For 2013, The Summer Fancy Food Show Was Back In The New York Groove

by Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet on July 23, 2013

Summer Fancy Food Show, NYC 2013It’s a wonderful experience for anyone with an interest in the food industry to purchase a ticket and attend the Fancy Food Show, yet it’s another experience altogether to be able to attend the show as a guest of the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT), who sponsors the show on both coasts every year.

This year, I reached out to NASFT with an interest in covering the show and was honored with an invitation and an all access press pass. The pass not only provided access to the show itself, but also to all of the educational seminars that are offered to attendees.

These seminars provide all kinds of great information to retailers and manufacturers alike in the food business. This is a tremendous opportunity to meet and learn from industry leaders on a variety of different topics, and there are always many topics to choose from. There are also many events scheduled throughout the day with celebrity chefs in the chef demo area. This year’s talent included Kelsey Nixon who hosts Kelsey’s Essentials, Roger Mooking currently co-hosting the new show with Aaron Sanchez called Heat Seekers and Sara Moulton, one of our favorite TV personalities who I happened to run into while  taking a few minutes to relax at the recharging area.

Educational seminars, Summer Fancy Food Show 2013

Chef Demo Theater, Summer Fancy Food Show, 2013

Looking up and seeing Sara Moulton at the Summer Fancy Food Show,, 2013

In 2011 and 2012, the show was held at the Washington Convention Center while major renovations were being undertaken at the Jacob Javits Center in NYC. The Javits Center has been the traditional home of the Summer Fancy Food Show for many years, and 2013 brought the show back to its familiar but newly renovated digs, that were now bigger and better than ever.

For those who have never attended the show, this is one of those events that you must experience at least once in your life. Before you attend, you should read my article on the history and sheer magnitude of this show. It explains the true impact that a show like this can have on a new product. A great but unknown product can be languishing in relative obscurity one day, and become a national sensation the next.

There were a few exciting changes at the show this year that included a larger floor plan and a new pavilion. In addition to the numerous areas set up for specialty food exporters, a new Taste New York Pavilion was also added to the mix. This area was reserved for food producers and trend setters from all over New York state and highlighted in one area. These were not the ONLY New York companies that participated in the show, because there were many others scattered throughout the massive floor plan, but it was a great way to taste a lot of what New York has to offer in a more abbreviated fashion. One that we loved was Sullivan Street bakery that offered attendees samples of their delicious baked goods, including their beautiful breads.

Sullivan Street bakery, Summer Fancy Food Show,  2013

This year promised to be a great show and it delivered with 354,000 sq ft. of exhibit space filled with 180,000 specialty foods and beverages from more than 1,500 U.S. exhibitors and 1,000 others from around the world. There were first-time pavilions from Bulgaria, Switzerland, Sri Lanka and Indonesia but Italy had the largest international presence, followed by Turkey, France and Spain.

After arriving and making my way to the Javits Center, I picked up my press pass and took some time to peruse the numerous press kits and samples that were prepared for us. Many companies use this opportunity to highlight the uniqueness of their products and help define what really sets them apart from their competitors. This extra step taken by some companies hopes  to spark a little more interest in their products from press attendees.

As I awaited for the official opening of the show, everyone was buzzing about this year’s food trends. Depending on what side of the industry fence you were sitting on (retail/wholesale and conventional/organic), there were many wonderful products to discover. My overall goal was to include a little of both, but I wanted to focus on the companies who exemplify corporate social responsibility in their core business practices.

With all of the emphasis on organic, non-gmo, fair trade and sustainability, it’s important to highlight the manufacturers who are going the extra mile. My reasoning behind this focus comes on the heels of the recent announcement from Con Agra, one of North America’s leading food companies, with brands in 96 percent of America’s households, renewing their commitment to more socially responsible products that include everything from ingredient sourcing and manufacturing to packaging. This was a huge announcement and something that will set the tone for the entire industry.

As I began to walk around, I noticed that this year’s show offered a stronger emphasis on DIY food and drink kits, proving that consumers are becoming more hands on with what they are eating and drinking. Everything from bread kits to beer kits that may save you a few steps, but still gets you into the kitchen.

