Summer Fancy Food Show in Washington, DC: Deadline is this Friday, June 3.

May 31, 2011

Last chance to register for the Summer Fancy Food Show at a discounted rate, North America’s largest trade event for the Specialty Food Industry! Deadline is this Friday, June 3! After June 3 rate goes up to $60!

The Summer Fancy Food Show will be held in Washington, DC July 10-12, 2011… Click here to register http://www.specialtyfood.com/fancy-food-show/summer-fancy-food-show/attend/


Interview with Winter Fancy Food Show Trend Game winner, Eddi Marie of Beckles Candies

May 20, 2010

Q: Please tell us about your current job and what it entails. Tell us something about yourself and your lovely shop in Modesto, California.
A: We have owned and operated Beckles Candies and Gifts in Modesto, California, since December of 1988. For the most part, Jim and I oversee the daily operation of the shop, including  making and selecting products, packaging, and interacting with the customers. We have known some of them since they were children!  Although Jim is not at the shop every day, he is a very important part of the business and readily “on call!”  Our daughter worked with us during her teenage years, and still covers for us in emergencies.

Beckles is an old time candy shop, selling chocolates, our on-site-made fudge,  gourmet truffles, a variety of licorices and candy jar favorites, including a nice selection of sugar free products.  We like to shop for things we believe our customer will enjoy. Custom packages are prepared in any gift item or container the customer selects and we pre-package in traditional and non-traditional containers. We also enjoy helping corporate clients and special event planners meet their unique needs and successfully stay within their budgets.

Q: How did you become so knowledgeable of food trends coming into the Winter Show? What professional food related publications, blogs, etc. do you read regularly?
A: I’m not at all sure I am that knowledgeable! I do try to listen, pay attention to food trends, and generally be aware of what is going on in our area.  The California Central Valley is known for it’s agricultural success. Staying “green” and being self-sustaining are very important to us. Personally, I am quite health conscious, while still allowing myself the joys of treats, sweets, and special indulgences. 

Several trade publications come across my desk regularly and I always find interesting material in them. Reading printed matter I can hold in my hands is more my style than reading screens! Although, blogs and Internet information is sometimes handy, indeed!

Q: When you go out to eat—do you go to the same place or do you explore other cultures and types of restaurants?
A: We have long time favorites and are basically traditionalists.  However, new places must be investigated, and authentically prepared food of other cultures can be most interesting and even enlightening! I am more adventurous than Jim!

Q: What is your favorite type of food? Favorite meal/dish?
A: I like Salmon or Halibut, usually baked (sans oiliness)! Al dente steamed vegetables rank high on my list, as do fresh fruits and vegetables of most any kind. Southern barbecue, but not too spicy hot, is another favorite. And, of course great chocolate desserts!!! I use lots of nuts when preparing dishes and, although I like both, I go for weeks without eating beef or pork.

Q: How was your experience at the Winter Fancy Food Show? What was your favorite part?
A: Jim and I had a really good time. It was a quick, one-day trip from Modesto. I think our favorite part is anything that directly relates to our business, especially items we can almost link to specific customers. At times it becomes a game we play.

The displays were great,  the vendors were most cordial, the products were varied, and the attendees were enthusiastic. While conscious of the economic situation, people were not overwhelmed with gloom! We mentioned that en route home.

Q: Have you ever been to a Summer Fancy Food Show? If yes, what are the major differences between the Winter Show and Summer Show?
A: We have never attended the Summer Show, but we are excited!

Q: Do you have any tips to offer for attending/walking the show?
A: I go with a plan, or at least a list of items about which  folks have inquired or in which I have a particular interest.  We usually go for the “What’s new “area first,  then walk the rest of the show rooms. Some of the seminars would be helpful; however, we are always on a limited time schedule.

Q: What are you most excited about for the upcoming Summer Fancy Food Show in New York?
A:
It is a new adventure! I’ve been told it is bigger than the Winter Show. It will be interesting to see how some of the winter focused items are doing, how they may have been adapted, and what’s new!

Q: Are you on any social media? (Twitter, Facebook or do you have a blog?) Website?
A: We do have a Beckles website.  It is in a stage of reconstruction, but viewable.  You can find it at BecklesCandiesandGifts.com


sofi Bloopers, Blunders, and Random Notes

May 11, 2010

By Louise Kramer, NASFT Communications Director

We’re enjoying a moment of calm in the 38th sofi™ Awards contest before the next wave of entries starts pouring in for the last two awards: Outstanding New Product and Outstanding Product Line.

