By Lorrie Baumann
If you came home exhausted from this year’s Summer Fancy Food Show, there’s a reason for that. The 2016 Summer Fancy Food Show occupied the largest show floor since the show was started in 1954. More than 47,000 specialty food professionals, including 2,670 exhibitors, filled the six football fields’ worth of space in the halls of Javits Center in New York with the latest in specialty food and beverages from across the U.S. and 55 countries.
“The show is the place to be to discover the latest in specialty food and what’s next for stores and restaurants,” said Laura Santella-Saccone, the Specialty Food Association’s Chief Marketing Officer. “Record sales for specialty food have contributed to the strength of our show.”
Ariston Specialties used the show as an opportunity to debut its My Dressing Center to the industry. My Dressing Center, shown in prototype and expected to be available to the market in the coming months, is an automatic dispensing station that allows users to customize their own blends of salad dressings and marinades to suit their own tastes. The machine stocks 18 products, including any of the Ariston Specialties olive oils and balsamic vinegars. Consumers choose a bottle size – either 8.5 ounces or 17 ounces – and use a touch screen to custom-blend their mixtures, which can include four to six items in a blend that’s selected by adjusting sliders on the screen. “You can do your own. You can say, ‘No, I feel creative today. I want to do my own,’” said Tom Doukas, Ariston Specialties’ Founder.
The dispenser provides entertainment and engagement value for consumers together with a gourmet experience. “It is not a dressing created in a lab with flavor enhancers and additives,” Doukas said. “This is totally fresh and totally natural. It’s totally yours – you created it.”
Any mixture will sell for the same price – about $6 to $9 for the 8.5-ounce bottle and about $12 for the 17-ounce bottle. “We want to be inexpensive because our dressings are competing with the larger brands, but these are better because they’re all natural, award-winning products at a reasonable price with a fun way to buy them,” Doukas said.
LaClare Farms introduced new goat milk yogurts in blueberry, strawberry, vanilla and plain flavors. Fondy Jack from LaClare Farms is a goat milk version of Monterey Jack – the name is a play on Fond du Lac – that shares Monterey Jack’s excellent melting characteristics. Fondy Jack is also available in pepper jack and tomato-basil flavors.
Laurie & Sons, the winner of the 2015 sofi Award for the Best Chocolate for Dangerously Delicious Black Licorice Chocolate Toffee, was at the show this year with Single Origin Ginger Toffee, which won a silver award at the International Chocolate Awards. It’s made with four different types of ginger, including the raw powder, ginger syrup and ginger crystals on top to give the confection a distinctive, but not overpowering, hit of ginger flavor.
Propelled by the 2015 sofi Award win, Laurie & Sons’ founder Laurie Pauker’s creative approach to quality snack foods has found a place in the market, and we can look forward to future expansions of the product line to include some savory options, according to Andrew Pauker, Laurie’s son. “It’s been taking off over the past two years, and the Fancy Food Show has been important to that,” he said.
The Brooklyn Brew Shop came to the show with a new line of Farm Steady do-it-yourself kits for making gourmet foods at home, including kits for making four fresh Italian cheeses and pretzels with beer cheese. The kits are sold in a variety of specialty shops representing the home goods, gift and brew supply industries.
Chuao Chocolatier announced the launch of its Fair Trade, organic chocolate bar line, the Enamored Collection. An ode to women with a mission of celebrating who they are inside and out, the brand has partnered with Girls Inc. and for every seven Enamored Collection bars that are sold, $1 will be donated.
The line was created by the brand’s Master Chef and Co-Founder, Michael Antonorsi, as an ode to all women: “With the Enamored Collection, we wanted to create a product that celebrated ‘you,’ because who you are is enough,” said Antonorsi. “Spreading joy is the intention behind everything we do, and with this new collection we hope to bring a moment of joy to every person who experiences it.”
The Enamored Collection will be available in three varieties, all featuring luscious fruit and a hint of floral in organic, Fair Trade certified 72 percent dark chocolate: Raspberry Rose, made with radiant raspberries sugared with rose petals; Blueberry Lavender, made with juicy blueberries lightly infused with luxurious lavender; and Coconut Hibiscus, made with creamy coconut and a hint of sweet hibiscus.
“For us, it’s more about delivering a message – chocolate is the bonus,” said Chuao Communications Director Brooke Feldman. “It’s been fun to be able to have those conversations with people…. Traffic’s been really good. There’s been a great response to the whole line and the new collection.”
The company is also bringing out a pair of holiday seasonal bars: for the love of peppermint and hope, joy & gingerbread. The 2.8-ounce bars will retail for $4.99. “Our intention is to spread joy. Sometimes we do that with nostalgic flavors. Sometimes we do that with new ingredients,” Feldman said. “If we can make people smile, we’ve done our job.”
Lilly’s Hummus made its Fancy Food Show debut this year with handmade hummus made from organic garbanzo beans. The company, in business since 2003, started when CEO Michael Miscoe’s wife whipped up a quick hummus recipe for a barbecue the couple was hosting at home. “People went crazy for it,” Miscoe said. Lilly’s Hummus now offers 12 varieties in 12-ounce packages and just launched this year a single-serve snack pack with crackers on top and hummus on the bottom that retails for about $3.59. The high protein lowfat snack in its single serving package appeals to mothers, kids, Millennials and anyone who’s taking lunch to the office, he said. “It’s been great. People love it,” he added.
Droga Chocolates won the sofi Award in the Confections category this year for Money on Honey, a salted caramel that incorporates honey as its sweetener. It’s covered with Guittard dark chocolate and topped with a sprinkling of French sea salt. “It’s been our best seller for the past five years,” said Droga Founder and President Michelle Crochet. The Money on Honey product line now includes four SKUs, each made of the same caramel but with different mix-ins, including sea salt, crispy rice or roasted peanuts. This year, the company introduced the products with Fair Trade chocolate and will also be donating a portion of the profits to support the health of honey bees.
This is Droga’s fifth year at the Fancy Food Show and its first sofi Award. “It’s made a big difference,” Crochet said. “It’s drawn people in to taste this product. They’re really curious about it.”
Money on Honey started with a recipe that Crochet’s mother used to make. Then Crochet adapted it to substitute in honey instead of the high fructose corn syrup that’s the sweetener for many of the caramel candies on the commercial market, and the product was an instant hit. “In my own life, I’m always looking to eat clean foods,” she said. “Once I started sharing it with people, I knew it was a winner. Everybody seemed to like the product.”