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July 31, 2011 / joyful plate

joyful plate Fancy Food 2011

Fancy Food had its D. C. debut in July this year, so I road tripped down from NYC to explore the show. Joining me was Sharon Weiss, my first manager at P&G, dear friend and coach. Together, we compared notes on what brands inspired us in the 48-hour whirlwind of activity that is the Fancy Food Show. Observations include thoughts on positioning, brand experience, packaging and product.

First, here a few comments on a macro level to offer some perspective.

1. Brands are relishing in FLAVOR FRENZY. Chefs, mixologists and product developers are playing on polarization, combining opposite flavors from sweet to savory and textures from creamy to crunchy.  This sense of experimentation has become normalized by food television recently with shows like Bizarre Foods and Extreme Cuisine. The shock value of pairing bacon with just about everything has inspired unusual combinations like sweet potatoes with chocolate and coffee with cheese to set a new bar for the unexpected.

2. Demonstrations reached a new height of BRAND THEATRE. Brands typically put on their best dress for trade shows, but this year’s level of performance seemed to go way beyond creatively, offering a whole new kind of star quality to the experience.

3. More than ever, we saw brands express their REAL ROOTS. For a while now, the food world has been borrowing language from the wine world, talking terroir and creating a forum for food historians and anthropologists to explain food’s real history and origins (remember, 2010 was the year of the first-ever Sotheby’s heirloom vegetable auction…inspired by Beekman 1802). Food culture has arrived!

4. HEALTHY INDULGENCE is alive and well. Insightful brands are delivering doses of it -with healthy products offering gourmet taste and gourmet products gone fresh, local and organic.

5. The EPICUREAN HOSTESS GIFT is the new “bring” to a dinner party.  With the cost of food rising at exponential levels, food gifts are just as valuable as bringing a bottle of bubbly and a very personal touch for the for the semi-professional at home cook or grill man.

6. OLD WORLD NEW: Old world, authentic brands are more contemporary than ever, demonstrating mastery with artful design and daring to preserve their sense of culture on pack and in positioning.

7. A POWER OF PURPOSE is thriving. The responsibility revolution is alive and well, with companies doing good in their own ways, trying to make a difference given the many environmental and social issues we’re challenged with in our world.

Fancy Food Features (M.Lawton)

Lotus Foods Ken Lee wanted a better rice- better for you, better for people, better for the planet. So he developed Lotus Foods – where they believe that rice is life. Their “flight of rice” was the most fascinating experience I had at the show and a great example of BRAND THEATRE. We tasted from light to dark, starting with a Mekong-Flower-Rice from Cambodia (with a delicate floral aroma), then the Madagascar Pink Rice (a tropical blend with scents of cinnamon, clove and nutmeg). Next we tasted mineral rich Volcano Rice from West Java, and then a wild crafted bamboo infused Jade Pearl Rice. For the grand finale we enjoyed a Bhutanese-Red-Rice, grown for thousands of years at 8,000 feet in the fertile soil of the Paro Valley,  irrigated with 1,000-year-old glacier water.

Lotus Foods delivers on so many  trends today – like their POWER OF PURPOSE with their “More Crop Per Drop” method (50% less water, 90% fewer seeds=3x more rice). They also showcase their REAL ROOTS with heirloom varieties: hand crafted in limited quantities, with a bit of HEALTHY INDULGENCE- delicious rice with exceptional cooking quality, taste, texture and color.

Republic of Tea I’ve been following the Republic of Tea packaging for a while now but what I found so enchanting was their sense of BRAND THEATRE. I was greeted by their Master of Ceremonies, who explained that the Republic of Tea is actually an imagined “brand country” to engage and involve consumers, the trade and employees. They have a Minster of Creativity who creates new flavors, consumers are Citizens and stores are Embassies. Their mission is to create a tea Revolution, sip by sip vs. gulp by gulp, encouraging us to enjoy our daily tea moment for some HEALTHY INDULGENCE. Going back to their REAL ROOTS, they are focusing more and more on full leaf tea these days. I tasted a rich and silky milk oolong full tea and an unoxidized rooibos (raw black currant/cardamom). Celebrating their 20th anniversary, it seems Republic of Tea has never been more relevant, with a strong  POWER OF PURPOSE.

Vosges Chocolate It was love at first sight and bite years ago when a very dear friend and chocolate fanatic gave me a box of truffles from Vosges. I have been in awe of their sense of BRAND THEATRE ever since. Owner/Chocolatier, Katrina Markoff, personally chooses every spice, flower and chocolate in her Chicago kitchen. Vosges seems wonderfully exotic and new vs. traditional chocolates, and no wonder- their haut chocolat was inspired by the owner who trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. This is chocolate with an edge- from high drama from “day of the dead” lollipops to their brilliant display of truffles on vintage fashion newspaper. Yes, I am blushing over the branding here, but the chocolate was lovely and inventive as well with a touch of FLAVOR FRENZY with their new Smoke+ Chocolate Stout bars.

O Olive Oil I have always adored this packaging but had never tasted the product until show. Unlike other brands that infuse oil with citrus, O offers a little FLAVOR FRENZY by crushing fresh organic citrus & tree ripened olives together, for flavor that’s naturally pure and dense. I tasted their new mandarin olive oil with sweet & tangy bright flavors, just begging for fresh seafood like crab. The line offers some of the most beautiful branding I’ve seen making it the perfect EPICUREAN HOSTESS GIFT.