So far, a great panel of specialty food experts has selected 125 finalists in 31 Awards categories, from Outstanding Appetizer, Antipasto, Salsa and Dip to Outstanding Vinegar.  Finalists are listed at www.specialtyfood.com/sofi. The judges spent three very full days at our new offices in midtown Manhattan tasting and evaluating 1,570 entries, including a rather prodigious amount of the world’s finest chocolate, cheese, olive oil, cookies, pasta sauces, and so much more.

Actually, the judges tasted almost everything. They were not required to taste entries for “Outstanding Non-Food Specialty Item” – how could we make them bite into a refrigerator magnet or muffin tin??? – nor did they have to sample submissions for Outstanding Pet Food. So hats off to judge Gantt Bumstead, co-president of United Supermarkets! He actually tasted a dog biscuit. His review: delicious!

The 2010 sofi Team

It is great fun to tell our members that their products have been selected as finalists. After all, a sofi honor means lots of publicity, potential sales, industry kudos, and the glow of victory for friends, family, staff and colleagues.

Here’s how one finalist, Kari Ani Shiozawa, reacted. Her Bakers Basics Banana Bread Mix is a finalist for Outstanding USDA-Approved Organic Product. “It was a huge blessing for me and I cried. My husband cried too,” she told me. “This is such a huge accomplishment. When you work so hard to get someplace and you get that recognition, it is tremendous. I still cry sometimes.”

The less fun part for us here at the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade is having the break the news to those hundreds of member companies who entered the contest but did not have their products selected as finalists. We totally “get it” that these awards are very important, and that our members put their heart and soul and money and dreams into making their great products. For many, a sofi makes it all seem worth it.

Here are some bloopers: One of our sofi staffers dropped a ketchup entry en route to the judging for “Outstanding Cooking Sauce or Flavor Enhancer,” and boy did it make a mess. And all the judges saw it.

A mini blooper: when it was time for the judges to taste and evaluate the 110 entries for Outstanding Chocolate—one of my favorite categories!–we realized that many of the packages were not opened. Time is of the essence during sofi judging. So we put out an all points bulletin to the entire NASFT staff (in the form of me running around begging for help while trying to look calm and professional). Special thanks to: Mary Jacobsen, executive administrator and Bill Lynch, senior director, membership and exhibitions, for jumping in.

Many thanks to our Part 1 judges, most of whom are pictured here: Sue Bicksler Taub, Holbrook Cottage, Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.; Gantt Bumstead, United Texas, Lubbock, Texas; Mustafa Coskun and Robert Rosa, Garden of Eden Marketplace, New York, N.Y.; Patrick Crowl, Woodstock Farmers’ Market, Woodstock, Vt.; Franck Deletrain, John O’Neil and Lou Piuggi, Patina Group, New York, N.Y.; Faye Greenberg, Winn-Dixie, Jacksonville, Fla.; Madeline Romo, Savor the Flavor, Sierra Madre, Calif.; Lordes Reynoso, Institute of Culinary Education, New York, N.Y.; Celia Barbour and Rachel Mount, O, The Oprah Magazine, New York, N.Y.

Today, the sofi shelves are empty. The sofi team is wrapping up some important work. This week I am taking three days off to rejuvenate before sofi, Part Deux. Part 2 entry forms and information were mailed to NASFT members last week. Forms are also posted at www.specialtyfood.com/sofi.

Don’t forget to read the FAQ’s online. Questions? Email us at sofiawards@nasft.org.

And finally, thanks to all NASFT members who have entered so far this year, and for making it a great competition.


EDITOR’S LETTER: What sofi ™ is Telling Us About Trends

May 6, 2010

By Denise Purcell, Editor of Specialty Food Magazine

Following is Denise Purcell’s editor’s letter, which first appeared in the recent May issue of Specialty Food Magazine. It highlights trends spotted at the recent sofi Awards Finalist competition, Part 1.

The start of the annual sofi ™ Awards competition is unfolding around me as I write this. All week, hundreds of boxes have been arriving at the NASFT offices, and thousands of products are being unpacked and carefully sorted by the core sofi team, led by Communications Director Louise Kramer. I’m passing shelves of products every time I head to the kitchen or supply room, which is providing me the ideal opportunity to take a front line peek at what all those submissions are saying about industry trends.

As I was getting started, Project Manager Marilyn O’Hara and Project Consultant Fran Curiazza, two members of the team who were opening and logging every entry, were happy to chime in with their own trend-spotting—lots of products with honey and figs. They are absolutely right. These, like many other themes I spotted on the shelves, are on target with larger industry trends that have been recently identified through NASFT and Mintel International.

In case you missed it, in March, NASFT co-hosted a webinar with Mintel that revealed several overarching trends, including those a panel of food journalists identified as the top trends at the Winter Fancy Food Show (you can read more under the March 2010 issue in Food Trends or visit specialtyfood’s Knowledge Center to download the webinar.)


