I was excited to attend the 2023 Summer Fancy Food Show at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City last month. It had been four years since I walked the Show in 2019 and it was nice to participate again. More than 30,000 registered for the Specialty Food Association’s sold-out Show.
The Fancy Food Shows are the largest specialty food industry events in North America for product discovery, trendspotting, and networking. In addition to makers and buyers, the show attracts industry affiliates, press, influencers (like moi), investors, and trendspotters (also like moi).
Giada De Laurentis shares her perspective on key food trends
I arrived early morning to hear the keynote address with celebrity chef Giada De Laurentis. Giada discussed four emerging trends and how these trends are propelling her businesses, including restaurants, catering, and her Italian food and lifestyle website Giadzy. Giada covered the rising demand for at-home culinary experiences, product sourcing and storytelling, clean eating, and packaging esthetics.
“I moved to the USA from Italy when I was 7 years old,” said Giada. “My family had a pasta and sauce business in Naples but it was destroyed in World War II.” She continues her family’s authentic Italian cooking philosophy in her work and life. “My restaurants look like my home,” added Giada. As for her cookbooks, of which she is working on her 10th, she admits that recipe creation comes from family, travels, her daughter and her ever busy schedule which has led her to create menus with fewer ingredients and quicker prep.
Giada reinforced the importance of storytelling when it comes to selling specialty food. “When I’m cooking on television, viewers cannot taste or smell the food,” said Giada. “That’s why I need to connect all the dots, tell them where the ingredients come from and take them through a journey with the ingredients that maybe they haven’t experienced.”
I was so impressed with Giada’s presentation that I think I’m going to order some of her new Giadzy pasta from Abruzzo when it’s available. According to Giada, “the pasta is manufactured in the old way and the shapes are ones that are hard to find in the States. I might buy a bottle of Giadzy olive oil too — the packaging was designed to look especially pretty in the kitchen.
Scouting for new food trends
After Giada peaked my appetite, it was time to make my way through the 2,200+ domestic and international exhibits filled with 180,000+ products. There were many long aisles to navigate with lots of chocolate to eat along the way. For sure I, Judi the foodie, was up to the task. Beyond numerous milk and dark chocolates, there was an entire pavilion of beverages to sip; functional foods and vegan fare to consume; and sweet treats and healthy and non-nutritious snacks to sample.
There were kits for baking and making homemade brews; an abundance of olive and avocado oils, unique pastas and all kinds of sauces to top them. I tasted foods from Greece, Italy and Turkey. Then I came back to the USA — North, South, East, West — and found it difficult to determine which state’s food entrepreneurs were the best. And finally, I journeyed to the lower level pavilions where Startups, Incubators, and Accelerators were cooking up future food innovations.
Based on my 5 hours of walking, talking and eating at the 67th SFFS Show, here’s my trendspotting report:
Beverages are booming
The pavilion of beverages was over-flowing with energy drinks, juices, sparkling waters, ready-to-serve lattes, kombuchas, mocktails, matcha, chai and bubble teas, coffees, and every kind of non-dairy milk desired. My favs were Mingle premium craft mocktails in flavors like cranberry cosmo, blood orange elderflower mimosa and cucumber melon mojito; Milkadamia Coffee Latte made with macadamia milk and arabica espresso; Three Spirit botanical alcohol-free elixirs in different herbal varieties — Livener, Social, and Nightcap — each tailored to your mood; and Beebad Hibiscus Energy Drink with Honey, a 2023 sofi New Product Award Winner and Gold medal winner in the Functional Beverages category.
Functional and plant-based foods provide healthful benefits
Will you live longer because you eat healthier? You might think so if you sampled foods at the new Plant-Based Pavilion with products such as Reese Cutting Edge Veggie Forward burgers, sausage and meatballs which star artichokes supported with a nutritious mix of spinach, quinoa and chickpeas. If you’re into upcycling , there are Renewal Mill baking mixes, flour and treats made with “nutrient-dense byproducts from food manufacturing (think pulp leftover from oat milk) to craft climate-friendly food.”
For my fellow baby boomer women who get leg cramps perhaps you’ll want to try Pickle Juice. It’s sugar-free, caffeine-free, has 10x the electrolytes of other sports drinks and is scientifically proven to stop muscle cramps. LMK if you try it and it works. Or if you suffer from IBS like me, there are BelliWelli probiotic snacks with belly benefits. They come in strawberry shortcake, cinnamon swirl, chocolate chip cookie and birthday cake. The snacks are free of common gut irritants: dairy free, gluten free, erithriytol and inulin free and vegan.
Cavi.art black seaweed pearls, a vegan caviar imported from Denmark caught my interest. I’m not a fan of caviar. Don’t care for it. However, I did like the seaweed pearls, and they are a more sustainable plant-based alternative.
Americans like to snack
Based on the State of the Specialty Food Industry Report, “chips, pretzels, snacks was the highest-selling specialty food category at retail in 2022, becoming the first specialty category ever to exceed $6 billion in annual sales.” No wonder the state of obesity is so high in our country. I’m a snack lover as well and need to do better at moderating my between meal intake.
Nevertheless at the Show: I crunched on Stellar Snack pretzels; Scott’s Protein Balls (created by a post 50 female); and Nairn’s oat grahams. My savory fav was In Good Hands Protein Puffs with 12 grams of milk protein. I munched on sweet treats from Mr. Crumbles’ Delectables 100% plant-based soft and chewy cookie doubles – two cookies with vanilla cream in the middle; Magnolia Bakery Banana Pudding Cookies — the famous MB bakery is rolling out packaged treats; and lavender shortbreads from The Shortbread Shop. They were all so good, so good, so good!
Pasta is still a perfect carb-filled meal
There was quite a bit of pasta on display, each with it’s own authentic packaging. Some from Italy like Rummo. Some with fiber like Fiber Gourmet. Others with unique branding like Good Hair Day Pasta and Giadzy pasta from Abruzzo that I mentioned above. Add Rao’s sauce and my fav Parmigiano Reggiano (housed in the Italy Pavilion) and you’ll be ready to mangia. Ooh, ooh, ooh, or forget the sauce and top with olive oil from exhibitors such as Bono Sicilian; Kosterina from Greece: or Partanna Sicilian extra virgin olive oil in the famous red tins. If you like a little more cheese, spoon some BelGioioso ricotta con latte or it’s equally creamy burrata over top. Mm, mm, are you getting hungry?
What were my 2023 SFFS ultimate favs?
There were a few products that topped my tastebuds, that made me say “can I have another sample?” Here are my favs:
There you have it. My trendspotting, mouthwatering, foodie-loving review of the 2023 Fancy Food Show. Most of the products I mentioned can be found in local supermarkets or Whole Foods Market or online, or if all else fails — Amazon. A few are only available in local areas or in foodservice as of now.
And how did I fare against the SFFS Trendspotting Panel’s picks? Check out the results here and see.
Judi the foodie