New York, N.Y. -- The Winter Fancy Food Show held in San Francisco last week broke records. Attendance was the highest ever in the show’s 37-year history, and the sold-out exhibit space was the largest to date in San Francisco, the show’s longtime West Coast home.
The three-day event at Moscone Center, which ended Jan. 17, is the largest marketplace devoted exclusively to specialty foods and beverages on the West Coast. It is owned and operated by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT).
According to preliminary figures, more than 18,000 buyers attended the show. This year’s attendees reflected a new mix of decision makers from the top names in retail and foodservice including more buyers from supermarkets, mass merchants and natural and organic retailers. Buyers represented industry mainstays like Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s, Central Market and A Southern Season and new participants including Sodexo Senior Living, Wynn Las Vegas and The California Parks Company.
The show covered 206,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space, up from 196,000 sq. ft. in 2011. To accommodate demand from exhibitors, NASFT added additional space that allowed 60 more specialty food makers to present their products alongside a popular exhibit of 30 emerging food entrepreneurs called New Brands on the Shelf. In all, the exhibit halls were filled with some 80,000 specialty products from 1,300 food artisans, importers and entrepreneurs representing more than 35 countries and regions.
The show reflected a hunger for learning about the business of specialty food. With more than 20 seminars, tastings and tours, participation was up 10 percent. The NASFT’s signature “Start-Up” series for industry newcomers sold out, as did tasting sessions for cheese and olive oil led by experts. Also, the NASFT facilitated 1,400 face-to-face meetings between buyers and manufacturers the day before the show in a customized match-making program a la speed dating, up 7 percent from last year.
“The numbers are strong, and so is the spirit of innovation and creativity that are the foundations of the specialty food industry,” says NASFT president Ann Daw. “Our industry is showing renewed vigor.”
A panel of trendspotters combed the exhibit halls to identify the top five food trends for 2012: pickling, drinks made from nuts, seeds and grains, coconut, and ancient grains. Other trends noticed include savory sweets, mindful snacks such as bean chips and seaweed, cocktail mix makeovers, new takes on chai and fig. Read more about these trends on foodspring.com.
Fancy Food Show exhibitors have a long tradition of giving back. At the end of the show, exhibitors made a major food donation to Bay Area food pantries and soup kitchens in partnership with Feed the Hungry, an anti-hunger organization. More than 150 volunteers gathered enough specialty chocolate, cheese, olive oil, meats, snacks and confections to fill more than three tractor trailers and supply meals to 5,000 individuals in need.
The NASFT presents two Fancy Food Shows each year. The 58th Summer Fancy Food Show will be held June 17 – 19, 2012, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. The Winter Show returns to Moscone Center Jan. 20 – 22, 2013.
About the NASFT
The NASFT is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. Based in New York City, is a not-for-profit trade association established in 1952 that fosters trade, commerce and interest in the specialty food trade. The NASFT's website for consumers, foodspring.com, provides an insider's look at specialty foods and the entrepreneurs and artisans behind them. For information about the NASFT and its Fancy Food Shows, go to specialtyfood.com.
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