By Ellen Koteff
The flavors of India, exotic vinegars and all things bacon are topping the trends from the Summer Fancy Food Show, which is produced by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade.
Held in the sprawling Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City, this years’ event brings specialty retailers from around the world touting foodstuffs of every taste and variety to representatives from retail outlets, distributors and foodservice companies.
â€˜This show can be overwhelming. You really need to do the show one day for salt, and the next day for sugar,â€™ says Mary Hardy, who is walking the massive show floor of 2,400 exhibitors for a day of tasting and trendspotting to benefit her employer, the world’s most recognized designer name in silk flowers, Emilio Robba. â€˜You never know where a new trend will come from. The walls are coming down between industries,â€™ she says.
This year’s 24,000 attendees saw an abundance of new products on display, several that mirror a growing fascination with Indian cuisine. â€˜Indian foods, sauces, spice mixes and even convenience foods such as Naanwich from Sukhi’s Gourmet Indian Foods are particularly prevalent at the show,â€™ says Louise Kramer, communications director for the NASFT.
â€˜It is a great convenience, because Americans are getting more adventurous with new flavors, but Indian is quite labor intensive to prepare, and requires lots of ingredients. So a spice mix or sauce is great help to a curious cook.â€™
Exhibitor Jay Lampart, president and founder of Shakedown Spice, says it’s about time Indian takes its rightful place alongside other cuisines. â€˜Indian food is so wonderful and exotic. Your mouth just explodes with flavor,â€™ says the chef and entrepreneur. â€˜It was love at first bite for me,â€™ he says.
Lampart’s company features several spice mixes that feature Indian flavors. And Lampart has put his money where his mouth is. â€˜My first year in foodservice I worked pro bono at an Indian restaurant. I got paid in food.â€™
Mohini Rabine of two-year old Mohini Indian Fusions, likewise creates one-of-a-kind custom blends. â€˜My business really evolved. I started going into houses as a personal chef, and teaching at community colleges about healthy Indian dishes,â€™ says Rabine. â€˜It was very difficult for the home cook to buy all the spices, so I combined all 13 flavors in one jar,â€™ she says adding, â€˜We sell a separate blend that brings the hot flavors that can be added for those who want it.â€™
Several of the show’s sofi Gold winners reflect the trends seen on the floor including Rozendal’s Hibiscus Vinegar being named the Outstanding New Product of 2010. Some 2,257 entries were narrowed down to 140 Silver Finalists, with the final judging taking place during the show. â€˜A sofi Award means instant visibility and recognition by discerning buyers of specialty food and beverages across the U.S. and around the world,â€™ says Ann Daw, president of the NASFT.
Click here to see the list of sofi Gold winners.
One of the reasons for the gaining popularity of infused vinegars is the variety it brings to a slew of dishes at home. â€˜I think these new vinegars are an easy way to bring a different component to a dish,â€™ says Sam Meldrum, customer service representative for New York-based FoodMatch, Inc. FoodMatch offers a host of vinegars including red wine, champagne, cider, white wine and raspberry red wine. â€˜I use cider vinegar at home and it brings a different level of brightness to a salad,â€™ adds Meldrum.
Stan Bucklin, president of New Hampshire-based-Putney House, represents Modena, Italy-based Cavedoni in the United States. Cavedoni, which was founded in 1860, features vinegars ranging from truffle, cherry, and juniper to balsamics aged for 100 years. Bucklin says vinegars in Modena are strictly regulated and are really â€˜gaining ground in the States.â€™
Specialty foods now account for 13.1 percent of all food sales at retail in the U.S., according to Mintel International, a market research firm. Mediterranean, Latin and Indian are the fastest emerging cuisines while local, sustainable and eco-friendly products are identified as the items that will grow the most in the coming years.
Sales of specialty foods and beverages grew by 2.7 percent last year and total sales reached more than $63 billion. â€˜The data reveals an industry that continues to grow despite the economic challenges that confronted the U.S. and the world last year,â€™ says Ron Tanner, vice president, communications and education for the NASFT. â€˜People are cooking more and more at home so the dishes with specialty foods are growing in the American mainstream,â€™ says Ben Uba, president of FSD International, based in Atlanta.
Uba says from his vantage point Asian, Indian and Hispanic foods are growing in popularity and because the supermarkets are vested in these trends additional shelf space is opening up for specialty products.
And that’s good news to Aux Delices des Bois, a natural, artisanal bacon specialist, based in New York City. â€˜I think one of the major reasons for bacon’s popularity is that people are coming back to their roots,â€™ says Thierry Farges, Aux Delices de Bois’ owner. Farges company features four unique flavors of bacon including original farmhouse country smoke, herbes de Provence rub, Southwest kick rub and cracked peppercorn and garlic rub.
Farges says his customers appreciate a better for you product as well as the fact that the bacon is often consumed with a knife and a fork. â€˜This is not a product that needs to be fried within an inch of its life. â€˜
The floor of the Fancy Food Show offers a blurring array of products to sample, many of which are presented in 70 distinct areas broken out in countries or regions of origin such as China, the United Kingdom, West Africa Regional, Israel or Kosovo. This world tour offers a real sampling of international cuisines, many of which have been â€˜Americanizedâ€™ for the U.S. consumer.
Healthy products that are organic, gluten-free, sugar free, reduced fat or all natural are abundant. In fact 85 percent of specialty food manufacturers make or market natural foods, according to Mintel.
One such natural product that was introduced this year was the Messmer Legacy Hazelnut-Caramel Praline topping from Messmer Legacy, which was originally created at a 100-yearâ€“old restaurant near the Austrian Alps.
â€˜People would come to my family’s restaurant and ask for desserts made with this topping,â€™ says David Krzypow, whose family founded Messmer Legacy.
Boasting a total of 331,000 square feet, the show offers plenty of color, fancy food and some clever marketing. Eye-catching booths and ingenious product names keep a patron moving despite tired feet.
Bean Boozled (jelly beans), Fat Toad Farm (a Vermont garden dairy that is laced with fat toads), Wild Thymes (a sauces and toppings purveyor), Mary’s Gone Crackers (need we say more), Nutorious (you guessed it), and FunkyChunky (pretzels) are just a few of the signage that greets members of the trade.
Mike Chalmers, manager of food procurement for The Cheesecake Factory chain of restaurants, says The Fancy Food Show is a must each year.
â€˜I love this show. It’s my favorite show next to the NRA show (National Restaurant Association). There is so much to see here. I get great ideas for our chefs and I see all the new products,â€™ he says. â€˜And let’s face it, New York City is amazing.â€™