There are many things we have gotten really, really good at since the onset of COVID-19: Zoom calls, rapid-fire emails, virtual business deals, and more. But the one thing that cannot be replaced or replicated (well) is standing across from an old friend, a new acquaintance, or a trade show floor filled to the brim with the best of the best in specialty foods. And, lucky for those traversing this great category, we did not have to try as the Winter Fancy Food Show (WFFS) 2022 in-person went off without a hitch, bringing the industry’s leaders together to the praise of all.
“I’m beyond thrilled at the positive reception not only from the Las Vegas food and hospitality community, but from our members, buyers, industry affiliates, and press, who strongly expressed gratitude for an in-person Fancy Food Show,” said Bill Lynch, President, Specialty Food Association (SFA). “We’ve waited over two years to be in the same space, and that special feeling of gathering safely together, tasting, making sales, talking business, and connecting, builds tremendous momentum for our $170.4 billion industry in 2022. All of this can only be good for the consumer, who will see this innovation and quality across a variety of channels.”
The breadth of the show was impressive with 837 total exhibitors—669 domestic and 168 international. And what might that have looked like on the show floor? How about 130,250 square feet total—109,850 for domestic and 20,400 for international? Specialty food companies presented the most coveted items in cheese, meat, charcuterie, beverage, chocolate, olive oil, baked goods, jams, salsas, condiments, and more.
Las Vegas could not have provided a more ideal backdrop for the show which brought international and domestic portfolios under one roof for three days of networking and strategy building.
Kicking off February 6 and wrapping the 8, the WFFS converged on the Las Vegas Convention Center with a bustling trade show floor, eye-catching and informative What’s Hot in Specialty Foods and What’s New in Specialty Foods sponsored product section, sofi™ Awards showcase, educational sessions that touched on new and emerging trends, industry challenges, and more, and a host of other resources that connected the buy-side and supply-side in a dialogue of connection and a better bottom line.
Just see what a few of our friends had to say…
Angela Hernandez, Director of Marketing, Trinity Fruit Company
“Las Vegas provided a great opportunity to generate excitement around Trinity Fruit Company. We were happy to have an in-person event to showcase our new Squeezed Juice product and look forward to a successful outcome.”
Jill Giacomini Basch, Co-Owner and Chief Marketing Officer, Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese
“It is so good to be back at the Winter Fancy Food Show. The environment feels safe, the crowd came to do serious business, and the energy in the convention center is palpable. Our overall feeling is incredible gratitude to the SFA for bringing a sense of normalcy back to the way our community conducts business.”
Elle Fearing, National Sales Representative, Carr Valley Cheese Company
“As a team, we are excited to be back on the road after a long hiatus. Being able to see existing customers and getting potential customers in front of our newest products has made the show a success in our eyes. There has been a ton of interest around the three new cheeses we’re showing and that’s exciting.”
Dave Christoff, National Sales Manager, Carr Valley Cheese Company
“It’s invigorating to be back at a show and see so many friends from the industry. Talking cheese is what we love to do, and being able to sample new products and get immediate feedback is invaluable. There is a great energy to the WFFS and lots of amazing, innovative products being shown. So, it is a real honor when customers visit our booth and say our products are their favorite.”
Phil Gruszka, Gruszka Consulting and Ayo Foods
“The beauty of an in-person show is that buyers and attendees get to experience the products and build relationships on a level that is unique to face-to-face conversations. The Winter Fancy Food Show has been a great opportunity for the Ayo team. The overwhelmingly positive response to sampling Ayo with retailers and consumers is a big vote of confidence in the quality of our yogurt.”
The vibrant show floor hosted an Incubator Pavilion, Startup Pavilion, as well as a separate American Cheese Society Pavilion and Chocolate and Plant-Based Pavilions. For those looking to focus their energy on the content and value at hand instead of the complexities of event navigation, SFA truly made the show manageable and enjoyable for anyone and everyone.
To assist attendees in finding and mapping their ways through the business opportunities, SFA had sections of the exhibitor floor specifically designated to products by state and country for those looking to discover new offerings by locale. To give you an idea of the expanse, companies represented came from far and wide including teams from Spain, Greece, Singapore, Poland, Japan, Italy, Indonesia, France, Canada, Brazil, Morocco, and India as well as Turkey and Southern Africa, with China, Lithuania, Morocco, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand being represented by independent companies.
Additionally, product showcases helped attendees zero in on some of the standout products featured across the floor. Within the U.S., California, Minnesota, Mississippi, and Virginia held footprints in the regional pockets of the show as well. And, the app, well, just wow! Talk about an event that felt like a vacation.
SFA also enforced the highest standards of safety and care with its Safe at Fancy Food Events (SAFFE) protocols which included proof of full COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID test within 72 hours from all attendees as well as mandatory masking.
Thank you to SFA for the invite and for putting on a show built to impress on every level and for every palate!