The Specialty Food Association hosted its 45th winter show last week at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.
The show is a marketplace for food manufacturers, buyers, distributors, investors and marketers. It’s a showcase for food as business as well as food as joy. Attendees and exhibitors are looking for the latest trends and innovations that might lead to the next item on their menus and store shelves.
From walking the show floor to try the products and to hear the stories of the passion and tenacity that went into developing these brands, to attending the education sessions where some deeper insight was available from industry movers and shakers, there was plenty to inspire and inform.
Here are a few of our favorite takeaways from the show:
- Personalized Nutrition: Datassential’s Trendologist Mike Kotyos broke down the developmental phases of the health and wellness uber trend that has transformed our food culture for the last decade. Kotyos suggested 1.0 was defined by weight management products. 2.0 featured feel good food. 3.0 (today) we are hungry for functional foods and beverages. And tomorrow the action will be in personalized nutrition. Imagine direct-to-consumer meals based on DNA analysis.
- “Genzennial”: Loved this term used by My/Mo Mochi’s Russell Barnett to describe his brand’s focus on the trendsetting Gen Z and Millennial targets.
- Values-Based Brands: Speaking of Gen Z, they are demanding a lot more from their brand choices than just good taste and organic ingredients. Want to forge a connection between your brand and Gen Zs? 82% said they bought a food and beverage item for the first time because the brand aligned with their personal values.
- The Rise of Foodservice: The incredible success of Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger through foodservice has awakened food and beverage marketers to the power of this channel. Not surprising, as grocers are finding more margins and success in prepared foods and the growth at restaurants is primarily in pick-up and delivery.
- Best Bite: Our single best bite on the show floor was a morsel of a grilled cheese sandwich from Miyoko’s Creamery. The brand’s promise is “Revolutionizing Dairy with Plants”. Founder, Miyoko Schinner has steadily progressed from vegan butter to artisan cheeses. But now she’s making the leap toward ubiquity with sliced cheddar (made primarily from oats and beans) and aiming at Gen Z (check out the great kid demos at www.miyokos.com) with a grilled cheese that tastes like the real deal but is better for the planet.
The driving forces of growth in Specialty Foods these days are plant-based and functional beverages. Products in these categories are developed for the Natural Food channel, but the cycle in which they are migrating to mainstream – supermarkets, mass, drug and convenience – is rapidly compressing. And in a mobile world where “one-handed snacking” rules, getting more of one’s overall nutrition from a beverage just works. Now, if firms like San Francisco-based Full Cycle Bioplastics can deliver a fully biodegradable plastic bottle at scale for big beverage companies, maybe we can all feel better about getting that functional nutrition boost (perhaps one even tailored to our DNA) from a convenient plastic bottle.