By Richard Turcsik
During the Summer Fancy Food Show, New York’s Jacob Javits Convention Center was the focus of the foodies’ universe. When it comes to gourmet food, it is a small world after all. At least for the three days in late June when tens of thousands of attendees traversed the 55 aisles of the Summer Fancy Food Show at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York, where they sampled offerings from hundreds of exhibitors. A stop by Tiny But Mighty Popcorn was a perfect place to start snacking. The Shellsburg, Iowa-based company was showcasing a 300-year-old variety of heirloom popcorn which has unpopped kernels the size of the head of a straight pin. Tiny But Mighty offers three microwavable SKUS in Butter, Light and Kettle varieties, with a suggested retail price of $4.99 per 3-pack. “The hull on the smaller kernels disintegrates when it pops so it is a much more pleasant eating experience,” said Lee Ann Stevens, sales manager. Rum balls also make a delightful bite-size snack, and the best rum balls at the show were at the Tortuga Rum Cake booth. “We have expanded our flavor line to include Coffee Rum Balls,” said Robert Ward, commercial manager for North America, at Miami-based Tortuga Rum Cake Co. “Our confection products have really grown to be a significant part of our business, so you can expect more new items in that category from us.” Officials at Don’s Food Products, the Schwenksville, Pa.-based refrigerated salad manufacturer, created an entire new supermarket category with the Melanie’s Medley’s line of refrigerated grain-based salads. “They can be placed in the dairy case next to yogurt, since it is targeting the same Millennial consumer,” said Carl Cappelli, senior vice president, sales and business development. Melanie’s Medley’s can be eaten cold or warmed up in the microwave for an “eat ‘em now, eat ‘em wow!” experience. “We believe Melanie’s Medley’s will become an iconic brand like Betty Crocker, Marie Callender, Lorna Doone and Wendy,” Cappelli said. Frozen pizza is already a major category—and one not likely to be featured at a gourmet food show—but one taste of gluten-free Smart Flour Foods pizza and it is easy to see why this product definitely belonged. Unlike other gluten-free pizzas made from rice or potato flour, Smart Flour Foods uses a proprietary blend of the ancient grains sorghum, amaranth and teff. “Our crust has a higher nutritional value and a better texture,” said Sameer Shah, vice president of marketing, at Austin, Texas-based Smart Flour Foods. “In mixed households of gluten-free and non-gluten-free people it is a big hit.” In addition to its three new flavors of Chicken Sausage, Tuscan Inspired Uncured Two Meat and Sundried Tomato and Escarole, Smart Flour Foods also sells two packs of plain crust. Coating that crust with a spread of Jersey Italian Gravy Pizza Sauce would definitely make an award-winning pie. “Our Original Jersey Italian Gravy is an all-natural product with five ingredients: tomatoes, onions, a little salt, a little sugar and canola/olive oil—simmered in a kettle for six hours, and is so good that we are already in more than 780 stores in less than two years,” said Carlos Vega, founder and president of The Original Jersey Italian Gravy, based in Franklin Lakes, N.J. Hot stuff Hot, Hotter and Hottest were three of the big themes at this year’s show, as many vendors took heat levels to new heights. Xcell International Corp., a manufacturer of gourmet seasonings and dessert products, was among those turning up the heat. “We have taken four flavor profiles—chipotle, Sriracha, chili lime and habanero—and we’ve infused those into our Dean Jacob’s Rubs, French Fry Seasonings and Popcorn Seasonings,” said Robert A. Day, vice president of sales and marketing for the Lemont, Ill.-based company. “Our products are domestically produced and sold in the spice aisle or in an in-and-out display that can be merchandised throughout the store.” Beaverton Foods was using the show to test three potential new products, including Ghost Pepper Mustard, which was very well received. “My Dad wants us to develop the hottest mustard in America,” said Domonic Biggi, CEO of the Beaverton, Ore.-based company. Beaverton Foods is also getting into the ketchup category with its Inglehoffer Gourmet Ketchup, an all-natural product made without high-fructose corn syrup. For more than 40 years Beaverton Foods has made its own ketchup as an ingredient for its cocktail and barbecue sauces. “Our customers love the Inglehoffer profile and carry our mustards and horseradish but they wanted to also stock something better than Heinz ketchup,” Biggi said. “Today, there is a whole group of consumers that don’t want to buy their grandfather’s ketchup.” Ketchup is also being added to the stable at Stonewall Kitchen, a gourmet foods manufacturer of more than 600 products. “In July we launched Farmhouse Ketchup and Curry Ketchup,” said Elizabeth Madigan, marketing specialist for the York, Maine-based company. “Our international sales rep suggested we make a Curry Ketchup because there is that demand. Farmhouse Ketchup is more traditional.” Both are packaged in old-fashioned wide mouth jars. With all the innovation going on it was easy to understand why Stonewall Kitchen’s large booth was so packed. New products include barbecue sauces, soup mixes, Ranch Aoli, drink mixes, chocolate bars, jams, potato sticks, Skinny Bites savory cookie snacks and Kale and Arugula Pesto. Olive oil had a strong presence at this year’s show. Gaea was touting the difference between its Greek olive oils and snacking olives and other brands. “Our Gaea Fresh is now on the market and getting attention because it is the only olive oil that is crushed within three hours of picking,” said David Neuman, CEO of Gaea North America, based in Hollywood, Fla. “The olives are hand picked in small batches, crushed in a sealed environment, stored under nitrogen in temperature controlled silos and bottled in coated black bottles to block out 100% of UV light.” In the Greek pavilion, the Mediterranean Olive House was showcasing its Ladinio brand olive oils and a 10 SKU line of jarred olives in hopes of entering the U.S. market. “We have five types of olive oils and each one is different as it is from a different soil and climate,” said George Efstratiou, export sales manager, for Nafplio, Greece-based Mediterranean Olive House. In an effort to further improve quality, Lucini Italia olive oil, now owned by California Olive Ranch, is undergoing a facelift. “We are transitioning all Lucini bottles to dark glass,” said Meagan Cole, Lucini communications specialist, in the Miami office of the Oroville, Calif.-based company. “It is now 99% protected from UV light. That really improves the quality of our oil and our shelf life is now two and a half years.” However, the most unusual olive oil at the show may well have been the Castillo De Canena Bio Dynamic olive oil from Spain. It was displayed at the Culinary Collective booth with other Spanish products including Aneto broths and Paul & Pippa cookies. “Bio Dynamic is beyond organic certifications,” said Francisco Vaño, director of the Jaen, Spain-based company, adding that its “closed circle” farm cannot use any outside pesticides or fertilizers. As a result, Castillo De Canena employs a herd of 600 sheep and composts their manure with byproducts of olive crushing. Olives are harvested according to a moon cycle. The resulting oil is a rich, grass-green color. “The color is beautiful because it has very high levels of chlorophyll, along with 860 parts per million of polyphenols and 80% oleic acid, giving you a bump of antioxidants,” he said.