San Francisco, CA -- Jan. 11-13, 2015
The Winter Fancy Food Show (San Francisco, CA -- Jan. 11-13, 2015) was held this week. I saw as many of the 1,300 exhibitors from around the world as I could (in both halls of the Moscone Center Convention Center). I scouted for trends and new products, and spoke with colleagues and friends.
If you are part of the specialty food and beverage industry, I recommend attending this show at least once. Two full days are preferable than trying to do it one; but it's a bit easier if you focus on one food category, say cheese, or olive oil. Or, in my case, chocolate.
Chocolate: something for everyone
The chocolatiers and makers at this show ran the gamut -- novelty, classic, artisan, big and small. And the products range from chocolate bars, truffles and confections to chocolate being used as an inclusion in another food or dessert item -- energy bars, kale snacks, cookies, you name it.
It was great to see classic companies like Idaho Candy Co. (Boise, ID), maker of the potato-shaped, Idaho Spud candy bar, the Cherry Cocktail and the Old Faithful. This is still a family run company after 100 years. Amazing. (Photo of three brothers at right.)
I enjoyed seeing marketing innovators like Vosges (Chicago, IL). They had a beautiful booth, decked out with great images, greenery, flowers, and new flavor combinations.
Chocolat (Fredericksburg, TX) impressed with liquor/spirits-filled chocolates (liquid centers encased with a crunchy corn starch casing and covered with chocolate). Toffee is a competitive market, there are several good, gluten-free ones out there these days. I enjoyed catching up with local (Bay Area-based) Toffee Talk founders/owners. They make some great toffees.
And, even after eating more than 3,000 chocolates, I'm still discovering companies with new flavors, and meeting great new chocolate-makers, and single origin bar chocolatiers.
For example, Lourdes Delgado de Pandzic, President of Chchukululu Arriba Dark Chocolate, traveled to the Bay Area from Guayaquil, Ecuador. She was very interesting to talk with, and a great booster for her country and cacao farmers there.
Across the aisle from her, was Richard O'Connor, co-founder of Chocolate and Love (U.K.), maker of "organic and ethical chocolate." I also enjoyed their fun bar packaging that featured celebrity-look-alike dog images.
More gluten-free and organic offerings were on display. For someone like me who can't have wheat or gluten, but who loves good food, the pasta and baked good sections are looking more appealing with each passing year. E.g., Walkers Shortbread (U.K. company known for their shortbread, biscuits and oatcakes) will be offering gluten-free regular (and chocolate chip) shortbread cookies. Look for them in stores this spring.
Other trends called out in a Show Press fact sheet included the growing number of items with Asian flavors (think higher quality green teas, soy, wasabi, rice, etc.); more snack bars and spreadable products. The "Melt" chocolate spread (made with coconut oil) was very light and could be incorporated into a variety of desserts and confections, as could some of the nut butters we saw.
I'd been looking for items to create a Chocolate and Indian Snack Theme Week. And now, after this show, I have enough for a theme week in February or March on this site, ChocolateBanquet.com. (Think spicy cashews, mango chutney, crispy peanuts, lentils, cardamom and chai spices, etc.)
For more information, check out the Specialty Food Association website.