Another Winter Fancy Food Show (WFFS) presented by the Specialty Food Association (SFA) has come and gone, and the industry has more than enough to turn the inspiration acquired into specialty food star power. As was expected, this year’s event brought together the industry's most innovative and impactful suppliers and buyers to exchange ideas that push the envelope. Over 80,000 specialty products turned up at the three-day event, showcased by more than 1,400 exhibitors. The show began on the morning of Sunday, January 19, at San Francisco’s iconic Moscone Center. To get a better sense of all that ensued over the three-day event, I got in touch with Phil Kafarakis, President of the Specialty Food Association.
“The Winter Fancy Food Show was the first show of the decade to bring together the entire industry to taste, see, and buy what innovators are bringing to market,” Phil remarked. “The Moscone Center was filled with top makers, buyers, and other industry professionals, gathering to share the latest trends, network, and conduct critical business. These are the folks who will be bringing consumers the best of the best in food this year.”
Kicking things off with a traditional ribbon-cutting ceremony, exhibitors and attendees flocked to either the What’s NEXT in Food room, Incubator Village, the What’s New, What’s Hot! Showcase or one of the many other show features to be explored.
“At WFFS, we attended seminars on timely industry impacts, generated energy for the new year, and tasted new products,” said Dave Brandow, Director of International Sales at Piller’s Fine Foods. “Regional, national, and international retailers, foodservice operators, and producers of specialty food gathered for seminars, leadership awards, and competitions. This business is a collaborative effort in bringing specialty food to consumers, which is always exciting as it is different with each application.”
Specialty cheesemakers, artisan meat curers, and a wide array of niche food producers gathered for what is now known as the industry’s first must-attend event of the year. Aside from the many innovative products being showcased, attendees and exhibitors had three days worth of collaborative conversation that are sure to set the pace for the decade.
“WFFS begins the year for manufacturers and retailers, so it was a terrific time to see current and upcoming trends in the food industry. There were a lot of new trending flavors and/or ingredients for the upcoming year,” Jim Anderko, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Venus Wafers commented. “The SFA is a leader in the industry, highlighting trends, flavors, ingredients, and packaging. For Venus Wafers, it was about new products, ingredient trends, product claim trends, and highlighting the re-branding of our Mariner and CaPeachio’s brands.”
Sprinkled in between the three days jam-packed with industry networking, the SFA hosted educational sessions like Five Key Drivers in Specialty Food for 2020; The Fate of Food: What We’ll Eat in a Bigger, Hotter, Smarter World; Show & Sell: Strategic Packaging Bootcamp, and so much more.
“This is the most important show of the year for Vermont Creamery as it’s an opportunity to meet current buyers, chefs, and distributors, see new trends, and connect with our peers in the specialty food industry,” explained Adeline Druart, President of Vermont Creamery. “The SFA supports all of our businesses and does more than any other group to foster the future of specialty food in this country. It’s critical to support this community through our attendance and continue to invest in our collective strength as an industry. Beyond that, the quality of the brands and innovation is incredibly strong; this show is a one-stop-shop for seeing the full portfolio of the specialty food industry, with trends front and center. The relationships we’ve formed with others in the specialty food industry over 35 years are at the heart of our business; they’ve believed in our products from the beginning and we’ve loved growing our businesses together with the like-minded commitment to never compromise our craft.”
Aside from the hustle and bustle brought on by three days of product innovation, attendees could take a beat to recognize some of the industry’s most influential players. A sofi Showcase celebrated and displayed 2019’s sofi Award winners, and the SFA Member Update Meeting and Leadership Awards honored industry members whose business, leadership, and vision have created positive change in the specialty food industry.
“The WFFS attracts a prestigious group of buyers, trade operators, and media representatives. Industry members should attend in order to look for innovative new products. This year, Norseland and Lotito Foods showcased the expansion of Folios Cheese Wraps. Our company continues to provide solutions consumers are looking for,” said Valerie Liu, Marketing Manager at Norseland.
For those who are just entering the specialty food space, WFFS culminated with a Lessons from Incubators session hosted by SFA Vice President of Education, Government, and Industry Relations Ron Tanner.
“We always look forward to the WFFS as an opportunity to showcase our existing items to our current and potential new customers,” added Debbie Seife, Marketing Director North America at FrieslandCampina. “In addition, it is a fantastic venue to feature our new brand redesigns for A Dutch Masterpiece and Gayo Azul. From an exhibitor’s perspective, it is exciting to have such a prestigious and impressive audience of buyers, trade, and media in our booth to talk with our Sales, Marketing, and Operation teams to answer questions and discuss future plans.”
“The WFFS brings together a wide range of companies from long established to new startups with a wide variety of products. Industry members get a chance to see a wide variety of products that can help them tailor their deli offerings to their specific customers,” reflected Luke Buholzer, Vice President of Sales, Klondike Cheese. “We hope to show our Buholzer Brother line of cheese to new and existing customers and show them how we can help drive better sales through their departments.”
Needless to say, this year’s WFFS had a little something for just about everyone in the industry, whether they’ve been in this business for a lifetime or are just getting started. We at Deli Market News extend our appreciation to the SFA for bringing together industry members who will nurture these budding innovations across all categories.