We’ve been out of the COVID-19 pandemic for a year now and trade show attendance hasn’t bounced back. I have never seen the Summer Fancy Food Show this empty before, their cutting the hours didn’t help. Personally, I believe it should be four days as that’s how long it would take me to properly cover the show instead of speeding through it, especially the foreign pavilions. One vendor informed me that last year his company generated $500K in new business from new accounts in the first two days of 2022, this year they didn’t get anywhere near that in three days.
The two trends I noticed this year was more brands including mushroom as the base to their product and many brands infusing their products with a spirit, especially whiskey. As we’ve seen over the years, too many brands are on the “kill your taste buds” spice train. I like bite to my food but prefer to have my tongue functioning 24/7 rather than taking hours for the Scoville Scale to fall back to neutral with the help of generous portions of chocolate milk.
The big game changer at the Summer Fancy Food Show this year was the number of small manufacturers already partnered with the online shopping mall www.Faire.com. One exhibitor told me they signed up on Sunday and started getting business on Monday. Fine and dandy until you speak to the importers who are in an uproar. According to a foreign government trade rep the importers have straight out told the brands they’ve been importing that if they sell on Faire.com then they will stop importing the line. A manufacturer sells to an importer at ‘X’ for a container, they in turn sell to a retailer at ‘Y’ for a case, who in turn sell to the consumer at ‘Z’. By offering importer pricing to retailers who are buying a case you destroy the business you have with the importer who is bringing in goods, warehousing and having a sales force sell into every conceivable channel they can. If a manufacturer wants to sell via Faire.com they need to have a robust fulfillment operation in place stateside and a warehouse for storing goods (Montgomery Ward pioneered this in the 1970s with their mail order catalog having suppliers ship direct). Shipping from overseas doesn’t make it cost effective.
The major complaint from exhibitors is the Specialty Foods Association ban on anyone under the age of 16. As many of these exhibitors are family run companies, both parents are in attendance and they can’t afford to hire childcare in their home city while they are out of town or overseas for a week. I’ve attended trade shows all over the world and have seen many of them accommodate parents as long as they keep the kids in the booth. The children who are older usually are acting as booth assistants anyway. The Specialty Foods Association should look into the feasibility of having childcare (maybe arranged from a local college as school is out at that point) available for a nominal fee in one of the many conference spaces throughout the Javits Center.
In a pleasant flash from the past, the 1978 Reggie Bar has been relaunched. The Curtis Candy Company stopped manufacturing them in 1981 after they got into trouble with the Security & Exchange Commission (SEC). Clark Candies attempted a comeback with the Reggie Bar in the 1990s but it fizzled out, excluding sales on EBay in later years. In 2023 the Reggie Bar is back in the marketplace thanks to American Candy Nostalgia.
My favorites discoveries from the Summer Fancy Food Show this year are:
Melinda’s Mini Liquid Spice Rack
Olivieri 1882 Penettone Classico
Golden Nest’s Bourbon Cream Coffee Latte Non-Alcoholic
Pico Punjabi Ketchup
Cedar Creek Cider – Apple
Indialicious Yellow Lentils With Spinach Dal Pak
RSRV Collection Non-Alcoholic Kensho Cocktails – Amari
Unbound Cinnamon Walnuts
Sunny Fruit Organic Figs
Healthee USA Organic Chicken Risotto