Trends at the 2014 Winter Fancy Food Show

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I was lucky enough to recently spend a few days at the Winter Fancy Food Show, working the booth with QuickLabel Systems, walking around talking with participants, and meeting a lot of our customers and food business friends from the Bay Area.

It is a HUGE event, so there was a lot to take in, but there were definitely a few trends to take note of.

Too Many to Stand Out

It really felt like the show was dominated by a few major types of food, all of which I love, but it became a little too much. Plus, it made it that much more difficult for any of them to stand out.

  • Meats of all kinds - salamis, prosciuttos, and more
  • Cheeses of all kinds
  • Jams and sauces
  • Chocolate - baking chocolate, truffles, bars
  • Flavored popcorn

There were actually a couple of popcorn companies that got attention because they were "half-popping" their kernels. I didn't actually try them, but I heard great things and that's a creative spin on an otherwise overdone category at the show.

The Good Stuff

There were a handful of products that I thoroughly enjoyed and that stood out from the crowd.

  • I obviously love and appreciate jerky, and newcomers Three Jerks Jerky take a fancy approach with their filet mignon jerky.
  • Good Pop is Austin's version of New York's beloved People's Pops. Creative flavors and youthful exuberance.
  • Wonderfully Raw's brussel chips were a clever remix of the overdone kale chips, and at a very reasonable price. Apparently they'll be in your local Whole Foods soon.
  • There were a couple of flavored seaweed products, which were absolutely delicious. Simple, clean flavors. Unfortunately, I didn't write down the names.
  • I wasn't aware of this, but apparently there is a shortage of honeycomb - one booth apparently stocked up many months ago and was showing off their supply. I'm half-man, half-bear, so I was in love.
  • Falafel chips! Interesting idea and pretty tasty.

There were many other awesome products, but I wasn't taking notes (aside from a few tweets) and these stood the test of time as far as my memory was concerned :)

Nutrition Labeling Trends

For fairly established companies (most companies exhibiting at the show are well beyond the very early stages), I was surprised to see a bit of disregard for nutrition fact labeling rules.

The majority of text on a nutrition label is supposed to be in 8 point font according to the FDA guidelines, which equates to a little more than 1/10th of an inch. The reason for this is so that consumers can easily find and read the nutrition label.

For products with less space for labeling there are alternative labeling styles (tabular, linear) and optional sections that can be removed (like the table of daily values per 2,000 and 2,500 calories per day).

However, many companies simply took the standard vertical label and shrunk it down to whatever size they wanted. Usually, your nutrition labeling software will already provide a nutrition label with the smallest allowable text, so scaling the image down afterwards is generally not a good option.

This shrunken nutrition label approach certainly makes sense from a marketing perspective, since most products aren't sold on the basis of their nutrition fact label. I'd be very surprised if there is any fallout, but it flouts the FDA rules and doesn't create a level playing field for companies that forgo marketing real estate for FDA-compliance. Then again, these are still relatively small companies that are taking every advantage they can. "If you ain't cheating, you ain't trying", right?

Other Trends?

We weren't the only ones at the show, so what else did you notice? What trends did we miss? Were you one of the companies flouting the FDA label rules? Come and defend yourself :)

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