2018 Summer Fancy Food Show Tasting Trends

Summer_Fancy_Food_Show_1.jpg

By Stef Schwalb

This past July, at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City, the 2018 Summer Fancy Food Show – owned and produced by the Specialty Food Association (SFA) – was in full force when it came to innovative and enticing new products from companies committed to taking the category next level.

With more than 30,000 estimated attendees and 2,400-plus companies exhibiting, the three-day extravaganza (which took place from June 30 to July 2) covered the specialty food industry from soup to nuts. The exhibitor list featured 1,300 companies from the United States, including Hawaii, Louisiana, New York and Vermont, among others, in addition to over 1,100 exhibitors from 54 countries, including France, Israel, Italy, Spain and more. This year, Greece served as the event partner country.

The show, which has been taking place since its inception in 1954, is currently “the largest marketplace devoted to exclusively specialty foods and beverages in North America.” Past events have helped launch several well-known industry brands including Ben & Jerry’s, Honest Tea and Popchips, and 2018 is bound to introduce the next generation of superstars now. From exotic flavors and spices being used in everyday foods and the “it” ingredients employed in a number of edible iterations, to sparkling beverages and upcycled products, inspiration was found at booths all throughout the 365,000-square-foot space.

Among the special exhibits and events, attendees – which consisted primarily of top professionals from specialty food service, local markets, restaurants and retailers – were able to check out industry newcomers at the “New Brands on the Shelf” pavilion; the sofi™ Awards Showcases for Outstanding Specialty Foods of the Year; the Incubator Village; What’s New, What’s Hot Showcases; the Hall of Fame and Lifetime Achievement Awards Ceremony; and the sofi™ Awards Product of the Year announcement.

There was also Front Burner: A Food Service Pitch Competition, where three exhibitors pitched their products to a panel of specialty food buyers, and Business Builders 1-to-1, a customized matchmaking program for exhibitors to present to potential buyers in pre-arranged meetings. As is tradition each year, exhibitors continued to give back by donating thousands of pounds of food to the Specialty Food Foundation, which donates them to the Summer Fancy Food Show’s charity of choice, City Harvest.

According to the Special Food Foundation, total U.S. sales in specialty foods hit $140.3 billion in 2017 – up from 11 percent since 2015. The largest categories within that figure are cheese and plant-based cheese; frozen and refrigerated meat, poultry and seafood; and chips, pretzels and snacks.

The most rapid-growing categories within retail between 2015 and 2017 include frozen desserts; refrigerated entrees and yogurt and kefir. For 2018, a walk on the show floor presented several themes and products that continued to pop up throughout all three days. Sparkling and functional beverages, based on the SFA research, are expanding more quickly in market than food categories. This includes juices, water, teas, plant protein milk, craft cocktail mixers and alternatives, wellness shots and an assortment of healthy tonics and elixirs.

Summer_Fancy_Food_Show_2.jpeg

Specialty Beverages

Kombucha is still on the scene, and watermelon-infused drinks seem to be found in almost every beverage booth we found. Three crave-worthy finds included Caskai Sparkling Cascara Infusion from Austria made of the dried husk of the coffee cherry (cascara) – a superfood low in calories and sugar and created by upcycling a byproduct of coffee processing; Barcoop Bevy All Natural Cocktail Mixers, which comes in several succulent flavors including Agua Caliente Spicy Strawberry Margarita and Cucumber Mojito (a 2018 sofi™ Awards New Product Winner); and Eliya Pure Organic King Coconut Water, which is hand-harvested, gluten free, non-GMO with no added sugar and hails solely from Sri Lanka.

For coffee lovers, Forto Coffee Shots – ready to drink, organic, high-energy cold brew – are a dream come true for those needing a caffeine kick anywhere, anytime (and the Hershey’s Chocolate Latte is heavenly). Tea isn’t taking a back seat either as infusions appeared in everything from snack bars and chocolate to ice cream and maple syrup.

