July 15, 2013

The 2013 Fancy Food Show: A Review

EDITOR'S NOTE: Gil Marks is the author of five cookbooks, including the James Beard winner and IACP finalist Olive Trees and Honey. He is a recognized authority on kosher food.

I attended my first Fancy Food Show at NYC’s Javits Center in 1989. Even back then, toward the onset of the explosion in kosher-certified products across America, I was amazed by the number of kosher items at that show. This year, the continuing growth of kosher was obvious.

The exhibitors at the Fancy Food Show tend not to be the mainstream brands and large corporate entities. Rather most of the exhibitors are smaller and frequently newer aspiring upscale food producers.  And many of them acquire kosher certification.

Back in 1989, the major food trend at the show was salsa. There were dozens of booths offering their take on this Mexican condiment sweeping the Yankee market. Today, salsa has become, of course mainstream (even outselling ketchup) and few salsa makers attend the show. Another year it was biscotti or chocolate-dipped pretzels or chai suddenly appearing in numerous booths. More recently, the big trend at the show was Greek yogurt with each succeeding year witnessing more brands. This year, after Greek yogurt also entered the mainstream, the Greek yogurt purveyors were absent. Still present, however, were Bulgarian yogurt from Trimona and kefir from several companies, hoping to emulate the success of the Greek yogurts.

The current major trend in American food is gluten free. A few years ago, there were less than a handful of booths at the show representing non-wheat world. This year large GF signs were all over the floor. Most of those items also held kosher certification, including gluten free breads and buns from No Way Foods.

And the number of kosher products continues to grow. The majority of American foods at the Fancy Food show that can be kosher are certified. Kosher products range from Ocean Beauty’s salmon jerky to Frank’s Kraut to Belgioioso’s mascarpone. Gelato Petrini even offers a kosher for Passover line. The confections were numerous – from Jelly Belly beans to kosher pigs (marzipan shaped like a pig). Kosher is now an important part of marketing and many food distributors require it for new clients. Of course, that omits many meats, cheeses, and wines. But a stroll through the aisles of the Fancy Food Shows reveals the possibilities and magnitude of kosher.