Fancy Food Show

 
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This past weekend, the Íko team had the opportunity to attend the Summer Fancy Food Show. This is a trade event that aims to promote growth of the specialty food industry. We were able to attend as a Cornell University startup with a foodie focus. Thanks Cornell!

Much like we did for the Vegas Food Expo, we wanted to answer a few questions and give you a brief overview of the event.

What is it?

The Summer Fancy Food Show is an event run by the Specialty Food Association. According to their website, it’s the largest specialty food industry event in North America. In the summer, this event is held at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City, while the Winter Fancy Food Show is held in San Francisco. Very good planning.

At this event, there’s over 180,000 specialty foods and drinks to try, with free samples at every booth. While there are some more established brands, there were also smaller companies and new kinds of products. With thousands of exhibitors from all over the world, we had the chance to try specialty foods from every continent. We definitely made a dent.

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Who's invited?

The Fancy Food Show is aimed at qualified buyers and industry professionals only. This includes retailers, distributors, food importers & exporters, manufacturers, and those working in food service. You are required to wear a badge that specifies who you are and what your job is in the food industry. Our badges states that we are “affiliates” of Cornell. 

What’s it like?

The Javits Center was beautiful. It is a huge glass building that was designed by architect I.M. Pei, who also happened to design one of Cornell’s most beautiful buildings, the Herbert F. Johnson Museum. At this event, there were 2 floors, over 500 aisles of exhibitors, and thousands upon thousands of foods and beverages to try. 

Events like these are always a bit overwhelming, and many exhibitors are most interested in making business deals. Many exhibitors will look at your name badge as you walk by to see if you’re someone important to speak to. While this seemed like the overwhelming feeling while we were there, we also encountered some exhibitors who were extremely sweet and welcoming at their booths.

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What are today’s specialty food trends?

As you may expect, it seemed like everyone made sure to label their foods with gluten free, dairy free, all natural, non-GMO, organic, and vegan. It’s not a criticism though, it just shows that people today want to know where their food is coming from, and that it was produced safely and naturally. This trend is important to us, since we’re giving people the ability to grow food on their own. No need to wonder about where your food is coming from.

We also noticed lots of booths with prosciutto being cut from the leg and cheeses being scooped from the wheel. That may also have been because there were so many Italian booths, but we definitely weren’t complaining about that.

Matcha seems to be a quick growing trend at the moment, along with the favorite descriptor “artisanal” (just like in Vegas).

What were some of our favorite nibbles and names?

Kacau Chocolate: The packaging really caught our eyes on this one. Gorgeous design with a story behind it.

Ziyad: Delicious falafel samples. We even went back for seconds. Ok fine... thirds.

Ginger People: This brand produces America’s #1 selling ginger candy, and the exhibitors were so lovely to us.

Aerofarms: This company has been designing aeroponic farming methods for agriculture production at scale. We tried their kale- it was buttery, no jokes, buttery kale. #delishdelosh

Natierra: This brand sells freeze dried fruits, and our favorites were the pomegranate and raspberry.

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How long was the event?

3 full days: Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Attending all days would be unnecessary.

Should you attend?

If you’re a food distributor, attending is a great idea. You’ll get to experience so many specialty food and drinks, and the exhibitors will be very interested in talking to you.

If you’re an exhibitor, this is also a great opportunity. It’s important to think about ways to stand out, since there are so many booths there. We recommend creating an open experience at your booth. Don't use the table as a barrier. 

If you’re selling hardware in the food space, this will be an excellent chance to stand out. There weren’t any decent hardware products at all, so you’ll be sure to catch the attention of all attendees.

If you’re not trying to buy or sell food, this may not be the best event for you. In that case, it may just be an expensive way to taste some new foods. Despite the fact that many people were interested in just making business deals, we were so grateful that we got the opportunity to attend.

Pro Tip:

Start in the morning before the event at the Chelsea Food Market. It opens early, so explore and shop a little bit. Then take a walk along the High Line and get a beautiful view of the city. As soon as you get off the bridge, you’re right at the Javits Center.

 
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