The Fabulous Summer Fancy Food Show

As many of you know, I am lucky enough to be able to attend a fair amount of incredible industry events every year, but I always seem to have my eye on one in particular: The Summer Fancy Food Show that hits New York every summer. So, it was with great excitement that I returned to the wonderful Javits Center in Manhattan for the 64th edition of the Specialty Food Association’s summer showcase. And I was not disappointed. This year’s show was more inspiring and energetic than any I have previously attended!

Things kicked off on June 30 with over 50,000 visitors in attendance, 54 countries represented, and specialty food and beverage buyers from major food chains, restaurants, and importers. This is the largest specialty food industry event in North America, and many consider it to be the most important in the world.

The Specialty Food Association likes to have a partner country every year, and this year it was Greece. As you might expect, Greek olives and Greek olive oil were especially promoted by the European Union’s “Olive You” program.

Turkey joined the show by the Turkey Aegean Exporters’ Association with 39 Turkish companies together to present different products such as dried, frozen, preserved, pickled and canned fruits and vegetables, fish, pasta, nuts, fruit juices, grains, confections, olives, olive oils, herbs, and spices. There were even “Cooking Shows” hosted by Au Mas Turque chef Ozlem Cranston where guests could watch, learn, and taste the dishes that went beyond what most consider to be traditional Turkish food to present the unique and expansive tastes, aromas and textures that Turkish cuisine offers.

The largest international presence at the show did not belong to the Greeks or Turks, however. It belonged to the Italians. From a glorious new cooking area at the top Javits Center overlooking the Hudson River, “The Extraordinary Italian Taste”showcased hundreds of Made in Italy products. There were even nine fully equipped open kitchens and a wine bar featuring – you guessed it – Italian wines. This impressive zone was accessible only to selected trade buyers from the United States.

While I loved these exhibits and events, what I always tend to focus on at The Summer Fancy Food Show is what is trending. What’s new and fun?! Here is some of what I discovered:

Sparkling Beverages

Carbonated juices, waters, and teas are taking over a lot of space in the marketplace. They are seen as a healthy and practical alternative to alcoholic and sugary beverages. Such sparkling beverages are a healthier swap for sugary sodas. One example came from an Israeli start-up called Wine Water Ltd. They have introduced O.Vine, a line of spring water beverages infused with the leftover grape skins and seeds discarded during the winemaking process. The company claims that the beverages provide the aroma and health benefits of wine, without the negative influence of alcohol.

·        Cauliflower-Based Products

Items featuring cauliflower as a main ingredient have recently inundated the marketplace. The vegetable is a key component in products such as From the Ground Up crackers and pretzels, Outer Aisle Gourmet pizza crusts and sandwich thins, and Cauli-Flour by Caulipower Flour. From Kitchen & Love now produces stir-and-go meals that feature minced cauliflower as a replacement for rice. Varieties include Indian vegetable curry, Moroccan vegetable harissa, and Peruvian vegetable ceviche.

·        African Cuisine

The recent exploration and focus on Middle Eastern cuisine has naturally paved the way for the increased accessibility of emerging flavors and ingredients from West Africa. One dish that stood out for me was Yassa, a delicately spicy dish with onions and marinated poultry or fish that originated in Senegal.

Before I finish, let me tell you about my favorite area of the year’s Summer Fancy Food Show. It was…drumroll…The Future Market Pop-Up! You already know I how I love to follow the latest trends in the industry and this exhibit provided a glimpse of the food products that are not only currently redefining the food world, but will continue to do so over the next 25 years. Attendees were able to access a personalized digital shopping interface that suggested how and what they might be buying in the grocery store of the future. The interface used 31 built in concept food products to create a personal “Food ID” profile based on the answers to six quick questions on a touchscreen-shopping kiosk.

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