets to major corporations including Whole Foods, Kroger, Starbucks and Trader Joe’s.

“This is our largest show ever in terms of exhibit space and number of exhibitors, and we expect our attendance to be record-breaking too,” said Louise Kramer, communications director for the association.

The rise of fancy foods

US sales of specialty foods hit $120.5 billion last year, up 21.2% from 2013, according to association data. Retail accounts for 78% of specialty food sales and 14% of all retail food sales are specialty items. Foodservice and restaurants account for the other 22% of sales, a smaller but faster-growing segment than retail, the data show.

Cheese and cheese alternatives are the biggest category, followed by frozen and refrigerated meats, poultry and seafood and chips, pretzels and snacks. These traditional categories may be the biggest, but newer product lines are seeing faster growth. Refrigerated ready-to-drink tea and coffee is the fastest growing category, a list that also includes refrigerated pasta and water.


Specialty Food Association

Hot fancy food show trends

Past shows have been at the forefront of the next new things in specialty foods including artisan pickles, gluten-free snacks, floral- and fruit-flavored beverages and  vegan and organic treats.

This year’s show will include plenty of all of the above, and visitors will likely notice a few hot trends. Demand for protein-packed meals and snacks continues to rise, Kramer said, and vendors will display their latest high-protein offerings in several categories.

Non-GMO labeling is increasingly showing up on specialty food and beverage products, she said. Also hot this year: pepper-flavored chocolates and other spicy sweets, pumpkin flavorings and pumpkin seeds and chicken fat and other alternative fats.

Each year’s show includes an area dedicated to first-time exhibitors, startups and small food businesses from around the country looking to gain a foothold on restaurant tables and retail shelves. This year’s New Brands on the Shelf pavilion will include 49 vendors serving samples of everything from air-popped sorghum snacks to dairy-free coconut ice cream to matzo chips.

Local, global flavors

As always, the US will have a significant presence on the show floor with 1,370 companies. New York will have the most with 267 exhibitors, and it joins seven other states and the Southern United States Trade Association that will have their own pavilions on the 363,000-square-foot trade show floor.


Specialty Food Association

Each year the show boasts a country sponsor. Last year’s was Italy and this year it’s Tunisia, which will have a special pavilion with tastings and chef demonstrations to show off the country’s pasta, dates, spicy harissa, candies, confections and other goodies throughout the three-day show.

Tunisia will be in the spotlight, but food vendors from 54 other countries from Argentina to Vietnam will also be on hand to share the flavors of their countries.

Specialty food with a side order of education

The show isn’t just about sniffing, sipping and savoring. It’s also about learning. The three-day event will include 18 hours of educational sessions including an all-day workshop dubbed “The Business of Specialty Food.”

Other educational workshop and seminar topics will include:

  • New York’s changing retail landscape
  • The best channels for your product
  • Using costs to create real-world price sheets
  • The influence of baby boomers and Gen Z on specialty food trends
  • Improving the customer service experience
  • Innovations that will change how food is produced, sold and eaten

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