Beehive Cheese In our two days at Fancy Food I think I tasted this cheese at least three times – and there was a lot of cheese to choose from. According to Beehive Cheeses of UT, barely buzzed was a kind of eureka! moment – coffee spilled on cheese to create a tactile texture to this buttery, melt in your mouth experience. The cheese is hand rubbed with a Turkish grind from the Colorado Legacy Coffee Company (The Cheesemakers brother). French Superior Lavendar buds are ground with the coffee. The rub imparts notes of butterscotch and caramel, which are prevalent near the rind, but find their way to the center of the cheese. A happy accident indeed, and a good example of FLAVOR FRENZY.

Julians Recipe These Belgian Waffles are not only buttery sweet and heavenly but ready to eat as well (no syrup needed!). They’re made by Alex Dzieduszycki (creator of Alexia Foods and Terra Chips) who grew up in Europe and was inspired by an authentic Belgian recipe. They are a great example of HEALTHY INDULGENCE as well-they’re sweet yet all natural, made with no trans fats, artificial ingredients, hydrogenated oils or preservatives.

New Tree Chocolate A perfect example of HEALTHY INDULGENCE, Belgian NEWTREE invites you to experience a moment of pure chocolate pleasure that combines the satisfaction of fine cocoa and the pursuit of well-being- “natural born chocolates”. Their new Super Fruit offers of bright fruit flavors together chocolate with grape extract (a natural source of antioxidants), plus 3 times more fiber and 30% less sugar than similar chocolate. Motivated by responsibility, initiative and ambition, New Tree is also a great example of the POWER OF PURPOSE.

Sukhis Twenty years ago Sukhi Singh came to the U.S. with a dream of bringing Indian foods to American tables. The rest is history. After building the business through food service, today Sukhi’s is the fastest growing line in the natural Indian ethnic category showcasing their REAL ROOTS. Sukhi’s offers 15-minute meal solutions with slow cooked curry sauces, spice mixes and chutneys. The curry I tasted was flavorful and satisfying with a kind of HEALTHY INDULGENCE. What drew me to their booth was the sense BRAND THEATRE and. OLDWORLDNEW in their packaging particularly in the logo and color palette.

Fancy Food Features (S.Weiss)

Giuseppe Giusti My interest in attending the show wasn’t just for business; it was fueled by a personal passion for Italian food.  After arriving, I headed downstairs to the international food section. As I was browsing the aisles of cheeses, meats, and pastas my eye caught the distinctive, red wax seal, of Giuseppe Giusti balsamic vinegars.The packaging brought back memories of my visit to Verona where I purchased the most heavenly bottle of Giusti Balsamic Vinegar. Giusti is the oldest, most awarded, producer of Balsamic Vinegar of Modena.  While their original recipe dates back to 1604, today they are embodying the trend of OLD WORLD NEW  by introducing a new line of condiments and glazes that are creatively infused with flavors like pomegranate and raspberries.  They have also embraced new bottles that feature a “shampoo bottle” pop-up dispenser, so you don’t waste a drop of this precious commodity.  It is no wonder Giusti appears in the famous “101 Things To Buy Before You Die” making it the perfect EPICUREAN HOSTESS GIFT.

B.T. McElrath Chocolate You can teach an old dog new tricks – if the dog is a traditional chocolate bar. I was delighted by this wonderful pairing of dark chocolate with butter toffee and sea salt. Founder Brian McElrath let me in on the insider’s secret of tasting the chocolate first with the salt side on your tongue, which brings out the characteristics of the cocoa in the chocolate and then with the unsalted side down to bring out the buttery nature of the toffee.

Next we were led through a tasting of some of their newest chocolate truffles like Zinfandel-Balsamic, Chile-Limón, Dark Chocolate and Kaffir Lime and Chai-Spiced Honey Truffles, the new combinations embody the trend of FLAVOR FRENZY. One unique pairing was sweet potato ganache with pumpkin pie spice covered in dark chocolate.  It brought back memories of Thanksgiving dinner when you can’t decide between the sweet potato or chocolate pies, so you have both.

Lastly, B.T. McElrath has A POWER OF PURPOSE by supporting sustainable agriculture -sourcing chocolate products with a UTZ Certified Sustainability Program and implementing socially responsible business practices.

And here are a few other great finds:

Nuts & Nuts Cyrilla Suwarsa developed this business with the dream of providing much needed support to the local farmers to her native Indonesia who produce high-grade cashew nuts. Cyrilla, a talented designer, created the packaging herself. The brand also delivers on the POWER OF PURPOSE, contributing to the Lupus foundation-(Cyrilla was diagnosed in 2003).

Lorina Borrowing equities from the champagne region, Lorina plays on OLDWORLDNEW with their stylish French soda from the NW region of France (1895).

Partanna This gorgeous package is a great example of OLD WORLD NEW -absolutely authentic Sicilian Extra Virgin Olive Oil (since 1916) with a contemporary sensibility.

Julie Ann\’s Granola Her new granola offers a little HEALTHY INDULGENCE with unique flavors like decadent raspberry truffle, maple blueberry, tropical bliss and berry PB&J.

School House Kitchen 2011 joyful plate client (and new friend) introduced their new new poppy seed revival and coconut citrus vinaigrettes, offering a bright burst of sunshine. Profits support educational causes, delivering on POWER OF PURPOSE.

Rub Joe The ultimate coffee and spice rub, Rub Joe plays on FLAVOR FRENZY with their supreme seasonings you rub onto foods 1-6 hours before or during cooking. The fun packaging makes the perfect EPICUREAN HOST GIFT.

Copyright © 2011 –joyful plate LLC. All rights reserved. Photographs were taken by joyful plate at the Fancy Food Show 2011. Brand images are the copyright of the original owners. References to products are not an endorsement, rather a point of view on food and beverage branding trends. Trend names and imagery have been used to support these insights. Links may be provided to brands mentioned for the purpose of providing accuracy. For any edits or corrections to this information please email and we will update information as requested. Thank you.


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