Gourmet by the bay

Mouthwatering delicacies and record crowds could be found at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco.

Tim Sullivan should have known better, but the 20-year veteran of the Fancy Food Show circuit waited until October to submit his booth application. As a result, Sullivan and his company, Mad Will’s Food Co., were relegated to the convention’s New Brand’s on the Shelf pavilion, located in a poorly lit room off the South Hall of San Francisco’s Moscone Center.

“The bright side is we have a nice corner booth, which we wouldn’t have had otherwise,” said Sullivan, director of marketing at Mad Will’s, an Auburn, Calif.-based manufacturer of sauces, dressings and marinades.

Sullivan was touting the fact that Mad Will’s has 55 gluten-free products in its line, along with Bongiovi pasta sauce, which Mad Will’s produces for Anthony M. Bongiovi, brother of rocker Jon Bon Jovi. “It is a family recipe and ‘this sauce rocks!,’ says Jon Bon Jovi. This sauce is really, really good with a great label, great brand name and gazillion followers on Facebook, so there is an immediate brand-name awareness and consumer base,” Sullivan said. “For retailers that want to pick this up there is a great opportunity there.”

Other standouts in the New Brands on the Shelf pavilion included Fomz—an aerated foam topping made with real fruit juice; Oregon Seafood, marketing the Sea Fare Pacific line of domestically caught and produced pouched tuna; Kugel Co., “It’s all about the noodle” frozen Jewish noodle pudding; and Civitello Biscotti, a line of all-natural biscotti mixes that allow consumers to easily bake the popular coffeehouse treat at home.

Like the rest of the show floor, the New Brands on the Shelf pavilion could be described in one word: Packed. The attendance of more than 18,000 set a new Winter Fancy Food Show record, up an estimated 1,000 from 2011 figures. Those attendees stopped and visited with 1,300 exhibitors from 35 countries and regions. Floor space also set a new record, with the show covering 206,000 square feet, up from 196,000 square feet in 2011.

In the larger North Hall, a popular spot was the Original Gourmet Food Co. booth where Richard Alimenti was talking about the new decorative keepsake tins being introduced to house his famous lollipops and cookies. “We custom design our tins for each retailer and we are coming out with a bigger tin that has two cookies in it for $2, rather than our one cookie tin,” said the CEO of the Salem, N.H.-based firm. “For our lollipops we have a new collectible tin, available in six varieties, that holds one lollipop and retails for $1.00. We also are introducing a larger tin for the grocery channel that will contain 12 Original Gourmet Lollipop flavors.”

At the booth of Los Angeles-based Sencha Naturals, hief enlightenment officer David Kerdoon pointed out the differences between his green tea leaf mints and other mints on the market, including the patented little tea leaf shape design. “Three of our mints equals one cup of green tea and they come in five different flavors,” he said. “The benefit is that green tea is an actual deodorizer for your mouth, so it kills bacteria, unlike sugar-based mints that just give a sense of fresh breath. Another benefit is that tea stains the teeth, but our mints don’t.”

Sen Cha was just one of dozens of “better-for-you” items filling the convention hall. Another one was the Resveratrol Winetime Bar from ResVez Inc. “We are the first company that has taken resveratrol, which is the ingredient in the skin of red grapes that makes drinking red wine so good for you, and infused it into these gourmet chocolate bars,” said Malcolm J. Nicholl, president and CEO of the Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.-based company. “Each of our bars has more resveratrol than you would get in 50 glasses of red wine, and they are also gluten- and dairy-free, suitable for vegans, high in fiber and low in calories.”

Nicholl was also using the show to launch his new Traveltime bars, billed kind of like a snack bar version of Airborne, available in Almond Coffee and Granola Citrus flavors. “We spent $300 million on research and development and clinical trials showing that Traveltime bars will reduce the severity and longevity of colds and flu,” he said.

Voting for cookies

If talking politics gives one a headache, Byrd’s Famous Cookie Co. has developed a fun and delicious cure in the form of Democrat Snacks and G.O.P. Cookies. “Both of them are our best-selling cookie, our Key Lime Coolers, but we have these fun tins we introduced for the election year,” said Geoffrey M. Repella, president, of the Savannah, Ga.-based company.

Also being showcased were Byrd’s Cupcake Cookies. “We do four different flavors of cookies packed inside keepsake ceramic cupcakes. They can be cross-merchandised in floral and I know of a few stores that sell them as balloon weights,” Repella said.

Crowds were swarming the Ramar Foods International booth along the North Hall’s front aisle to try their Magnolia brand Filipino ice cream and frozen specialty foods, including lumpia egg rolls and pancit noodles. “Just this year we went all-natural with our tropical ice creams and so we will be with it at Natural Products Expo West in March,” said P.J. Quesada, marketing director at the Pittsburg, Calif.-based company.

Over at the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board pavilion in the South Hall attendees got to sample fine cheeses, many of which will also be displayed at the upcoming Expo West and IDDBA shows. One standout was the new Copper Kettle Parmesan, made in Wisconsin by Fairfield, N.J.-based Arthur Schuman. “We want to emphasize that this is currently the only Parmesan in the United States that is made in a copper kettle, like they do in Italy,” said George Scott, regional sales manager, Texas/Southwest. Scott was also sampling two types of marscarpone cheese, both produced domestically from the same milk, but with different results.

Salty snacks were big at the show this year, with dozen of booths offering samples of popcorn, potato chips, pretzels and the like. Snikiddy was also sampling a unique salty snack. “We have a first-of-its-kind vegetable chip and we are profiling it here,” said J.P. Mackey, vice president, national sales for the Evanston, Ill.-based firm. “What sets us apart from the competition is that everyone of our chips is a mix of navy beans, sweet potato, carrot and regular potato, and every ounce is a full serving of vegetables. We created a proprietary half moon shape for our chip and when it goes into the flash fryer it curls a little bit,” he said.

Roland Foods, the New York-based gourmet grocery purveyor, also was featuring several proprietary products, including a new line of flavored Israeli couscous. Available in six flavors including Garden Vegetable, Roasted Garlic, Whole Wheat Roasted Garlic, Garlic Jalapeño, Porcini and Tuscan, the couscous is made in Israel and flavored and packaged in the U.S. “It is all about rice and grains now more than anything else,” said Lisa Kartzman, director of public relations & strategic products, at American Roland Food Corp. “Whole wheat is a new trend. Anything that looks and smells healthy is hot,” she said. “We also came out with a new Lemon Curry flavor of our quinoa,” Kartzman added.

Everything is better with bacon

Bacon was a popular theme this year—especially at the J&D’s Foods booth in the South Hall, where everything screamed bacon. “You guys like things that taste like bacon?” Justin Esch, co-founder of the Seattle-based firm asked a non-stop stream of passersby. “We’ve got Bacon Salt, Bacon Croutons, Bacon Microwave Popcorn, Bacon Dry Rubs. Try some bacon Chapstick!”

Crowds lined up at the Kitchen Table Bakers booth to not only sample the award-winning cheese crisps made entirely of Parmesan cheese, but also to gawk at the line of Sofi best product awards bestowed upon the product by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT), organizers of the Fancy Food Shows. Available in Aged Parmesan, Sesame, Rosemary, Flaxseed, Garlic, Italian Herb, Jalapeño, Everything and Aged Parmesan Mini Crisps varieties, the crackers are delightful on their own or topped with jam, cheese or another topping.

“This association has given us so much support,” said Barry Novick, president of the Syosset, N.Y.-based firm.

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