Last week I had the opportunity to attend one of our distributors food shows.
I have been to a few trade shows in the past, two ready-to-wear clothing shows and two food shows. At the clothing shows I was an intern and on the sales side working at BCBG's To The Max juniors line. To be honest, they had some great clothes and at the time I was stick thin and fit into their sample sizes. Once this was discovered I had a fancy outfit for each day but for the most part I was there to pull samples for the sales representatives, catalog clothing, and complete order forms.
In 2008 I went to my first food trade show for USFS in Atlantic City, NJ. It did not take me long to realize I did not like the food show. It was nice to be away from the office and working, but I wasn't there with anything specific to look for. At the time we were not evolving with food trends and I was still very new. The show attendees seemed much more interested in stuffing their face then acknowledging products. Buyers had entire families at the show eating whatever they could find and stuffing their bags with anything they could get their hands on. For the most part the showcased items were all of USFS's private label. I just didn't enjoy the show and I have not been back since. I did try to go two years ago thinking maybe it would be a different experience since I had been in my current position for a bit. Instead I found out that they moved the show to November and that is pretty much impossible. They think they are kicking off the holiday season and I think that concept in insane. This is food service and in November the holiday season has already started and if not places are busy preparing for it. I highly doubt just before the holidays product changes and additions would be a good idea, except for desserts.
Instead of going to that show my boss and I went to a different local show at Hofstra University that year. I don't remember much of it other then that show introducing me to greek yogurt and quinoa. Seems to me outside of the produce and specialty items made by the company they were focused on grains as exotic grains remains a food trend.
This local show is the same show we went to this year. Last year our representative forgot to send us an invitation. I am dying to buy more from this company. However, their website has awful navigation. It's very difficult to find anything and I have to be very tricky with my searches. They have amazing products though. This company is super local and buys their produce from the farms of Long Island. They even have a pamphlet book with all of the farms they buy from. Most of the farms I do not know but they do buy from my favorite local farm Calverton's Windy Acres Farm!
This show I picked up a lot of good information. In the produce area I like grabbing the information on seasonal produce because no matter how long I do this job I will never remember when it's pear season, apple season, tangerine season, etc... Right now I would think we would be coming into Tangerine season but we are not. It just ended and now it's Tangelos which is a hybrid of a tangerine and a cantaloupe. According to those who tried them today they are amazing. It's highly possible they will be labeled as Tangerines in stores though since they look the same. I think the label on the fruit itself says Tangerine. The box says Tangerine but the side of the box says Tangelos. I don't care for citrus fruit but they did smell wonderful. So I forget what season we are in often. I need reminders, because I like to bring in seasonal fruit from time to time.
My boss and I tried out a bunch of mircogreens. I never thought I would say I ate a pansy flower, but I did. The wildest of the microgreens that we tasted was buzz button (this is actually an edible flower). The buzz button is broken into tiny pieces and a tiny dab will do you. It looked like I was eating straight pollen. The representative told me to put it on my tongue and leave it there for a bit. A tiny piece of a buzz button left in an area of the mouth numbs it. It was so cool. It had a sweet taste and tingled but it numbed my tongue. They had suggested a use for these with cocktails and that they can be use as a numbing agent in dentistry. Very interesting.
I even tried some tomatoes. I don't care for tomatoes. Thanks to this show my new favorite pasta is Barilla Plus. I don't like whole wheat pasta so the idea of trying multigrain pasta does not sit well with me, but I got to try it at the show and it is really good. I also learned the difference between egg grades which for the most part has to do with how dense the yolk is. In a AA grade the yolk sits high and round in a B grade it is flatter. I also learned that when a hard boiled egg is tough to peel that means the egg is fresher then one that is easy to peel. So maybe that is why I had such a hard time cracking the delicious hard boiled eggs from 7eleven?
This local food show is a lot of fun. It's not heavy in private labels. They do have their own ready made gourmet food section, but it's not the entire show by any means. I like that I got the chance to talk with the manufacturers. Two years ago I had a long talk with the representative from Lipton asking why they do not offer gallon size decafe ice tea bags for restaurant wholesale. He had no idea either. Some products that are offered on the consumer end of distribution are not available for the restaurant/healthcare end and vice versa. I really want to bring in Gluten Free Bisquick but it is not available for healthcare only supermarkets. Very annoying.
Anyway, we had a good time and picked up some good ideas and lots of information.