Brain Food: Delicious Insights from the Fancy Food Show (Part 1)
I love the food business.
What’s not to love? The people in it are passionate about what they do. The product varieties are virtually unlimited. It’s a super-complex industry — involving everything from chemistry to packaging to distribution to marketing, and much more!
But it’s also an incredibly difficult and competitive business — one that is constantly evolving as a result of consumer tastes and trends and operational realities.
As I do almost every year, I visited the Fancy Food Show with my team, spotted trends, and spoke to many of the exhibitors about their inspiration, their challenges and their visions for the future.
Like all businesses today, the influx of millennials is noticeable. Grown children are getting involved in building their parents’ brands and recent graduates are getting the entrepreneurial bug and starting food ventures. What else did I observe this year?
- People go nuts for free food (duh!)
- Packaging is still super-important. If your food (and your display) are unappetizing, no one will want it — even if it’s free!
- Sugar is dead…long live agave; kale is dead…long live dates and obscure new vegetables and tubers. (More on this to come in future posts…please subscribe…hint, hint!)
- If it’s gluten-free and non-GMO, it has to be good. But not really. Everyone is slapping those labels on their products …even stuff that never had any gluten in it.
- Pairings are huge. Peanut butter and jelly has been around forever, but now people are creating bizarre new “couples.” Bacon and jalapenos are being added to all kinds of food. And one company talked about their beer and jerky pairings.
- Beverages and food with “healing powers” are on the upswing. Tea, tea, and more magic tea!
- Syrup and honey are all the rage. If it comes from a tree or a bee, it’s gotta be great.
- Chefs who show up and talk to customers are the coolest! Reality TV has transformed cooks into rock stars.
- Incubators abound! Although the food business is tough, lots of resources are now available to help guide start-ups. “As seen on Shark Tank” seems to give foodprenurs immediate cred (and insights) and we’ll be profiling one of the winners in future blog content.
- Women are getting out of the kitchen and heading to the bank! I previously wrote about women who are baking pies and cookies and bread for a living. Some men are heading from the bank to the “food bank!” We met a couple of dudes who gave up financial careers to head to the commercial kitchen. After all, who doesn’t want to be surrounded by food AND dough?
Most important of all, some industries rely heavily on events like these to sell their wares, press the flesh, meet the press and sample, sample, sample. Over the next week, we’ll be supporting many of them with shout-outs and write-ups. Eat it up!