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Record Setting 2013 SFF Show Brings the Buyers Back to NYC

By Lucas Witman

Returning to New York City’s renovated Jacob K. Javits Convention Center this year after a two-year stint in Washington, D.C., the 2013 Summer Fancy Food Show exceeded all expectations, breaking records both for exhibit space and the number of attendees. The 59th Summer Fancy Food Show featured 2,500 exhibitors from the United States and around the world, presenting more than 180,000 specialty foods and beverages.

“It’s a great show for us,” said Lonnie Williard, Vice President of Marketing for Mediterranean Snacks. “I think that the amount of traffic was very strong. There was a solid flow of interested buyers and conversations throughout the couple days. It was a very productive show.”

At this year’s show, Mediterranean Snacks unveiled its new Tapaz 2 Go line, a collection of healthy, convenient, gluten-free, shelf stable and ready-to-eat mini meals in three varieties: classic hummus, roasted garlic and red pepper. Each Tapaz 2 Go package includes the company’s popular Lentil Crackers along with a substantial portion of hummus. Williard expressed her delight at how strongly the new product line was received at the show.

“We were just inundated with interest in Tapaz 2 Go mini meal solution. I think it’s because it’s shelf stable and doesn’t require the cost of a refrigerated supply chain,” Williard said. “The interest that we saw was from a very broad range.”

In addition to generally driving up interest in Tapaz 2 Go, the show and the conversations that took place during it were also productive for Mediterranean Snacks in helping the company think about how it will market the product line going forward. According to Williard, these conversations brought up marketing possibilities the company had not previously considered. She said, “[The show] definitely confirmed some of the ideas, and then on top of that it gave us some new ideas of where [Tapaz 2 Go] could be very well in demand—for instance in vending machines. We hadn’t thought of that. There’s a lot of entrepreneurial spirit here that takes it even further.”

Mary Waldner, founder of Mary’s Gone Crackers, expressed relief that the 2013 Summer Fancy Food Show was so well attended, apparently signaling a return to form after the brief economic downturn she has observed over the past few years. “I thought it was really good. I know last year things really picked up from the slump in the industry. I thought this year really maintained that same energy and certainly had a high attendance,” she said.

Mary’s Gone Crackers offers a wide range of crackers, cookies, pretzels and crumbs—all organic, vegan and gluten-free. At this year’s show, the company unveiled two new cracker varieties: Super Seed and Hot’n Spicy Jalapeño. Waldner said that when she founded her company over a decade ago it was difficult to draw interest in the product line, but at this year’s show she saw an unprecedented reaction to her company from buyers.

When we first started, there wasn’t much interest in organic or certainly gluten-free but now both of those categories are really huge,” Waldner said.

With companies like Mary’s Gone Crackers and Mediterranean Snacks so pleased with the reaction they received from attendees at this year’s Summer Fancy Food Show, it was inevitable that brands which did not exhibit might regret the decision. That was certainly the case for Bhakti Chai, maker of gourmet chai tea and chai tea concentrate. The team at Bhakti Chai has been experiencing unprecedented interest in their company since receiving a 2013 sofi Gold Award at this year’s show, despite making the decision not to exhibit.

We were all really taken off guard about the award,” said Allison Salvati, Marketing and Sales Director for Bhakti Chai. “It’s been fantastic. From a foodservice standpoint, we have people calling and saying, ‘Hey, you won this award can we get some free samples…’ It’s a great feather in our cap.”

Salvati continued, “We think we have an award-winning product. This is a huge accolade. We know we have a worthy enough product for an award like this. It’s a huge acknowledgment from the industry. We’re really thrilled. It helps our distribution so much.”

Bhakti Chai is a regular exhibitor at Winter Fancy Food on the West Coast, but does not exhibit at Summer Fancy Food, because they are not yet distributed on the East Coast. That could change, however, as the company’s distribution continues to spread across the country.

For many of the exhibitors who were present at the 2013 Summer Fancy Food Show in New York, there is little time to rest, as many are likely already making preliminary preparations for the upcoming 2014 Winter Fancy Food Show, to be held January 19-21 in San Francisco. In addition, the 2014 Summer Fancy Food Show has already been scheduled for June 29-July 1 in New York. 

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