Here, in no particular order, are several industry trends that are supported by what we’re seeing in sofi entries.

Grown-Up Treats: Savory and sweet snacks with sophisticated flavor profiles:

• Candied walnuts

• Curry or fig flavored crackers

• Prickly pear dried snacks

• Honey Roasted Ham and Cranberry potato chips


Simple Made Special:
This is especially prevalent in nostalgic candies and treats such as toffee, caramels and marshmallows that are being updated:

• Marshmallows in flavors like Pistachio, Coffee and Toasted Coconut

• Sesame toffee

• Caramels in flavors like Carrot Cake


Good-for-You Foods:
Healthful twists including gluten-free, sugar-free, high fiber and antioxidants:

• Baked lentil and falafel chips

• Gluten-free sugar cookie mix and brownie mix made with stevia

• Raspberry Rooibos chocolate


Latest Flavors:
Many of these were spotted at the Fancy Food Show, by

the Food Trend panel as well as the editors of Specialty Food Magazine who tweeted from the Show floor at twitter.com/nasft. Coconut, bacon, maple, cherry, walnut, lime, honey—all hot. Here’s a sampling:

• Cherry Merlot Wine ice cream

• Coconut popcorn

• Maple Bacon pretzels

• Plantain chips with lime

• Salsa with cherry and peri-peri

• Carob seed honey from Morocco

• Walnut vinegar

The sofi Award submissions are telling us a lot already and at presstime packages were still arriving for the 31 categories in Part 1 of the competition. Like the rest of the trade, I’ll eagerly await what the full breadth of entries and judges’ picks ultimately reveal about the industry’s best foods and beverages.


The New specialtyfood.com

April 30, 2010

By Matt Thomas, Publisher of Specialty Food Magazine

For seven years, specialtyfood.com has been my go-to source anytime I needed more information on some aspect of the trade. Whether I was looking for manufacturer contact information, specific category trends, the dates of the 2012 Summer Fancy Food Show, whatever<it was always right there.

Yet, all long-running reference sources take on a Rube Goldbergesque quality as needs change and different features get tacked on to the side. It was with great pride that I could find almost anything on that site, no matter how buried, but it was time for a new edition.

After dozens of meetings involving every department of the NASFT, dozens more rounds of wireframes and hundreds of hours of programming, testing and debugging, the switch has been thrown and the new site is here.

As I was thankfully spared most of the development process, I am looking at the new site with what I believe are fresh eyes and can tell you that to refer to the new specialtyfood.com as a relaunch would be a gross understatement. Encompassed on the site are several thousand brands, tens of thousands of pages of content, a seemingly infinite number of products and all of it carefully organized and tagged to make it intuitively navigable for people like you and me. The result of all this intensive activity is a greatly improved user experience.

All the content from our old site is still there but is much more accessible and easy to find. For instance, content from Specialty Food Magazine can be accessed via the foodle™ search engine or through the Magazine Archive in the News & Trends tab. Content has also been tagged in helpful categories such as Retail Operations, Food Trends, Prepared Food Recipes and so on. When it’s time to plan your Fancy Food Show experience, either as an attendee or exhibitor, you can find everything you need through simple tabs.  All of NASFT’s education information from the past five years can now be accessed and downloaded under the Knowledge Center. Put simply, pretty much anything you used specialtyfood.com for in the past will be better and easier with the new site.

Where things get really interesting is in the new features. Under the Community tab you will find a wealth of exciting functions. For the first time we will have a dedicated specialty food industry Job Board. There’s also a Classifieds section where you can sell your used equipment or offer services to the trade. If you’re an expert, believe you are or at least have a topic you’re passionate about, you can create your own blog. Or post pressing questions for advice from your peers.

I will miss that old workhorse but the new site looks better, works better and has lots of useful new features. So dive in, explore the new resources and features and let us know what you think so we can continue to improve content and functionality. |SFM|

Find us at:  http://www.facebook.com/specialtyfoodmedia


Q: “We’re a sofi Awards Finalist. How do we better use social media to spread the news? A:“First, congratulations! Here are some resources for you to consider.”

April 23, 2010

By Vivian Friess, Marketing Manager

Dos, Don’ts and How-To’s

We are embracing social media. But remember, it is very personal, and is not a mere marketing tool. Think of it as a great way to establish direct contact with your customers, one-to-one, in a casual environment, without a heavy sales pitch. Build some good will, and then present your product.

