Journey Part 15: The Fancy Food Show

23 Jan

The National Association of Specialty Food Trade puts on the winter Fancy Food Show each January in San Francisco.  It’s attended by thousands of retailers, restauranteurs, and distributors (plus some) who are looking for new and innovative products.  Or, like me, people looking to pick products and source ingredients in one, easy stop.  Being able to meet the innovators, see and sample the products in person, and find out who distributes them is a fantastic way to efficiently work the system.

courtesy of Montchevre cheese

courtesy of Montchevre cheese

It also is a work around for a little unknown fact (at least to me) in this business. Distributors don’t call back new businesses.  Ok–you caught me in a huge generalization.  But, whether I inquire through phone, email, or those handy website contact us forms, my call back success rate is a pathetic 20%.  It’s hard to believe this rate since distributors make their money by distributing product.  They distribute products by taking orders.  They take orders from people like me.  My love for the “cha ching” sound when you make a sale, does not comprehend.  But, lucky for me, there are lots of distributors in the sea (thanks to the fancy food show).

Here’s my rundown.  Show up at the show in the morning so the floor is quieter and the exhibitors are fresher (in theory).  Come caffeinated, but hungry.  Wear good walking shoes and layers.  Bring a comfortable shoulder bag for all of your loot.  Have your business card holder well stocked.  Bring a notebook for writing down the really important discoveries (or they may get lost in the abyss of your loot bag).  Take a methodical approach to walking the floor.  I like to snake the floor (up down, down up).  Avoid the sampling pitfalls (less is more).

Now that you know the secrets to a successful show, here are just a few of my finds (you’ll likely see some at the Flour + Co come March):

  • Distributors – So many of the natural products that I’m looking for are distributed by UNFI and Pacific Gourmet.  Not sure how I missed these before, but I found them now.
  • Jars and tins – there are so many websites (often bad ones) that I’ve researched for a specific look and I’ve failed every time.  I finally have a source with Bruni glass, Willow Group, Independent Can Company.
  • Beverages – there are so many and it’s so nice to be able try them all in one place.  Some of my faves – Alo (made with the aloe plant), Q Drinks, and Ayala’s Herbal Water.
  • Reusable bags – Bags Go Green has natural, high quality shoppers and they beat the look of most.
  • Spices – has a great selection and many organic products
  • Meats – Fra’mani samples were delish, for salame and the like

There was so much more, but you’ll have to find out for yourself.  If you have the opportunity to attend the winter or summer show (NYC), you should.  I’ve been many times before, but it’s always entertaining and you never leave hungry!

Oh – and, I was so busy looking and sampling that I failed to take any pictures!  You can check out this KQED article for some good pics.


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