In the Incubator Village, Ginjan – an organic, non-GMO juice based on a traditional West African recipe – hits the spot combining filtered water, fresh ginger, cold-pressed pineapple and lemon juices, vanilla and anise extracts, and cane sugar. Interestingly enough, the 2018 sofi™ Award for Product of the Year went to The Bitter Housewife Cardamom Bitters from Improper Goods, which also won the coveted gold sofi™ Award. It is the first year this type of product took home the grand prize – signaling that the category is definitely coming front and center.

Summer_Fancy_Food_Show_3.jpeg

Specialty Foods

Moving on to food, cauliflower seems to have stepped up as the “new kale” with everything from hummus and wraps to pretzels and baking mixes using the cruciferous veggie as an integral ingredient. Quinoa continues to reign supreme as part of several treats and eats that are seriously slaying in flavor such as Undercover Quinoa Crispy Quinoa Snacks (the dark chocolate and sea salt is to die for!).

The range of sumptuous snacks from dried chickpeas to gourmet popcorn, crunchy cheese and rice bites was a bit overwhelming, but for portable products designed for on-the-go, meat/performance bars, bites, steak strips, pork cracklings and rinds by Epic were definitely Grade A as gluten-free, high in nutrients, low in sugar, 100 percent grass-fed options.

Vegetable enthusiasts will be glad to see Pan’s Mushroom Jerkymaking its mark, in addition to a veggie-based ice cream called Peekaboo (the Mint Chocolate Chunk with Spinach was a palate-pleasing surprise). Organic, gluten-free and non-GMO remain top of mind in a host of products, but what left the largest impression was the wealth of sauces, spices, spreads and syrups on display.

Condiments are becoming really cool! From seaweed sprinkles and kelp purée from Ocean’s Balance of Maine on the main show floor, to Brooklyn-based Masala Mama Foods with all natural Indian simmer sauces of Tikka Masala, Vindaloo and Coconut Curry in the Incubator Village, booths were showcasing strong in this category. Seasonings and rubs from The Spice Lab showcased some seriously innovative flavors, in addition to Bee Seasonal sustainably sourced, organic and deliciously decadent honeys.

Food bowls, frozen appetizers and entrees of the healthy persuasion continue to proliferate as well. For those with a sweet tooth, all-natural non-GMO Spread Delights was indeed a delight – not just in its tasty flavors of Chocolate Hazelnut, Almond and Raspberry Jam – but also in its ease of use with no knife needed and no kneading. Items such as avocado oil vegan mayo, delectable organic dips, crunchy coconut bites and superfood bars rounded out the experience.

Although more space could be definitely devoted to numerous other products and services that inspired us both from at home in the U.S. and abroad, we may have to revisit them next year when our appetite finally returns.

(As Featured in Food & Drink Magazine)

MW Symposium in Rioja: Microbiomes, Fraud and Fiesta!

tasting audience.jpg

If you felt the earth shift on its axis in mid-June, it’s because there was a lot of wine heavy-weights in one place for four days. Every four years, the Institute of Masters of Wine gathers its members to take a broad look at the world of wine. La Rioja, Spain was chosen to host the 9th International Symposium in June, with the theme “Living Wine.” Over 450 MWs, MW candidates and other wine professionals attended seminars and tastings that addressed topics such as vineyard microbiomes, discovering new terroirs throughout the world, battling wine fraud, climate change, or how to curate an adaptive wine business.

Rioja landscape.jpg

One might feel a little intimidated. Though seeing red wine stains on clothing was a great equalizer. A few F-bombs sprinkled into the sessions also served to deflate the balloon of pretentiousness.

Common threads emerged throughout all the sessions, indicating what is on the mind of these influencers. For instance, authenticity is a buzzword that everyone hates, but the underlying concept is top of mind for everyone. Knowing the producer and the terroir that the wine comes from is important to avoid homogeneity, and to increase the value of the wines from people who are fighting to maintain diversity and character in this global market. For technical experts, diversity is the way viticulture and winemaking will continue to be viable in the face of climate change. And for the upcoming generations of consumers across the world (Ok, Millenials), experimenting with varieties and origins will keep them engaged with wine − in spite of stiff competition from craft beer and spirits.

