Trend Spotting

Conference Beat™ – SNA National Conference: San Antonio, July 2016

K-12 School Foodservice Professionals gathered in San Antonio for the School Nutrition Association’s (SNA) Annual National Conference (ANC). These experts honed in on topics surrounding new products, services and programs to gain further education on their school’s meal curriculum.


Global Tastes

School Foodservice Directors from across the country discussed the challenges of how to deliver satisfying and culturally relevant meals to a diverse student body. A few suggestions included: featuring a food specific culture each week, engaging parents, providing lots of choices and sampling products.… More

Conference Beat™ – NeoCon: Chicago, June 2016



NeoCon is widely recognized as one of the most influential trade shows for commercial design. This 48th annual conference temporarily houses over 500 leading companies within the commercial design industry, and attracts over 50,000 design professionals and business consultants. It is an important show to spot cutting edge trends in workplace design.

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Conference Beat™ – National Restaurant Show: Chicago, May 2016

NRA Show Photo


The National Restaurant Association (NRA) annual International Foodservice Marketplace is an annual event where 2,000+ companies showcase their work to more than 63,000 chefs, buyers, designers and operators. This year’s show was a great place to see enduring trends.


Industry Highlights

The foodservice industry is poised to grow 3.2% in 2016, according to the NRA Economic Forecast. Retail platforms and hospital/nursing foodservices can expect to see the highest growth in 2016 at 5.8% and 5.2% respectively.

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Conference Beat™ – Sweets & Snacks Expo: Chicago, May 2016



The Sweets and Snacks Expo is a mesmerizing experience as professionals wander through the McCormick Center with their bag of sweet and tasty snacks. This year’s show continues to grow with nearly 17,000 attendees and 750 exhibitors from around the world, a 20% increase from the previous year. It’s an exciting place to spot emerging trends in the sweet and savory snacks industry. Buyers representing supermarkets, mass merchandisers and specialty retailers all attend the show.


Business Dynamics

Confectionery items account for $35 billion in retail sales according to the National Confectioners Association. Most U.S. Consumers eat candy about twice a week and average 40 calories a day from candy.

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Conference Beat™ – Edible London, May 2016

Les Dames d’Escoffier London create a bi-annual culinary symposium and tour of the London and international food scene exclusively for members of Les Dames d’Escoffier.  The event offers the opportunity to experience, discuss and debate emerging global food trends.

Modern Cooking

Today’s over-scheduled, over-programmed families appreciate meals made at home, but also crave the convenience of meal kits, simple and flavorful recipes, and speed scratch ingredients.  In the UK, chilled meals that can be picked up on the way home from work provide quick and delicious meal satisfaction.… More

Conference Beat™ – NAMA: Chicago, April 2016

This is the meeting where vendors and suppliers in office coffee service, micro-marts, and vending come together to build relationships and grow their hospitality business.  The lingo is somewhat different in this segment, where operators act as distributors and consumers are everyone who populates workplaces nationwide.  NAMA is the association representing the $25 billion U.S. vending and refreshment service industry, with more than 1,250 companies.


Business Dynamics

Refreshment services range from small businesses providing packaged snacks and drip coffee, to large corporations offering sophisticated specialty coffee brewing systems and catering service to keep employees engaged and in the workplace.


Micro-marts are gaining momentum in lieu of traditional vending, allowing for more consumer choice, fresh foods, and flexibility of payment and product selection.… More

Hot Spots & Hidden Treasures – Chicago Restaurant Recommendations 2016

The Bird is the Word

From hot to honey, restaurants dedicated to crispy, brined and juicy fried chicken are emerging all over Chicago. Focused menus highlighting the bird and not much else are to be expected at most of these hot spots.


“Fried chicken is the next comfort-food favorite to be swept up in our food renaissance…New concepts focused around fried chicken as a flagship item differentiate with signature touches and affordable price points.” – Sharon Olson, Culinary Visions


Conference Beat™ – SIAL Canada: Montreal, April 2016

SIAL is the global network of trade conferences that focus on innovation, insight and inspiration for companies dedicated to the food and beverage business.  There are eight major shows throughout the world that draw over 300,000 visitors from 200 countries. The Montreal exposition is the largest food innovation trade show in North America, and features exhibiting companies and educational programs for those in the gourmet retail, deli and foodservice sectors of the business.

Innovation Insight

Interest in trying new products is high with North American consumers – 78% of Canadians and 76% of Americans like to try new food and beverage products.… More

Conference Beat™ – Fancy Food Show: San Francisco, January 2015

The 40th Winter Fancy Food Show continues to thrive with more than 19,000 attendees and 1,400 exhibitors from around the world. Buyers attending the show represented many of the nation’s leading gourmet and specialty food retailers as well as major supermarkets, mass merchandisers and foodservice industry segments including college and university, healthcare, airlines and restaurants.


The largest food categories represented at the show were cheese, meat/poultry/seafood and chips/pretzels/snacks. The fastest growing exhibitor categories are nut/seed butters, eggs and frozen desserts according to the Specialty Food Association.


Gourmet Retail Market Dynamics:

  • Conscious capitalism characterized many of the exhibiting companies that were proud to showcase their efforts to make a positive difference for those involved in bringing their products to market.
  • Incubators and accelerators are helping entrepreneurs move out of their kitchens to meet the demands of consumers’ heightened interest in small batch producers.
  • The movement toward mindful dining has consumers rethinking indulgence with a healthy perspective.

Conference Beat™ – Private Label Manufacturers Association Store Brands Reality Trade Show, Chicago November 2014

It was another record breaking year for the Private Label Manufacturers Association (PLMA) show. 2014 was the largest in the association’s 34 year history; over 4,250 visitors and 1,335 exhibitors.


The global presence of private brands was very much in evidence at this show. The Idea Supermarket® showcased products across North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America.


Private label brand growth continues to outpace national brands. According to The Nielsen Company, private label unit share in supermarkets has reached 23.4% and dollar share is now at 19.4%.   Total store brand sales reached $112 billion last year.


Although this show is largely about retail products, there has been a growing representation of companies who package foodservice products and work with chefs and restaurant brands interested in building a retail presence.


Private Label Market Dynamics:

  • Successful companies in the private label business are moving from a quick follower strategy to a greater focus on innovation
  • Understanding shopper needs is at the core for successful brands
  • New product focus is evolving to greater specialization to capture niche markets