Big Ideas and Trends at Summer Fancy Food Show

Town & Country’s Richmond outlines buying philosophy, while innovative products abound
Bridget Goldschmidt
Managing Editor
Bridget Goldschmidt profile picture
Town & Country Market Dwight Richmond Summer Fancy Food Show, Big Ideas Stage Main Image
Town & Country Markets' Dwight Richmond taking part in the "How I Buy" series on the Big Ideas stage at the Summer Fancy Food Show.

The Summer Fancy Food Show got off to a strong start on June 25 at New York’s Jacob K. Javits Center with a robust selection of products illustrating various ongoing trends in the specialty food space. From upcycling to world flavors to better-for-you items to the ongoing evolution of plant-based, it was all on display.

The event also featured, as part of the Specialty Food Association’s “How I Buy” series, a presentation by Dwight Richmond, director of center store at six-store Washington state independent grocer Town & Country Markets, on the Big Ideas stage located on the show floor, during which Richmond discussed his philosophical approach to his job, characterizing it more as “Why I Buy.”

During the informative session Richmond described good buyers as stewards not only of the categories that they manage, but also of the retail brand that they represent, and they should therefore strive to do they best they can to drive that brand for the customers’ benefit and make it better for those who come after. With that in mind, the retail brand strategy should always underpin a buyer’s actions.

Richmond also noted a tendency for buyers to go after the customers that the business wants rather than the customers it has, with the end result of satisfying neither. The idea is to foster the relationship with existing shoppers to create a “sticky” generation of consumers loyal to the retail brand. He also counseled buyers to eliminate those offerings that don’t align with the direction that customers want the business to go, and to back items with the right programs, which could include deals or interactive events.

He encouraged suppliers to see themselves in the store by learning about the culture of the grocer and envisioning where they would fit in. He went on to suggest that maker demos were the fastest way to grow small brands, citing several events at his stores that created “super-engaged” guests and led to sales lifts for the products. Customers want a real connection with makers, as well as to know why they exist as brands, he advised, adding that marketing and social engagement create consumer excitement for new brands, and that companies need to go where customers are on social media.

Good Hair Day Pasta Boxes Main Image
Inventive packaging solutions at the Summer Fancy Food Show include Good Hair Day Pasta's fun boxes reimagining pasta types as coiffures.

Trend Spotting

Meanwhile, the exhibits offered a range of interesting products. Among the trends noticed:

Convenient Multicultural Fare: This trend was exemplified by such items as Xinca’s frozen line of authentic Salvadoran pupusas (filled corn masa tortillas) and Chakalaka Brands’ Chakalaka (“all together” in Zulu), a sweet and spicy South African staple consisting of beans, fresh veggies, onions, pepper and tomatoes, in an easily prepared dry mix.

Clean Candy: Examples of this included Edie’s for Everybody chocolate sun-butter cups, which are not only vegan and peanut- and gluten-free, but also incorporate the flavors of founder Edith Pan’s Asian-American background (see above trend), and no-added-sugar, date-sweetened B.T.R. (Bold, Tenacious, Resilient) Nation Superfood Truffle Cups, created by Ashley Nickelsen as an alternative to junkier mainstream offerings.

Inventive Packaging and Formats: There were some quite cool items illustrating both sides of this trend  SoSo’s straight-up gorgeous “egg” packaging for its line of sea salts, Good Hair Day Pasta’s fun boxes reimagining pasta types as coiffures, and SaySo’s clever ready-to-make cocktail sachets that make crafting a drink easier than ever.

A Better-for-You Crunch: A standout here is Mamame Tempeh Chips, light, airy crisps made from tapioca flour and fermented soybeans, which are non-GMO, vegan and gluten-free, as well as containing 5 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber per serving in several flavors; among other offerings in this space are Naera’s all-natural Fish Jerky Crunch in three varieties, providing omega-3s and calcium along with just 2 grams of carbs per serving, and even Cornhusker Kitchen’s indulgent-sounding Duck Fat Roasted Almonds, which boast “very important omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids” and the fiber, antioxidants, vitamin E and protein found in almonds, in addition to “a delicious, savory flavor.”

Upcycled on an Upswing: As Upcycled Food Association CEO Angie Crone can attest, upcycled food products are gaining visibility with sustainability-minded consumers. Items on display at the Summer Fancy Food Show that spotlight this sector’s creativity include Atoria’s Upcycled Multigrain Mini Naan, personal-sized flatbreads baked with nearly 20% upcycled flour.

Plant-Based Innovation Continues: The demand for plant-based products hasn’t gone away, as evidenced not only by the Summer Fancy Food Show’s Plant-Based Pavilion, but also throughout the event, and manufacturers are steadily upping the ante with such products as Prime Roots’ line of meat products made from koji, a Japanese fungus. The company sampled its ham, turkey, pepperoni and salami taste-alikes at the show.

Diversity Drives Discovery: Diversity was a major presence at the show, well beyond the borders of the expo floor’s bustling Diversity Pavilion, where attendees could sample spices, sweets, snacks and more. Along with such familiar designations as woman-owned, minority-owned, veteran-owned and LBGTQ-owned, PG spotted that Bumbleberry Farms, a maker of honeys, family-recipe honey cream spreads (including a 2023 sofi Award winner), and baking mixes, was proudly billing itself as Deaf-owned.

The Summer Fancy Food Show runs through June 27 at the Jacob K. Javits Center, in New York.

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