Wherever you went, there was a greater emphasis on ethnic breads and gluten free items using unique flour combinations. Flatbreads, like the more well known roti and naan, now come in a million different flavors, but newer products like arepas, dosas, simit (I grew up eating these), Lángos or something called Rwandan honey bread are making themselves known to consumers.

The popularity of these items is being created and promoted on a more organic level with the explosion of the new food truck revolution. Business people from all walks of life and cultures are bringing their unique food items to consumers — these consumers in turn are creating the demand on the retail level.

One of my first stops was at the booth for the Storye Bread Company, that offers a delicious slow baked rye bread (about 38 hours to bake one loaf) with a lovely flavor, dense texture and crispy and chewy crust. They offer a few different flavors, whether you like a more traditional rye or something a little sweeter, this lovely bread is a great start to a perfect sandwich.

delicious rye bread, Storye Bread Company

Retail packaging, Storye Bread Company, Fancy Food Show

Another great little company that has been doing everything right from the start is a company called Judy’s Breadsticks now celebrating their 20th anniversary. Owner Lynda Najarian (who goes by Judy) offers a great line of something called lovesticks – these moist and chewy baguettes are great for sandwiches, so pick some up if you come across them or order online. Her country crackers (made from lovesticks) along with her twigs in a couple of different flavors including sweet currant, coffee, sesame and sunflower are simply delicious with any beverage. Her seedy garlic bits are just great to eat out of the bag instead of chips or pretzels. Enjoy any of these products alone or with any dip that you might fancy. The added benefit of this product line is that it is totally vegan and uses 100% organic whole grain wheat flour and are really delicious.

Judy's Breadsticks, Lovesticks

An ongoing trend which does not seem to be slowing is the category of confectionary items made by companies adding beer, wine or liquors like scotch, bourbon, tequila or brandy to compliment the flavors of their candy and snack items. One of the companies that has done a great job in the past and continues to do so to this day is Annette’s Chocolates. They have won numerous Sofi™ awards over the years in the outstanding snack food, confection and dessert topping categories. I stopped by their booth and tried their microbrew peanut brittle for the first time. It was their 2008 Sofi™ winner in the outstanding confection category, and I understand why. They use a combination of spices and even crushed pieces of tortillas to create a unique taste sensation in their nut brittles, and the addition of the micro brew beer really adds a lovely depth to their caramel. If you like this flavor combination or the idea of dessert sauces with added benefits sends you over the moon, then you’ve got to give them a try.

For many years now, American consumers have known the smooth and delicious properties of balsamic vinegars. An innovative company called Visionary Vinegars by Bakto Flavors expanded on the traditional balsamic offerings by adding high quality flavorings like chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, raspberry, peach and even blood orange to an already terrific product. Uses for such vinegars have gone beyond the more traditional fare and are now used in cakes, cookies, chocolates, fruited yogurt, pies and even cocktails!

Some other really delicious products that I came across were a few cheese companies that produced extraordinary European style cheeses, right here in the USA. The first one I came across was the Marin French Cheese company out of California — and if you think that great French cheese is non-existent outside of France, think again. This company produces sensationally creamy cheeses that reminded me of those I enjoyed in my trip to France this past Spring. Their products completely bash those manufactured and imported under France’s President brand which isn’t very good but is found everywhere.

The cheese manufactured at Marin follows strict guidelines, and after speaking with their Business Manager, Philippe Chevrollier, I discovered that they are the longest operating cheese company in America and have been handcrafting original soft-ripened cheeses since 1865…who knew! They use only local milk sourced in their area and the cheese offers a distinctly coastal character and flavor. Their varieties of brie are beautifully golden and buttery and include a Traditional Brie, a Triple Crème Brie and the Truffle Brie which are all made from rBST free cow’s milk. The Melange Brie is made from both cow’s and goat’s milk, and is provided by their sister company (called Laura Chenel’s Chevre) which is primarily responsible for producing their smooth and creamy Chevre (goat’s milk cheese). They also manufacture a lovely Camembert that is available in both an 8 oz and a 4 oz petite size. A slightly savory blue cheese they also make is only available in a 4 oz unit. If you come across these delicious items, don’t ever hesitate to pick some up for yourself or a special holiday cheese plate.

