If the beginning of the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade was about the trends, and the middle of the show was about the people, the final part of the show has to be about the products! After all, that’s what those people came to showcase.
And, we saw our share. Out of the 1300 exhibits we can only highlight a few, but over the coming weeks we’ll be bringing you stories and videos to explain the ones we considered important.
Stories actually come to our attention a number of different ways.
1. We look for items that validate our trends forecast. After all, that forecast is based on a year’s worth of research and behavior study, and it’s interesting when we see a product bringing all of those thoughts together. In that category, we talked with Frontera Foods’ new Red Fork line of American Flavors. And Black Garlic, which we talked about during our black series last year, then found it was one of the “buzz” factors in this year’s show.
2. We tried to make it to the booths of anyone who used social media effectively by inviting us on Twitter or Facebook to come see them. After all, that sort of promotional diligence should have some reward. Those products that came with a personal invitation included “Bellwether Farms:http://www.bellwetherfarms.com/, introducing us to their new whole milk ricotta, and Brownie Pops convinced us more things should come on a stick. And Renfro Foods, with its line of gourmet salsas in 15 flavors. We will continue to follow all of the companies on Twitter.
3. Products that taste good. We tasted a lot of different things and have our favorites. John Kelly Chocolates. Purple Haze cheese from Cypress Grove—so, when we found the Fennel Pollen from Pollen Ranch goes in that cheese, we put the story together and plan to feature both. We listened to people throughout the show who were also tasting, and when someone told us they thought miso was taking off as a flavor trend we checked out the new salad dressings from “Nago Foods”:http://nagofoods.com/; we agree it’s worth watching. And the espresso at Josuma Coffee Co. drew us back for a second cup.
4. A great booth or interesting packaging. We set off down each row with intention, but odds are good we’d get stopped by something beautiful, flashy, kitschy or just plain interesting. Booths that stopped us in our tracks included Chukar Cherries, and Stonewall Kitchen.
5. We admit it, we’re suckers for a decent PR pitch. So those companies who have a professional following up with media for them do, without question, have an advantage. They help cut through the clutter—after all, we’ll never make it to all the booths in three days—and get our attention because they focus the story. They help us understand quickly what the news is, why the product has potential, and who we can easily talk with. We’re all for the one-man show, but the reality is everyone can use some help. That’s why we stopped at MetroMint, and Pop Chips. And, some company’s create their own buzz, like The Chef in Black, who took her salad dressing idea to ABCs Shark Tank program—we just had to hear the back story on that!
6. Serendipitous encounters. We always leave room in our coverage for chance meetings, and that’s what we got with Food & Vine when we were actually hunting down another idea. While we were sorting out our map, we found out about their new Virgin Vineyard product and it clicked with us how many new non-alcoholic wine products we’d been seeing. Trend-worthy? Perhaps. There were a few products that didn’t make our original list, but the people running them simply asked. If we had time, we listened to their story. And, in a few cases, like Funnibonz BBQ and The Sauce Goddess they sold us. They had to have a good story—like the teacher-turned-food purveyor, who is now selling Mrs. A’s Famous Salsa Buena a big part of food is the story of its creation.
7. Products we’ve been watching for awhile. For example, Xagave. We’ve been interested in agave for several years and are just seeing it take off, and figure it’s time for a story. And Original Juan with their Zarda BBQ sauce—we’ve had it on our list to get to Kansas City to check out their factory, and now we’ve started a conversation.
8. Items that have new uses, like “Bariani Olive Oil”:http://www.barianioliveoil.com/’s creative use of its product for face and body creams. Olive oil, beeswax and water sounds pretty pure to us.
9. Products with a purely new idea, like the sunflower cups, called Sn Cups, that look like peanut butter cups but have a totally different taste.
10. Products with history. At Stubb’s Legendary Kitchen and at Nielson-Massey Vanilla and at Lucero Olive Oil we met the third generation of family members running the company. That kind of longevity is intriguing to us in a world where companies come and go. And, they are continuing to innovate—Nielson-Massey has a new vanilla sugar that really caught our attention.
Bottom line, we looked for a story. And we found plenty.
There is so much more to bring you from the Winter Fancy Food Show, so if you are interested in the latest specialty food products, keep checking back. These are the products that make life a little more interesting—the ones you’ll splurge on as small indulgences even when the economy has hit you hard. These are the products that showcase the American entreprenuer better than anything else.
Hard to stop when there is so much news to bring you, but we’ll break it into segments in the days and weeks to come. In the meantime, let us know if you have a favorite product.
At The Food Channel, we know the food trends and the food products, in part because we go to these shows and keep up. Along the way, we get some interesting surprises and ideas.
And now you know exactly how to get our attention.