Here are some suggestions:

Facebook

If you don’t have a Facebook community page, it’s a good time to start.  Set a casual tone, and don’t be afraid to show your personality. Share photos, videos and announcements to keep your fans engaged. It is not about the number of posts you make, but the quality and relevance to your community members. Consider creating a “page box” to use as a diary. Here you can record your activities leaving up to the Summer Fancy Food Show and the sofi Gold judging there. Here is a sample post:

April 14, 2010
Just received an email from NASFT – we’re officially a sofi Silver Finalist! We’re so happy and want to share our excitement with you. Find our sofi winning product in retail stores, snap a picture, send it to us, and we’ll send you a free gift. And don’t forget to come and see us at the Summer Fancy Food Show, we’re going for the Gold!

Keep your posts simple. Throw in a special offer on occasion or highlight a promotion surrounding your sofi product. That’s right, your sofi product. Don’t forget, relevance is key. Your marketing objective is to boost your visibility as a sofi Silver Finalist, your company and your products.

Twitter

Did you know that we captured the sofi Awards judging April 14 -16 with real-time tweets from the NASFT Twitter @nasft? Many of you tuned in for up-to-date news and information directly from our kitchen and offices. Keep tweeting us! We’ll retweet and reply to help get your message in front of our near 3,000 followers.

Use hashtags! For example, “#NASFT” is associated with the Fancy Food Shows, if you’re exhibiting or attending, include “#NASFT” in your tweets to help others find you. “#sofi Awards” is for the Awards–use it whenever the awards are the topic or if you’re tweeting about the Summer Show. These hashtags will increase your exposure.

I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information. Hopefully you find this post useful and we’re always here to help. Email me or tweet me if you have questions.


Taking a quick break to report in from day 1 of the sofi Awards judging for the 38th sofi Awards for the outstanding specialty foods of 2010.

April 14, 2010

By Louise Kramer, NASFT Communications Manager

I am so thrilled that it has all come together today: Chef David Ward is whipping up baked goods, sous Chef Alistair Smith has started cutting up cheese, and the sofi support team is humming.

Our panel of nine judges arrived here at our new offices on Madison Avenue in Midtown Manhattan at 9 a.m. today. We were a little nervous behind the scenes because we’ve never done the sofis here and it is quite an operation! In the past week we received 1,570 entries, all great food products vying for the coveted sofi Gold Award.

We’ll present the Gold Awards at our Summer Fancy Food Show on June 28 in a red-carpet ceremony hosted by Dan Barber, a leading light of the artisanal and local food movement.

The judges come from across the US. We have a specialty retailer from Southern California from a family-owned business, a Dallas-based grocer whose company has dozens of stores, a big regional supermarket chain in the Southeast, a fab New York City retailer with several stores brimming with specialty and natural products from the members of our trade association. Oh, and the food editor of a fabulous major magazine, a chef instructor from a great cooking school, and the owner of a great store in Vermont, and the owner of a lovely shop in New York’s Westchester Country. To cap it off, we have an executive chef from a prominent New York restaurant company that has a branch in LA.

When we assembled the panel, our aim was to have a range of expertise and opinions represented.  It is there tough job – someone has to do it! — to select finalists across 31 awards categories this week, from Outstanding Appetizer, Antipasto, Salsa or Dip to Outstanding Vinegar.

In early June, we’ll have a panel come to our offices to judge the last two batches of entries, for the coveted sofi Gold Award for the Outstanding New Product of the Year, and Outstanding Product Line. They’ll pick finalists for those two awards. Sort of like coming up with the list of Oscar nominees.

So far today the judges have completed judging one category to pick the nominees/finalists, and are about to finish the second. The sofi team, lead by Marilyn O’Hara, the project manager, and Nicole Denis, the culinary manager, are running around quite a bit to make sure all entries are set out just right, that the fact sheets are there, that the judges have plenty of water and tasting spoons and napkins, etc.

This is my third year working on the sofi Awards, and I am very relieved that it has all come together. And I am especially relieved that our new oven is working! We weren’t quite sure it would be.

Here’s to a great sofi 2010. The finalists for the first 31 of the 33 Awards will be announced the week of April 19. The finalists for those last two Awards will be announced the week of June 7.

The sofi Gold winners for each of the 33 Awards will be selected by attendees at the Summer Fancy Food Show. All the finalists picked this week will be set out on long tables in a private room for retailers and buyers to taste and evaluate in order to make their picks. It will all be monitored by an outside accounting firm. They’ll tally the results right there so we can announce them at the show just a few hours after the judging of the finalists ends.

But I’m racing ahead of myself. We need to have a list of finalists first. And that’s what’s starting to happen today with the judges sampling about 500 products today. They’ll be here tomorrow, Thurs., April 15, and Friday, April 16. No doubt they will eat light this weekend.