Flights of Fancy: Random Thoughts about the 2013 Winter Fancy Food Show

Posted on Wednesday 23 January 2013

Right off the bat the good news at the Fancy Food Show is that it was busy. Busy in a way it hasn’t been in years. Usually in talking to exhibitors at a show, some people will say the show was great and some people will say it’s slow. I can’t remember a time when everyone I talked to was enthused by the traffic at their booth. Of course, time and follow up will tell just how good a show it may have been. But, for the start of a new year, it was a good omen for where the year may take us.

Here are some other observations from the show…

According to the experts, the top five trends at the show were Botanical Beverages, Oil Nouveau (i.e. unusual oils, like tomato seed oil), Blue Cheese Redux, So Many Seeds and Top Banana. For me,  I feel there was an uptick in the number of booths promoting origin-specific or infused vinegars, lavash breads and cookies promoted as thin and crispy.

Funniest Feeding Frenzy
I’ve never quite seen anything like the mob that formed around the Hudson Valley Foie Gras booth. As soon as the team behind the table had sliced enough foie gras to serve, the crowd swarmed in, just this side of civilized. Several loud moans of pleasure could be heard. I grabbed my cracker decked with the goose delight and slid away from the crowd protecting my bounty. It was not unlike feeding time at the zoo, and I realized I, in turn, was acting just like the ape who runs in, gets his food and then runs out and huddles in the corner. And, you know what? It was darn good.

Strangest Comment
In talking with a woman who was helping to man a brownie booth, though not actually part of the company, she told me she had just had a chance to walk  the aisle and sample some of the foods. “That was the first time I tried gelato,” she told me. “It’s not all that it’s cracked up to be.” Really, you’re writing off gelato? After, one try? I advised her to go try some of the ten other gelato companies at the show.

Biggest Moment In Which I Was An Idiot And Then Realized It Was The Company Being Stupid
I was at the end of an aisle looking down at my notes when a man in a booth asked me how I was doing and if I had any questions. I looked up. I didn’t know what booth I was standing in front of. There were other salespeople and customers in the booth and they were blocking the name of the company and many of the products. The only thing I could see was a bottle of Product A (might as well protect the names of all involved, except me) on the booth table. I commented, “I like Product A. We have that in our cupboard.” “That’s not ours,” the salesperson said. I looked further down the table and saw a bunch of different brands. “Oh,” I said. “So, you’re doing… some sort of… product comparison?” I asked, still unsure. “Yes, so thanks.” The salesperson confirmed and then dismissed me, waving a hand goodbye. I made my way down the aisle laughing at my stupidity for professing my admiration for the “wrong” brand. But, as the day went on, I realized this company was making a huge mistake. One, the salesperson never explained the point of the comparison and never told me why they thought they compared favorably to Product A. Two, I walked away not knowing anything about the product they were actually promoting. I still don’t even know the name of the company. So, what did I walk away with? Well, I remember I saw Product A. So, I’ll probably continue to buy that.

What The Future Holds
The NASFT, which is now (or at least soon will be) the Specialty Food Association, has a pretty good year ahead of themselves. I believe this show was completely sold out. The New York summer show has only a few booths left, and San Francisco 2014, which has been on sale since Saturday (four days as of the writing of this entry), is about 75% full already. And, even more a portend of just how crazy the summer show may be, I heard through an NASFT source that there are over 1,000 media people already signed up for the NY show. 1,000? If you don’t have a PR plan in place to take advantage of that confluence of media, you better get one because you’re losing out on an incredible chance at national exposure. Luckily enough, we know someone who can help (nudge nudge wink wink… we mean us).

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