Assorted Petite Brie, Marin Cheese Company

Laura Chenel's Chevre

Another really good product was a new feta sold through Bunker Hill Cheese Company. This family has been making cheese in the old Swiss tradition since 1962, and from the start, they have been using local milk from local Amish farms for all of their products.

They even make a large assortment of yogurt cheeses with live active cultures, which I understand is a little challenging to do. The one I tasted was every bit as creamy, delicious and flavorful as other top shelf cheeses.

If you want to try something a little more unusual, they also sell a few raw milk cheeses which are not commonly found in retail groceries. If you are a fan of the very comforting dish called poutin, these folks even sell the requisite cheese curds!

One of the items that really stood out from their offerings was a product that they are selling called Ezra’s feta. I grew up eating imported feta from both Greece and Bulgaria, which in my opinion is some of the best feta around. Imported products are so much better than many of the domestic brands because they tend to be much creamier. This product was unlike anything I’d ever tasted, but in a good way. It was so smooth and creamy, a result of a great deal of filtering during the manufacturing process through fine mesh. The result is a delicious and tart feta, but one that does not have the traditional firmness as is common in more mainstream products. Don’t get me wrong, it was absolutely delicious, but in a very non- traditional way. This cheese is so creamy and light that it is almost…airy.

Ezra's Feta Cheese

My next stop was with Michael McCarthy from a company called Budibar. His need to create a food bar resulted from a few health issues he was facing. He was given the traditional prescriptions to solve his anxiety that was caused by stress, but he began to do research on healthier ways to cure his mind and body. By incorporating certain nutrients in the for of whole foods into his diet, he began to slowly alleviate his symptoms until they completely disappeared. He took this a step further by creating a natural, superfood bar that incorporates many of these mind balancing omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals offering a time released energy source that does not create sugar spikes. He has many different varieties, so you really should check out his website to see if there is something that will fit into your daily needs. After trying it at the show, I’m glad to report that they are not only nutritious but very delicious and satisfying.

Another great little company is Navitas Naturals that makes some really interesting products. One of their products is a dehydrated coconut water that is ground into a powder and can be added to filtered water when you get the urge for some coconut water. Another great product (and my favorite) is a great new snack item called Power Snack made with dark cocoa powder and goji berries — I could eat the whole bag in one sitting, it’s that good. They are little chocolate nuggets of crispy goodness, so moist and naturally sweet that you will really work hard to keep yourself away from them. They are made with nutrient dense functional foods that include cacao and goji berries. These are one of the most delicious and nutritious grab and go snacks.

Power Snack, Navitas Naturals, Summer Fancy Food Show

The most unique of all was their delicious, dehydrated (organic) dragon fruit slices. I’ve had fresh dragon fruit in the past and to be honest, it really did not have much flavor. I was curious to see what this tasted like and was surprised at how delicious and sweet it was. I made the mistake of calling it fruit leather and was promptly corrected by Mic, the Communications Manager who reminded me that it is so much more.

Dehydrated Dragon Fruit Slices, Navitas Naturals, Summer Fancy Food Show

This little product packs a significant nutritional punch because it includes naturally occurring omega 3’s and protein in its natural state. The actual product is dried from a sweeter variety of dragon fruit, and does not have any added sugar. It makes a great and healthy snack for both adults and kids with no added sugar or coloring..just dried fruit. Make sure to pick these up when you come across them in your local market or online.

Navitas Naturals, dragonfruit

The next stop was made at the Northern Valley Baking Company who just so happens to make some of the most delicious almond macaroons you’ve ever had. They are sold frozen and all you do is remove them from the freezer when you’re ready to eat. These were so delicious and chewy as you would expect a macaroon to be, yet not soggy at all from the freezing process. These are delicious as is or would be great served with creams, custards, puddings or ice creams. The company offers five flavors that include the traditional almond, lemon, orange, raspberry and mocha. Make sure to check out their website and their new online store where you will soon be able to order their cookies.

