This year I saw the Summer Fancy Food Show from a different perspective compared to previous visits. I was a guest of the team from Putnam Market, an excellent source of gourmet takeout and boutique food specialties in my home town of Saratoga Springs, NY. I spent the morning walking the floor with cheesemonger Cathie Hamilton, tasting from her purveyors (especially World’s Best Cheese, an outfit that distributes from many small producers) and understanding what’s important from a retail perspective.
Distribution is one thing. Small companies often like to ship direct and have the buyer pay the cost; Cathie finds this raises retail price to an uncomfortable level and always asks if they work with a distributor. A product needs to sell itself through attractive packaging and make customers believe they will be able to use and enjoy it successfully. A specialty fruit product with the ingredients pressed into an artistic shape was breathtaking, but failed to sell because people couldn’t see themselves serving it. Quality goods in too-big sizes or with plain jane labels are also a problem. Something that hit the sweet spot was a new line of marinated goat cheeses from Laura Chenel that come in a small sealed container you could take on a picnic.
After I started wandering on my own, it was easy to recognize a few major themes. Liquids are big, especially tonics, botanicals, prepared exotic cocktail mixes and sodas made from natural ingredients. We want to stay hydrated, it seems. And coconut! Coconut water, coconut ice cream and coconut energy bars were everywhere.
Gluten-free is holding its own along with a lot more vegan goods and “probiotics”. Those are substances that promote the growth of natural flora in the gut, so I guess you could apply the term to anything that is not overly processed and stabilized with preservatives. If you compared this show from several years ago you’d see far more natural/raw/fermented foods and far fewer jarred salsas.
I was there on a Monday so missed the weekend crowds; it was rarely a problem to get down the aisles. The “Siberia” annex (actually the location of the Latvian pavilion along with other late-registering vendors) was filled, a good sign of exhibitor participation. See my photos for a few other finds and fails.