2019’s Winter Fancy Food Show is on the books. The Specialty Food Association’s (SFA) premier West Coast event—a show boasting 230,000 square feet of exhibition and education space, 1,400 exhibitors, and more than 25,000 attendees—brought together the best and brightest makers in the specialty food industry. With buyers from Whole Foods, Kroger, UNFI, Starbucks, Marriott, and others from throughout retail, foodservice, hospitality, and dozens of other channels, the annual event is not to be missed, and this year's show was no exception.
The show officially kicked off Sunday morning, January 13, with a ribbon cutting in the Lower North Lobby of the newly renovated Moscone Center in downtown San Francisco, California. I spoke to Phil Kafarakis, President of the Specialty Food Association, about the expanded educational programing, the reorganized show floor, and the almost-dizzying number of innovative products and bar-raising companies convening in Fog City this week.
“With the floor opening up the way it is, we now have the ability to utilize all the space—six football fields, some 230,000 square feet, of innovation. Using the new part of the building—the tower—we’ve been able to extend an education platform that has totally been revised and made more relevant and current with great content from our exhibitor members and a buyer community featuring buyers from all over the place,” Phil told me, noting that the show featured buyers from throughout the entirety of the foods space and suppliers and service providers from up and down the supply chain. “If you walk the floor, it’s fantastic; there are convenience store buyers, foodservice people. We’ve got a whole Amazon contingent; the guys from Pinterest are here, and we have buyers from Asia, from social media platforms. We help them with their pre-show experience and gather material for them and give it to them post-show. We’ve developed the opportunity for buyers to experience the show a little differently through the LevelUP program. It’s really coming together.”
Even prior to the ribbon cutting, Sunday morning, the South Hall was abuzz with attendees visiting the early-opening Esplanade section of the show, visiting the newly expanded What’s New, What’s Hot! Showcase and Incubator Village.
At the What’s New What’s Hot! Showcase, attendees could get an overview of many of the innovative new offerings that exhibitors brought to the show—products including Les Trois Petits Cochon’s new Sous-Vide Egg Bites, new organic offerings and flavored cheeses from Rumiano Cheese Company, upgraded non-GMO Verified and GAP 3 certified items from La Quercia, additions to Alexian Pate’s burgeoning cracker line, new Cheese Crisp Bars from Sonoma Creamery, and more.
That first day, attendees made their way through the 2018 sofi™ Award Showcase, rubbed elbows with experts and innovators from confectionary companies, cured meat-makers, craft creameries, forward-thinking startups, and venerable multi-generational artisans.
The evening culminated with the SFA’s 2019 Leadership Award ceremony—honoring Lisa Curtis of Kuli Kuli Foods, Patrick Mateer of Seal the Seasons, and Miyoko Schinner of Miyoko's for their pioneering work and positive impact on the industry and the world.
“The Fancy Food show is a great event for us retailers because it allows us to stay current with all the food trends. By walking the show we are able to identify when a new product, flavor or ingredient is gaining popularity. The best part is that we get to try all the goodies on the spot,” Roger Arechiga, Director of Dairy/Deli/Frozen Foods for Bristol Farms, told me. “Another benefit is that by walking the show you get an introduction to the product and in some cases hear the cool story, direct from the brand owners, behind how the product/brand was created. This allows us to become more invested in the product. We get to accomplish a lot in the brief time that we get at every stop.”
Day two of the show featured the same packed show floor experience, as well as a number of educational sessions including The XX Factor: How Women are Reshaping the Future of Food; a What’s the Big Idea in Retail panel discussion featuring Mouth Co-Founder Nancy Kruger Cohen, Kanbe's Markets Founder Max Kaniger, and iGourmet Founder Spencer Chesman; and Disrupt or Be Disrupted: A Panel on the Future of Food hosted by Phil Kafarakis and featuring Michelle Simon and Danielle Nierenberg.
Throughout the show, the SFA featured SFA News Live segments on its YouTube channel—interviewing buyers, suppliers, and experts giving their takes on the $140 billion specialty food category.
“I’m here specifically looking for natural foods; I always think in those terms. So what I’m looking for is trends that we’ve identified“ Cathy Strange, Global Executive Coordinator of Specialty and Product Innovation and Development for Whole Foods Market, told SFA News Live host Phil Lempert. “…Just to be inspired by being here—there’s so much energy here. You just get caught up in it, and I think it’s really great for the industry.”
Winter’s festivities may be over, but this July, New York will play host to a newly revamped and rescheduled Summer Fancy Food Show. The event, held June 23-25 at the expanding Javits Center in lower Manhattan, will play host to a number of new features, and Phil noted, will mark an auspicious occasion for the SFA—as the association plans to reveal a new brand identity for the next year.
“You’ll see more attractions. You’ll see more experiential components dealing with how people make and experience food,” Phil noted. “And this summer we’ll be ready to unveil a new brand.”
Stay tuned to Deli Market News for more Winter Fancy Food Show coverage this week and the next. We’ll see you in New York this Summer!