By Lyn and Arthur Dobrin
Imagine they’ve combined all the specialty food markets you can think of—Zabars, Dean & DeLuca, Iavarrone, Eataly, Uncle Giuseppe’s, Grace’s Market, Fairway—and then added chocolate and candy shops, wine stores, cheese stores and ice cream parlors. They open all the showcases and all the jars and say, Eat! Have a taste!
This is the Fancy Food Show, a trade show for the food industry held each year at the Javits Center in Manhattan to introduce wholesalers and retailers (and those who write about food) to the people who make and distribute the “fancy food.” The Specialty Food Association, which sponsors the event that is also held at other times of the year in San Francisco and Chicago, is a membership-based trade association representing approximately 3,400 businesses. The SFA was established in 1952 to foster trade, commerce and interest in the specialty food industry in the U.S.
As food writers attending the show these many years we’ve discovered products from fledgling companies that have achieved success such as New York Ravioli, Paesana sauces, Madecasse Chocolate, Ajiri Tea and Boylan Sodas.
We especially enjoy meeting up with Long Islanders who are trying to make a go of it with their creations. Five standouts were Kerber’s Farm, Java Melts, Healthy Sensations, Little Bird Curious Confections and Viki’s Granola.
Kerber’s Farm, Huntington
Kerber’s Farm began as a poultry farm in 1941, with a farm stand and pie shop added later. It was prosperous for many decades but in 2013 it looked like its time was up. It was then when Nick Voulgaris III, who had frequented the place as a child, decided to restore the farm. Today Kerber’s is thriving again, offering pies, jams, condiments and home goods.
Voulgaris said this was his third year doing the show, as well as the show in San Francisco.
“Exhibiting gives us national exposure that has helped grow our brand,” he said. “We have sold our products in Bergdorf Goodman, Williams Sonoma, Bloomingdales, Neiman Marcus, and Saks—as well as hundreds of boutiques and markets around the country.”
Carolyn Barbarite said that the idea for Javamelts came to her on Valentine’s Day morning while her husband Tony was pouring her a cup of coffee.
“I have this crazy idea,” she said. The idea was the creation of individually wrapped flavored sugar cubes. She and Tony started the company in last year. This was their first Fancy Food Show, although the product has been offered previously on Amazon.
Javamelts come in four flavors: caramel, French vanilla, hazelnut and mocha.
Healthy Sensations, Syosset
Another company launched in 2016 is Healthy Sensations. This woman-owned company produces gluten and dairy free products. Owner Lynn Citron said their biggest sellers are the chocolate chip cookies, Italian breads crumbs and Tuscany crackers with Italian herbs.
Little Bird Curious Confections
In 2013, Sara Meyer started blogging about food and testing recipes. One of her husband Corey’s favorite treats is chocolate covered orange peels, so she started there.
“Once I realized how easy it is, I went on a candying kick,” she said. “I was candying everything in sight.”
In the kitchen were jalapeños, which Sara candied and then dipped in chocolate. She took them to work and co-workers asked to buy them.
“I think we have a business,” she told Corey. They found a mentor and a commercial kitchen. Little Bird is now in more than 90 stores across the country and with on-line retailers as well.
Little Bird Curious Confections‘ product line is all jalapeño based—spicy chocolates, jalapeño powder and Fire Syrup, honey-like with a kick. Everything they make is spicy and sweet.
Viki’s Granola, Bethpage
Viki Sater’s daughter Alexandra was the inspiration for Viki’s Granola. When Viki asked her daughter what she wanted her to bake for the school bake sale, all she wanted was her mother’s granola. No brownies or cookies, just granola. The granola was a hit and parents, teachers and people in the community asked how they could get it. The original granola consists of rolled oats, organic honey, canola oil, unsweetened coconut, sliced almond, sunflower seeds and pecans. Other flavors are blueberry almond, maple cranberry, banana walnut and apple cinnamon.
Viki started at the Fancy Food Show in 2012 and plans to continue attending every year. And so do we.