Bill-Lynch_headshot_MR (002).jpgSource: Specialty Food Association

NEW YORK — The 2024 Summer Fancy Food Show is set for June 23-25 at the Javitz Center in New York. Supermarket Perimeter asked Bill Lynch, president of the Specialty Food Association (SFA), about the upcoming event.

What are you most excited about, looking ahead to this year's Summer Fancy Food Show?

I always look forward to discovering products and trends that surprise me at our Shows. We all go in thinking that we know which trends and flavors will be most prominent, but there’s always so much that’s unexpected too — I find that thrilling!

At this year’s Show specifically, I can’t wait for attendees to experience Debut District. This is a new featured area that, for the first time ever, brings together exhibitors with new products, first-time exhibitors, startups, and incubators. It’s the one-stop-shop for finding the newest of the new within the Show, and we’re opening these two halls 30 minutes early each day (9:30 a.m. for all attendees, and 9 a.m. for Key Buyers), because we think it’s going to be such a great draw.

What specifically can grocery retailers look forward to at this year's show?

Our Show has been rigorously optimized to make discovery and inspiration plentiful and easy to come by, and this is particularly true for retail buyers. In Debut District, six category-specific Pavilions, and the Spotlight Showcases section, retailers who are looking for specific kinds of products can quickly navigate to the exhibitors who are showcasing those exact foods and beverages. Need some gluten-free offerings in the red-hot “treats” category? Find them in the Confectionary, Snacks & Sweets Pavilion. Looking for products that deliver the at-home luxury customers are hungry for? Visit the Deli Pavilion for innovative indulgences that consumers crave.

In terms of inspiration, just walking our Show Floor and taking in the diversity and quality of products in every aisle is powerful. But in addition to exhibitors and products, retailers should browse our incredible lineup of sessions and speakers. There’s going to be a ton of inspiration packed into talks like “Savoring the Future” with Whole Foods Market CEO Buechel, “Feeling the Heat” with the Hot Ones / Heatonist team, and many more.

What trends has your Trendspotter panel spotlighted for 2024 — particularly concerning specialty foods sold in grocery fresh departments?

SFA Trendspotters have identified a number of 2024 interesting trends that put the “specialty” touch on produce and other fresh items. The top-selling category in specialty foods, which is snacks, may not be traditionally associated with fresh departments, but we’re tracking a trend around fruits as snacks that’s exciting. We’ve seen meticulously cultivated grapes and strawberries sold as occasion-ready treats, high-end melon with wine-like terroir and quality attributes, and more.

Another relevant movement that is huge and continuing to grow is around upcycled and upscaled, in which surplus or so-called “ugly” produce and food by-products are turned into new specialty delicacies, from dates to whiskey and beyond. Finally, mushrooms continue to trend, evolve, and mature as a specialty food favorite that can be found in the fresh aisles and nearly every other grocery department.

How is demand for specialty foods sold in grocery fresh, and what is driving it?

Specialty food consumers continue to demonstrate strong appetites across all categories, including products sold in fresh departments. SFA’s State of the Specialty Food Industry Report 2024-25, which will be unveiled at the Summer Show, reveals that specialty food sales grew 6.5% in 2023, to a whopping $206.8 billion. 

The demand for specialty products sold in grocery fresh stems from a number of central concerns we are hearing from specialty food consumers. 

As health, wellness, and fitness priorities drive specialty food shoppers to seek out fresh and nutritional products, grocery retailers can find value in sourcing the kinds of specialty produce of interest to these consumers, whether it’s fruits as snacks or upcycled dates or locally cultivated vegetables from independent farmers. Sustainability and environmental impact are also important to specialty food shoppers, creating an opportunity for grocery retailers to highlight the eco-friendly ethos behind specialty products they source.