THE SPECIALTY FOOD ASSOCIATION SHAPES THE FUTURE OF FOOD

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Each year, the Specialty Food Association hosts two fancy food show expos across the nation to deliver innovative products and expand consumption of specialty foods. Established in 1952 in New York, the not-for-profit trade association provides its 3,800 members in the U.S. and abroad with resources, knowledge and connections to champion and nurture their companies in an always-evolving marketplace. Last summer, I was able to attend the Fancy Food Show in New York and this year we are kicking off the year at the winter Fancy Food Show expo in San Francisco. Some of the hot topics include plant-based foods, cannabis, and an ice cream renaissance trend. Taking in influences from Millennials and Gen Z, and the often-overlooked Gen X, 2019 is setting up to be a year that takes the specialty food industry to new heights. I look forward to bringing back some interesting samples and insights on regional flavors.The shifts in food sustainability and how we are eating are providing us with amazing options, along with the opportunity to change how we eat and how food is created. Old favorites like ice cream are being reinvented, while at the same time, we’re seeing foods and flavors from around the world increasingly adapted into our everyday meals. It’s an exciting time for specialty food, indeed!

Palates shift to regional cuisines of Africa, South Asia, and Latin America—driven by Millennials and Gen Z. Much has been said about younger generations’ unprecedented exposure to global culture and cuisine from an early age. These consumers are adventurous and seek experience in their travel and in their food, which has led to a shift in interest to authentic regional fare. 

Cannabis across multiple categories. 2018 saw the emerging edibles segment gain a foothold in snacks and treats, as more states legalize sales of hemp-derived CBD products. Though the segment has its challenges as cannabis is still illegal at a federal level, consumer curiosity has been piqued. Factor in that a new generation is growing up in states where cannabis is legal, and signs point to future growth of the edibles market. Look for more infused cooking oils, coffees, teas, chocolates, baked goods, snacks, and even beer and pasta to hit the market in the coming year as the foodservice continues to adopt cannabis cuisine menus and cocktails.  Cassava- A specific star of the plant-based phenomenon is cassava, also known as yuca, a starchy tuberous root native to South America. Grain- and gluten-free, the cassava root is high in carbohydrates, but its leaves are a reported good source of protein and rich in lysine. Cassava leaves have been especially evident in packaged snacks from cassava leaf chips to flour and even a cassava leaf jerky. 

Fermented functional beverages. Refrigerated ready to drink (RTD) functional beverages have grown 20 percent in retail sales, according to SFA’s State of the Specialty Food Industry research. Probiotic-friendly kombucha has led the charge, and more fermented functional beverages touting health, tradition, and flavor are on the horizon. We have our own local products too from our friends at Benefizz.

Local Memphis probiotic drink,  Benefizz

Local Memphis probiotic drink, Benefizz

I had such an amazing time in New York last year, that absorbing all the energy of different flavors and products at the Fancy Food Show can be unavoidably overwhelming so be sure to schedule plenty of breaks and toasts with wine! The itinerary is sure to be packed tight with madness!

Here are a few of my tips on how to make it through the Fancy Food Show:

INVEST IN WALKING SHOES

 PACK DAY-TO-NIGHT ATTIRE

ALLOCATE SNACK TIME

IF YOU HAVE SPARE TIME, EXPLORE THE NEIGHBORHOOD AND FAVORITE CITY RESTAURANTS! 

Last year's Fancy Food Show was filled with spices, oils, and world flavors. Things like Fondue, raclette, and Miforma products, French cheeses, Tuscan charcuterie, and burrata balls from Colombia.

Check out some of my top pics below! 

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