New York has had two years off from hosting the Summer Fancy Food Show; the show took place in Washington June 17-19. Next June it is back in NYC where most people believe it belongs! De-mystifying the fancy food show is not easy; it is from a spectator’s point of view a fun ultimate tasting extravaganza but making sense of it and understanding how it works is another thing. As owner of Chelsea Market Baskets, we exhibit, showing our wares which include European “inspired specialty foods”and packaging or baskets mainly from China, that we wholesale. We shop the show for new lines or new items for our assortment which sometimes involve figuring out the distribution channels of the food business.

We sell direct to premium stores around the country our unique wholesale offering. We bring in regular shipments that are often consolidated in Manchester, England, including some products from France. Consolidating does provide economies to what we sell by minimizing our freight and hopefully shipping in full container loads, 20 or 40 ft. and minimizing customs clearance charges. Aside from a smaller importers like ourselves, the show includes booths that involve small, “home-made and home grown” business that might do a few hundred thousand dollars and spend a minimum of about $5,000 to exhibit and ship just direct to stores to a mega distributor that might do a few billion dollars of business or more and incorporate thousands of products. Also included are “country pavilions” which may be generously state financed and are looking for a smaller or a larger importer to bring their product to the United States, sometimes they do not know what they are looking for and get excited when any interest is shown but have the challenge of getting their products here.

Many people around the world think that America is the golden opportunity as far as exports go, others think of it as an expensive graveyard, in that it takes a good bit of money to penetrate the market here and often products, if not handled well, can “die on the vine.” The show is put on by a New York based non-profit organization called the National Association for Specialty Food (NASFT )that works on a fairly large budget. The American market involves more partners or costs in distribution that can include a good bit of in-land freight, warehousing along with brokers selling the product, adding to the cost and retail price and challenging its success. People that “shop” at the show come in many forms, smaller specialty stores like ourselves to big stores or store groups, like Whole Foods. Distributors, brokers, trade and press people all educating themselves to what is out there but hoping to find that next hot item that helps chart the direction of specialty foods.

Having done the Fancy Food Show for almost 25 years, walking the show is about zeroing in on some products that you can focus on, highlightand help chart the direction of specialty food. Figuring it out can be overwhelming and is hard tomake simple. Our spotlights from this year which will be in our store soon include;

BBQ, a continuing trend and I will also say “outdoor” foods

Bone Doctor BBQ sauces – Literally a few orthopedic surgeon in the Virginia area who love to BBQ and worked out a Sauce and Rub line with good tastes, has clever packaging, passion and probably less cash flow problems!

N.Y.J.O. New York Joe’s Onions – a retired carpenter form the board of education in New York City, packaging his own carefully researched recipe for onions to top hot dogs and grilled food.

Wild Thymes Moroccan (Morocco as an ethnic cuisine is popular now) BBQ sauce and Thai Chili Roasted Garlic dipping sauce – a well-respected brand that is self-made and not co-packed from upstate New York.

KimKim Korean Hot Sauce – a new company with a flavor profile that is new to the American palate and is trending well.

Lillie’s Q BBQ Sauce– Distributed by a Chicago company named JDY Specialty, new to the market but from a well-respected Chicago,grandmother inspired southern and BBQ restaurant. Also from this distributor, we are looking forward to BLIS Michigan based bourbon barrel aged – maple syrup, sherry wine vinegar and Thai fish sauce. Also coming from this distributor is The Scrumptious Pantry, Midwestern Farmer’s market produce put up the old fashion way.

Chocolate, Chocolate and Salt

Bars from Mexico–kiXocolatl, Bars from Columbia –Chocolate Santander more bars form Seattle – Chai flavor Theo to name a few.Seneca Salt Company in the New York Finger Lakes along with flavored salts from two Philadelphia chefs showing for the first time–Chef Salt includeone flavored with Bacon and BBQ.

Basically that is the food show both from a “selling” and “buying” perspective. We are not a big company nor are we a small company in terms of the food show, we may have a bit more perspective on what the food business is about and we try and focus on timely, quality foods that have passion and tell a personal story. This is an introduction to what we are about and what you are about to taste, hopefully.

David A Porat

Owner of Chelsea Market Baskets

Importer and Purveyor of Specialty Foods and Gifts

212 727 1111

A little about me…

Before signing a lease in 1996 for 20 years here in the Chelsea Market and creating this business, I worked at Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s in varying capacities including Corporate Buyer for Specialty food and gifts. I have had a life long passion for “inspired specialty foods” along with an eye for tastefully designed gifts.

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