Fancy Food Show Wows, Wins Over D.C.
The 57th Summer Fancy Food Show occupied the exhibit halls of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, from July 10 to 12, as buyers and other attendees walked the aisles "to spot hot trends, find new ideas and source the latest products for stores and restaurants for the year to come" -- and to sample foods, which included the latest trends and flavors in chocolate, artisanal meats and cheeses, confections, snacks, beverages, salsas, spices and natural and organic products.
With 180,000 products from 2,400 exhibitors representing 80 countries and regions, the show was overwhelming. Not open to the general public, it is run by the the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, Inc. (NASFT), which says "the $70 billion U.S. specialty food industry is on the rebound after a period of holding back." Indeed, the show is the largest marketplace for specialty foods and beverages in North America -- and there was no holding back at the convention center. There were some familiar brands to causal attendees, but many exhibitors displayed unique, high-quality foods.
“We are so pleased to bring our show to Washington, D.C., as unprecedented interest in artisanal food and innovative products creates wonderful opportunities for buyers and suppliers,” said Ann Daw, president of the NASFT. The Summer Fancy Food Show moved to Washington, D.C., this year from its long-time home at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York due to ongoing construction. It will be held again in D.C. in 2012.
One local attendee, advisory neighborhood commissioner Bill Starrels, was enthusiastic not only about the show but about its economic benefits for D.C. "This is a great benefit for hotels, restaurants and tourism nearby and around the District."
A panel of trendspotters, coordinated by the NASFT, cited these trends: "Booze-Infused Foods," such as Chili Lime Tequila Tortilla Brittle from Anette’s Chocolates or wine-infused ice cream from Mercer's Dairy; "Give it a Try Kits," like Grow Your Own Mushroom Garden from Back to the Roots; "Popped Food" like Black Truffle & White Cheddar Popcorn from 479 Degrees Popcorn; "Japanese-Inspired Eats," such as Yuzu Gummy Pandas from Bissinger’s Handcrafted Chocolatier; "Cherries" like Bada Bing Cherries from Tillen Farms. Other trends identified at the Summer Fancy Food Show include coconut in food and beverages, salts from around the globe and innovative dairy products such as goat milk yogurt.
Winners of the 39th sofi Awards for the outstanding specialty foods and beverages of the year -- ranging from cheese, chocolate and crackers to meat, past and snack foods -- were announced at the show hosted by celebrity chef Cat Cora. (A sofi Award is considered the highest honor in the $70-billion specialty food industry. “sofi” stands for specialty outstanding food innovation.)
The big international food pavilions included Italy, Spain, Morocco, India, South Africa, Mexico, Chile and Jamaica; food aisles for states included Virginia, North Carolina, New Jersey, Vermont and New York.
At the end of the show, food was donated to D.C. Central Kitchen, which had teams ready to gather the samples.