Winter Fancy Food Show 2016: Be Different

Here we were: in San Francisco, to experience our first Fancy Food Show. And what an experience it was!

5,000 exhibitors, 80,000 products, 7 hours a day of walking up and down the alleys! I calculated that I probably walked 8-9 miles each day! All in the search for the best spices, the best Californian fruits, the best sun-dried products, the best honeys for our Cheese Companions!

So glad we spent the time though: we’re now coming back with a lot of great ingredients and ideas!

We also got a chance to connect to several of our Vermont cheese maker friends: Spring Brook Farm, Vermont Creamery, Plymouth Artisan Cheese. Yes, Vermont cheese was indeed well represented!

Our favorite products at the show? Goat pearls filled with honey, fig and pesto (from a French company called Fromacoeur) and some nice frozen appetizers (including some with cheese) from The Perfect Bite!

As a marketer and business owner though, I could not help being shocked to see how many companies were selling products such as chocolates and candies, but also jams, chips, sauces and salsas, spices, teas, olive oils, salts, and yes cheese! Most of them seemed to be start-ups, and you had to ask yourself “how do all those companies differentiate themselves from their competition? How many will truly survive in such a fierce competitive environment?”. Actually the statistics say that 9 out of 10 will NOT survive. Despite having delicious and nice-looking products! And it was clear to me that the product categories most represented at the show were the ones with the smallest “barriers to entry”, i.e. the easiest ones to make for a small start-up company!

Personally I did know these statistics before coming to the show, but seeing hundreds and hundreds of chocolates and candies, there at the show, made it so much more real to me!

So, one bit of advice to anyone out there dreaming of launching his or her small specialty food company: attend the Fancy Food Show before you spend thousands of dollars, and make sure you understand why your product is so unique, and where it will find its place in the marketplace!