NV Baking Company, macaroons

Olli’s Salumeria makes the only line of organic, non-gmo salami and chorizo from heritage breed pork raised on sustainable farms in Virginia. These are truly outstanding products in every way, from the perfectly spiced, mild salami called Norcino, to the more flavorful pepper and garlic Molisana and the spicier, paprika based Chorizo. All products offer a well balanced flavor and fat content creating a meltingly good, artisanal slow-cured meat product.

Olli's Salumeria, organic and non gmo salami

Some delicious and notable ice cream products:
1. Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss Ice Cream is made with coconut milk and is not only delicious but also organic and vegan. When products are made with coconut milk, the fear is that the coconut flavor will be ever present in all the flavor options. Personally, I love coconut, but there are many who may not necessarily want it as an underlying flavor in everything. Coconut milk has many great benefits, so is there really an ice cream that you can eat and not tell it’s made with coconut milk?

I tasted two of their many products, the dark chocolate and cappuccino ice cream flavors. They were both so creamy and delicious, but I found that there was an underlying coconut flavor in the dark chocolate ice cream, but I did not notice anything other than a really delicious coffee flavor in their cappuccino option. If the coconut flavor is an issue for you, you may need to do a little bit of trial and error tasting to see which one is right for you, so go ahead and indulge a little.

2. Jeni Britton Bauer is known for her ice creams and she even wrote an award winning book on how to make delicious ice cream at home. It won’t come as a surprise then when I say that she offers some of the best ice cream around, and is simply known as Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. Some of her innovative ice cream, frozen yogurt and sorbet flavors are such things as goat cheese and cherry ice cream, a delicious lemon frozen yogurt which won the Sofi™ award in 2012 for outstanding food innovation and interesting sorbet flavors like Riesling poached pear. She uses perfectly ripened fruits, grass fed dairy products and biodynamic yogurts…now that’s quality and I loved every spoonful.

Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, Summer Fancy Food Show, 2013

3. Forte High Protein Gelato is one of the most delicious and creamy gelato products I have ever tasted. This high protein, low fat yet so creamy and delicious product is sweetened with organic agave and uses rBST free skim milk, cream and cage free egg yolks. Each serving has 15 grams of protein compared to the 4 grams of other name brand servings. What’s even better is that it also offers 1.5grams of saturated fat per 4 oz serving compared to 10 grams in other brands. What a great way to have your gelato and eat it too…you must order some of this at their online store.

Forte High Protein Ice Cream

Some delicious and notable chocolate companies:
1. Coco Polo makes an outstanding sugar free, stevia sweetened chocolate. I’m not a fan of stevia because of its aftertaste, but these folks have figured out the secrets on how to make it creamy and delicious with no after taste at all. I was a little reluctant to try it, but I’m so glad that I did. Where else are you going to find all of the benefits of a good dark chocolate without all of the extra calories? Trust me when I tell you that this is beyond delicious in every way.

2. Taza Chocolate is one of the best artisanal chocolates out there. This stone ground chocolate is not only certified organic but also fair trade and made in the traditional Mexican way from bean to bar. What’s most impressive about this company is that they source there beans from a direct trade certified program, where they cultivate a face to face relationship with the farmers who provide them with the best raw ingredients. They have chosen to even pay their farmers a premium above the fair trade cocoa price… now what other company do you know that does that? Their delicious, sustainable and socially responsible product is one that we all should support.

Taza Chocolate, organic and fair trade

3. JCOco is a new American couture chocolate company with a mission. What’s special about this company is not only the unique flavors of their chocolates that include veracruz orange, noble dark with coco nibs, black fig pistachio, vanatua milk chocolate, edamame sea salt and agave roasted quinoa sesame (my favorite), but the fact that they give back to their community in an important way. Every time one of their chocolate bars is purchased, a healthy serving of food is provided to someone who needs and who would otherwise go hungry – this is the true heart and mission of the company. They are affiliated with Hopelink, the Food Bank of NY, San Francisco and Marin County…a very worthy company to support, so when you see their products don’t ever hesitate to pick them up.

