There were more than 180,000 specialty products at the 2017 Fancy Food Show. I’m pretty sure I sampled at least half of them.
North America’s largest specialty food and beverage event came to New York’s Javits Center last week, featuring more than 2,400 exhibitors offering the newest confections, coffees, snacks, spices, drinks and more. The Medallion Retail team was there with open mouths and open minds.
“It was another record year for exhibitors and for space,” said Phil Kafarakis, president of the Specialty Food Association, in an interview with Food Business News. “Sales of specialty food and beverages reached $127 billion in 2016, surging 15% over a two-year period, while all food sales at retail grew 2.3%. The segment’s strong double-digit growth is expected to continue in the years ahead.”
Like most other retail categories, the specialty food sector needs to connect with the newly empowered, experience-hungry shopper.
The 63rd annual summer gathering showcased “…the consumer evolution to authenticity, sustainability […] and nutrition. This, and a focus on taste, continues to drive the growth of this business,” said Kafarakis. “When you think about specialty food, it represents almost 15% of what’s sold in retail, but we see opportunities in the future beyond just specialty food shops ... we see it mainstream now, with regional and national retail chains, food service [and] convenience stores.”
We saw that as well. Along with a lot of tasty popcorn, bagel chips and cheeses. Which we ate. A lot of.
But we came away from the Fancy Food Show not just with Camembert on our breath, but also with a fresh perspective on current trends in specialty food marketing, and their implications.
Trends and Their Marketing Implications
Food and Emotions
Food stimulates feelings, and not just sensations of satiety. Eating is ritual. The elements associated with food – the anticipation, the primal engagement of the senses, the preparation, the company, the sharing – all combine to create honest and memorable emotions.
There was true passion at the Fancy Food Show last week, which emphatically underscored the continuing trend of the emotional underpinnings of food.
The implication for marketers is simple: along with taste and quality, sell emotion. Evoke the feelings that surround the ceremonies of food – connection, caring, delight, tradition, nostalgia, surprise. Create Shopper Moments, interactions that are authentic and meaningful on a gut level (pun mostly intended).
Tell stories that touch the heart or the funny bone. Create narratives around the product that allow the shopper to see it as sustenance for both the body and the soul.
Another big trend at the show was innovation. We saw scores of fresh interpretations of traditional foods, along with some items that were categories unto themselves. New products, and new takes on classic items, mean more choices for the shopper – and stiffer competition among brands.
This means that marketers must find ways to clearly differentiate their products and brands. More than ever before, packaging and presentation must quickly and succinctly communicate a brand’s unique identity and value.
The store shelves are extremely crowded with comparable products. It is up to the marketer to make comparison unnecessary. We have moved way past shelf talkers. Time to turn the volume up. The item that grabs the eye, piques curiosity and shouts its unique advantage will be the category winner.
Who you are and what you’re into didn’t matter at the Fancy Food Show. We saw products that spoke to every lifestyle and life stage. The personalization trend was clearly on display.
Are you a runner? A gourmet baker? A busy mom? A reluctant hostess? An active toddler? A BBQ guy? A foodie? A traveler? A gluten-fearing vegan? Great! There’s a product for you. It will be up to the marketer to make sure you discover – and buy – it.
That calls for contextual marketing. It’s important to create an aspirational universe in which the shopper uses the product, and excels because of it. The mandate is to build a community that the shopper is proud to be a part of.
To do this, it’s critical to demonstrate an understanding of the special shopper, her goals and the life she leads. Answer her unasked questions: How will this product make me a better [fill in the blank]? How will using this product enhance my standing among my friends/coworkers/competitors? Highlight the product’s worth by placing it squarely in her world.