NEW YORK—If old trading routes and spice trails had a home today, it would look something like the Jacob Javits Center did last weekend. Thousands of gourmet food products from 80 countries and regions were on show during the Fancy Food Show.
One trend in the specialty food industry is abundantly clear: It keeps growing. In 2012, specialty food sales in the U.S. was $86 billion, up 14.3 percent from the previous year. The fastest-growing categories are energy bars and gels, shelf-stable functional beverages, and yogurt and kefir, according to the 2013 State of the Specialty Food Industry report.
Currently the largest specialty food category is cheese, followed by yogurt and kefir.
Interesting ingredient combinations are always an eye-opener and the Specialty Food Association spotted some popping up across product categories, including the use of chia seeds (in parmesan crisps, a yogurt/pudding snack in fruit flavors), chickpeas (Saffron Road’s flavors: Bombay spice, falafel and wasabi; The Good Bean’s Thai coconut lemongrass as well as its chickpeas and fruit bars).
It is also clear that health continues to be a focus. Many companies touted products that are gluten-free and/or non-GMO.
Sourcing is a huge point of pride for companies who ensure high quality and ethical processes. A relatively recent label, B Corps, certifies businesses that operates in a sustainable manner, with an eye to social and environmental impact.
Pride and Passion
On Monday night at Javitz, keynote speaker and chef, Marcus Samuelsson, recognized the passion driving the entrepreneurial spirit in the room as he scanned the audience.
“Each one, whether it’s the big companies … looking at the small companies, or whether it’s the young company that just really made this incredible peanut butter in their basement, eventually hoping they’ll be in a big retail store one day.”
Samuelsson said, “The great thing about restaurant is it can’t be outsourced. Good food coming up from the basement, it can’t be outsourced.”
He recounted some of his own journey to the United States, with $300 in his pocket, and a great deal of passion and hope.
He also called for continued exchange, reaching out—and arguing.
“I want to see hands, how many people argue at work?,” he asked. “Good, good. I like it. Those who don’t argue at work, you are not passionate enough for your work. Argue more.”
Below is a selection of the sofi award Gold winners that were announced Monday. (sofi stands for “specialty outstanding food innovation”)
Outstanding Food Gift
Manhattan Rooftop Honey Flight
Bee Raw works with the New York Beekeeping Society to select rare rooftop honeys from the rooftops of Central Park West, Harlem, Hell’s Kitchen, and the High Line.
Avant-Garde Bar Blood Orange Bergamot Flavor
Bergamot meets blood orange in this chocolate with bitter, floral notes and smooth, creamy texture.
Outstanding New Product
Artisan Biscuits Ltd.
The Fine Cheese Co. Pearls of Pure Goats’ Cheese
These delicate pearls of goat’s cheese from the British Isles and Ireland are made from goat curd and marinated in sunflower oil scented with garlic and herbs.