As with all of the Fancy Food Shows I have attended, I had a wonderful time and met so many creative and innovative people who happen to see life in a very different and delicious way. It was a pleasure to be back in New York, and I look forward to doing it again soon.

Lastly, the Sofi™ awards ceremony this year was hosted by internationally-acclaimed chef Marcus Samuelsson. The Sofi™ (Specialty Outstanding Food Innovation) award is the highest honor a product can receive…kind of like the Oscar of the food industry. This year’s contest was the largest ever with specialty food makers submitting 2,573 products across all 32 categories.

The 2013 Sofi™ Winners in each category were:
Appetizer Antipasto, Salsa or Dip -Gourmet du Village – Hot Parmesan & Artichoke Dip Mix
Baked Good, Baking Ingredient or Cereal  – Fromagerie Belle Chevre – Goat Cheese Cheesecake
Cheese or Dairy Product (TIE)
- Caves of Faribault – Jeffs’ Select
- Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. – Toma
Chocolate – Chocolat Moderne  - Avant-Garde Bar Blood Orange Bergamot Flavor
Classic – Cypress Grove Chevre, Inc. – Humboldt Fog
Cold Beverage  (TIE)
- Brands of Britain – Fever-Tree Premium Sparkling Lemon
- Canada Enterprises – Jin-Ja
Condiment – The Virginia Chutney Company – Spicy Plum Chutney
Confection – The Sticky Toffee Pudding Company – Chocolate Tiffin with Biscuits, Roasted Almonds & Cherries
Cookie – Tate’s Bake Shop – Whole Wheat Dark Chocolate Chip
Cooking Sauce or Flavor Enhancer – Korean Delights – We Rub You – Spicy Korean BBQ Marinade
Cracker – Lesley Stowe Fine Foods   Salty Date and Almond Raincoast Crisps
Dessert or Dessert Topping – McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams – Double Peanut Butter Chip
Diet and Lifestyle Product – Fromagerie Belle Chevre – Belle & The Bees Breakfast Cheese
Food Gift  – Bee Raw – Manhattan Rooftop Honey Flight
Frozen Savory – Hancock Gourmet Lobster Co. – Old Port Lobster Flatbread
Hot Beverage – Bhakti Chai
Innovation in Packaging Design or Function – HoneyPax – HoneyPax Raw Tupelo Honey Packets
Jam, Preserve, Honey or Nut Butter – Wildly Delicious Fine Foods – Beet & Red Onion Marmalade
Meat, Pâté or Seafood – Creminelli Fine Meats – Campania Handcrafted Italian Salami
New Product  (TIE)
- Artisan Biscuits Ltd. – The Fine Cheese Co. Pearls of Pure Goats’ Cheese
-Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. – Point Reyes Bay Blue
Non-Food Specialty Item – EcoTensil Inc. – EcoTaster Mini
Oil  -Los Chileros – Stöger Cherry Seed Oil
Pasta Sauce – Ritrovo Italian Regional Foods – Ritrovo Selections Casina Rossa Due Formaggi
Pasta, Rice or Grain – Luquire Family Foods – Carolina Creole Stone Ground Grits
Perishable Foodservice Product – Sukhi’s Gourmet Indian Foods – Pakora & Aloo Tikki Indian Bites Platter
Product Line – Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams – Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
Salad Dressing – NaGo Foods – Ginger Sesame Miso Dressing
Shelf-Stable Foodservice Product – Effie’s Homemade – Single Serve Oatcakes
Snack Food – POP! Gourmet Popcorn – Rogue Blue Gourmet Popcorn
Soup, Stew, Bean or Chili – Sarabeth’s Kitchen – Legendary Velvety Cream of Tomato Soup
USDA-Certified Organic Product – Pro Ecuador – RUNA Hibiscus - Berry Guayusa Tea
Vinegar – Italian Harvest, Inc. – Sopraffino 12 Year Aged Wine Vinegar

Future Fancy Food Show Dates
Winter Fancy Food Show, Jan. 19 – 21, 2014, San Francisco
Summer Fancy Food Show, June 29 – July 1, 2014, New York
For more information, please visit their website.

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