Capitol investment

The upcoming Summer Fancy Food Show brings a change in venue and a chance for retailers to scope out the latest gourmet products to boost their margins.

By Richard Turcsik

Retailers electing to boost sales of gourmet foods are heading to Washington, D.C., this month to attend the annual Summer Fancy Food Show. The show has relocated to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center for at least the next two years while its usual home at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York undergoes renovations.

“We had to move the show to Washington, because of all the construction that is happening at the Javits Center and because they couldn’t guarantee it wouldn’t be going on during our show and on our show floor,” says Matt Nielsen, chief operating officer of Waukegan, Ill.-based Nielsen-Massey Vanillas and a board member of the NASFT (National Association for the Specialty Food Trade), the New York-based firm that organizes the Fancy Food Shows.

Nielsen says expectations are that attendance will rival that of the New York show. “Geographically, D.C. is relatively close to New York and easy to get to,” he says. “The convention center is beautiful. The staff down there and the Washington, D.C., Bureau of Tourism just have been doing so many things to help attract people to the show.”

Nielsen-Massey Vanillas (Booth #430) will have a wide variety of vanilla products on display, including Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste. “It was nominated and received a sofi Silver trophy and we will find out Monday night at the show if we win the sofi Gold,” Nielsen says. The company is also featuring its non-origin blend of pure vanilla products. “This is an item for our more conventional grocery customers, allowing them to offer a product with our brand name—and also available for private label—that meets their price-points and margin requirements.”

Nikki Briggs, MS, RD, director of communications at Agro Farma, the Norwich, N.Y.-based manufacturer of Chobani yogurt, is “super excited” about this year’s show. “We’re definitely excited to cross over the Mason-Dixon Line. We love New York City, it is one of our biggest markets, but D.C. is so beautiful and we have a lot of great retail partners in that area,” she says.

The company is featuring Chobani Kitchens (Booth #217) to promote the launch of new packaging for its 16- and 32-ounce containers. “We’ll have our chef, Chef Jason, there cooking a huge array of delicious foods made with Chobani, including Crab-Filled Cherry Tomatoes, Mango Chobani Panna Cotta and Sweet Potato Vichyssoise,” she says.

But it will be wise to save some room for dessert, especially since York, Pa.-based Wolfgang Candy Co. (Booth #617), will be sampling Eves truffle cookies, Wolfgang Peanut Butter Bears and Farmer’s Fair milk chocolate-covered pretzels. “We have a new addition to Eves, which is a six-pack,” says Mike Schmid, managing partner-marketing. “It’s like a trial size and we’re interested to see what the industry thinks of it. It’s perfect for convenience and initiating trial in grocery.”

American Roland Food Corp. (Booth #823) took its biggest space ever for this year’s show—a 20-by-60-foot island. “We’re going to have two culinary stations,” says Lisa A. Kartzman, director of public relations for the New York-based importer. “We’ve had a big push lately on our artisanal pastas which are doing very nicely for us. Rice and grains continue to grow by double digits, so I’m sure we’ll have a lot of that.”

Top secret

J&D’s Foods, the Seattle-based purveyor of Bacon Salt and other bacon-flavored products, is introducing several products. “We’re doing our Top Secret Super Awesome Product that we’re going to reveal at the Fancy Food Show,” says Justin Esch, co-founder. Will it be the Bacon Rub, Bacon Crouton or Ketchup Salt? Convention goers will have to stop by the booth to find out. “We’re really going to push Bacon Croutons at the show. It is the first time we have pre-sold a ton of retailers on a concept. The Bacon Rub is the world’s first bacon-flavored dry rub. It tastes like you wrapped food in bacon,” Esch says.

Since all that bacon is likely to make one thirsty, show goers should stop by Brands of Britain (Booth #1601) where the San Ramon, Calif.-based company will be sampling Fever-Tree mixers and featuring displays of its Taylors of Harrogate coffees. “The coffees are called Taylors of Harrogate Lifestyle Range because the packaging is super vibrant and they have interesting blends, like Lazy Sunday,” says Tawny McCurdy, director of sales and marketing.

At Renfro Foods (Booth #1708) Mrs. Renfro’s Ghost Pepper Salsa is on the menu. “Last year we sampled four different heat levels and took votes,” says Doug Renfro, president of the Ft. Worth, Texas-based firm. “We unveiled it before the San Francisco show [in January] and it has been our fastest selling item ever. We’ve done over 80,000 jars in a little over eight months.”

Amano Artisan Chocolate (Booth #4423) will be satisfying many a sweet tooth with its new Morobe chocolate, available both in bars and bulk for chefs. “The cocoa for it comes from Papua New Guinea,” says Art Pollard, founder of the award-winning Orem, Utah-based chocolatier. “It is really nice because it has a beautiful consistent flavor. It has a rich, earthy, tobaccoy undertone, so it pairs well with a lot of foods, even lemon, which most chocolate doesn’t.”

Many show goers will be stopping by Lucini Italia (Booth #4701) on July 11, where a meet-and-greet with a “famous D.C. chef” is scheduled. “We will be showcasing our entire line with an emphasis on our new Central Italian Estate Select Extra Virgin Olive Oil,” says Meagan Parrado, communications manager, at the Miami-based company.

Further down the aisle (Booth #4717), show goers can sample Dos Ticos corn chips and corn sticks, the latest in salty snacks imported from Costa Rica. “They are the No. 1 and No. 2 selling snack chips from Costa Rica and have taken off very well in the U.S.,” says Michael Evan Blum, president and owner. “They are at Lunds, Byerly’s, Bristol Farms and Brookshire’s Fresh thus far and everyone loves them.”

Walkers Shortbread (Booth #4900) is sure to be a popular spot, as the Hauppauge, N.Y.-based company will be sampling its new Quadruple Chocolate Chunk Cookies and Milk Chocolate Oatflake & Fruit Cookies. Walkers new Grab and Go Bags of Mini Shortbread Fingers, Mini Festive Stars, Mini Shortbread Rounds and Mini Chocolate Chip Shortbread Rounds will also be featured.

Olympus (Booth #5544), billed as “the only Greek yogurt actually from Greece,” will be exhibiting its current line of flavors: 0% Fat Plain, 2% Fat Plain, Plain Olympus, Strawberry, Peach, Cherry and the new Blueberry, Lemon, Honey and Vanilla. “We blend our fruits inside the cup, using the best ingredients and as far as taste is concerned, we create with care and passion products for our children, that leads to unique and tasty yogurt,” says Nickolas Nicolaou, sales and operations manager for Astoria, N.Y.-based Olympus Dairy USA.

Jonathan M. Leal, president of Athens, Ohio-based Milo’s Whole World Gourmet, will be speaking at the show and expects to have a booth where he will be displaying and sampling his latest pasta sauces, barbecue sauces and salsas. “A lot of specialty food companies went out of business in 2010 and I know for us in particular it was just a horrible year, but this year has just come roaring back,” he says.

Leal has some concerns that attendance may be impacted by the move to Washington. “I have a friend who did a Haddon House show that is normally held in Connecticut, but this year they held it in D.C. He said there were a lot less buyers because people didn’t want to spring for the gas to get down there. That is my concern.”

But as Roland’s Kartzman points out, “This remains the biggest food show in the United States. For many people it is still the place to be if you want to look for new products. If you want to talk to your vendors or see what is going on internationally with food you still have to go to this show.”    

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