Panel and audience.jpg

Another hot topic across the different sessions was natural wines and how to define them. Wine experts from all sectors have yet to come up with common criteria to classify natural wine. While many producers are applying sustainable - if not organic - practices in the vineyards, definitions of what constitutes natural or organic vinification are still hotly debated. Orthodox practitioners insist that no sulphur dioxide should be used during winemaking, while realists maintain that small doses are necessary protect the integrity of the wine and do not contradict natural principals. Panelists in the “Somms Like it Hot” seminar confirmed that consumers are interested in natural wines, but have no clue what it really means. The sommeliers main concern is that the wine bottle they open doesn’t smell like a stable and have things floating in it…something that is not currently guaranteed in their eyes. Legendary Burgundy winemaker Dominque Lafon summed up the debate to thunderous applause during the “Let it breathe: ox and redox” session when he said, “Natural wine is great…when it tastes good.”

But in spite of the serious nature of many of the sessions, the giddy pleasure of being around so much good wine and passionate people won out in the end. There was plenty of socializing, and yes, awkward moments on the dance floor during the evening. No one seemed to take themselves too seriously for too long. Four years seems like an awfully long time to wait to do this all over again.

HELLO GREGORY+VINE!

We wanted you to be the first to know! We’re proud to announce the launch of Gregory + Vine, our new corporate name and brand identity. Read the full release here.

Our foundations are firmly rooted in PR, but over the past 10 years our scope has shifted dramatically. We’re committed to PR, but communications in our age requires a dynamic approach. Our brand campaigns span PR, digital, events, sponsorships, direct-to-consumer promotion, research, and more. Our company identity wasn’t living up to the work we do every day.

We got our start in wine, but the vine has grown since 2001. We represent wine, beer, spirits, water and hospitality companies; Chefs and lifestyle influencers; and travel and design brands. Vines climb and trail. They hold fast and endure, and require training to thrive. We want to manage growth and follow the natural course that digital, experiential marketing, and influencer strategies now afford great communications agencies.

Leadership and vision matter. We could not do this without the drive of our management team, including Managing Director Trish Heywood, who heads account management and agency strategy, and Natasja Mallory, who has led global accounts for the past 8 years. Together we have the privilege of supporting an extraordinary account team, who deliver results-driven and creative, strategic thinking daily.

We want to live our brand, and fully realize its potential. Our brand promise is to give back: to our clients by surpassing expectations, to our team as friends and colleagues, and to our communities. We’ve launched VINE+ to showcase some of the extraordinary people, places and charities that we support. Thank you for your support! Helen


ShuttleCork Celebrates 5 Years: Funding Arts & Culture

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is a beloved Kansas City institution, with a renowned and extensive collection that has helped position KC as one of the Top 5 Most Cultured American Cities. Named for the iconic shuttlecock sculptures that have graced the grounds of the museum since 1992, the 5th edition of ShuttleCork is scheduled for May 3-4, 2018. The annual fundraiser has raised over $4 million, and allows the doors of The Nelson-Atkins to open to many who would not otherwise be able to enjoy its world treasures. This includes free admission to more than 66,500 students who participate in local arts education each year. If you love beautiful art, wine, craft cocktails and food as much as we do, ShuttleCork 2018 has it all, including Grand Tastings & Auction with top vintners, local chefs, live bidding, craft whiskey tasting and private dinners in Kansas City homes. Join us in our support for ShuttleCork.


WINE ON WHEELS

Yannick Benjamin, Sommelier

Yannick Benjamin, Sommelier

Wine on Wheels is a growing community of wine aficionados and sommeliers harnessing their love of great wines to benefit charity. They bring people together from across the hospitality industry to pour wines, socialize, and raise funds to empower people with disabilities to reach their potential. Wine on Wheels sommeliers are volunteers and the wines are all donated by friends from across the hospitality industry. Over the last 4 years, Wine on Wheels has raised $500k to make Wheeling Forward a well-respected force for change in the disability community.

We're proud to support Wine on Wheels. Congratulations to the tireless team, and our friend, sommelier Yannick Benjamin, for always inspiring us! wineonwheels.org