Yesterday I spent 10 hours at the Fancy Food Show. It was fun, fascinating, interesting and tasty. A little bit of a sensual overload. BTW, this show has been going on since 1955.
I walked the entire show. There are literally thousands of booths. The entire Javits Center, downstairs and up. The lower floor, which is where Ricks Picks had a booth, was where the vendors from throughout the US were and upstairs was the International floor. I visited Italy, Greece, Egypt, India, France, etc. I tasted cheese, sausages, chocolates, sausages, chips, peanuts, olive oils, vinegars, brownies, cookies, brines, etc.
My observation is that there is a definite line drawn between the higher end, newer markets, beautiful packaging and then the lower end old school type of branding. I spent a little bit of time talking to the people who run the event. Attendance was up by 6% over last year. They were also seeing a shift in the markets. More specialty stores. Larger stores such as A & P who are realizing that they need to think about raising the quality of products they have in the store as the market is asking for better value and healthier products. These type of products I would called the Target of the food industry. Maybe no more expensive than the brands that they are selling now but they have the look and the branding that the customer wants in their kitchen. Also, more people are eating at home and with the advent of the Food Network and alike, food becomes a bigger business every year.
It was interesting talking to the retailers, the distributors, investors, etc. One of my old favorites, the people behind Bone Suckin' Sauce were there and I got to meet Pat who runs the company. I remember ordering from them, online, over 10 years ago when they made me fax over the paperwork which I had to print from their site. Long time. There business has seriously grown. I have always been a fan of Fizzy Lizzy and really enjoyed talking to Liz at the after party where all the "food" people went to download in the east village. I spoke with Anne Saxelby for a while too although she isn't a vendor, she is the queen of cheese at the Essex Street market (you can also order online). I saw brands that were tiny and have obviously been funded such as Food Should Taste Good multi-grain chips. I tried Mari's brownies which are out of this world and a local company. I see Effie's in person after already reordering their crackers from Foodzie , I got to try their new corn cracker. Checked out the products at Dancing Deer Baking Co. which has recently been financed and enjoyed the chocolates at John Kelly. Those are some of the highlights.
Although the cheeses from Italy were outstanding the vibe is so different in the International area. My guess is that the countries represented are subsidizing the businesses who come to the show as they help the export markets. They are having a good old time up there eating and drinking coffee and wine. Quite interesting actually. Lots of duplication.
All and all, a really interesting day and as an investor, it was really worth spending the day there and getting to see the day to day and meet the faces behind the people who love the product.