Trend Spotting

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

Conference Beat™ – Les Dames d’Escoffier International Conference Boston, November 2014

Members of Les Dames d’Escoffier International gathered in Boston for their international conference. This is a diverse group of culinary professionals in the food, fine wine and hospitality industry. It was a week of tasting, exploring and debating the hot topics and latest trends. There are always lively discussions and rarely unanimity on any issue when this group convenes.


Hot Topics Among Culinary Thought Leaders:

  • Old Fashioned is in vogue including heritage recipes, heirloom produce, ancient grains and vintage methods.
  • Sustainability is the imperative for farmers and fishermen.
  • Accessibility of high quality food as a basic human right.
  • Storytelling about flavor memories and food experiences with life changing impact.

Conference Beat™ – National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) Annual Conference & Show – Las Vegas October 2014

A glimpse of the attendees wearing everything from suits to blue jeans at this major national conference is immediate evidence of the diversity of offerings found in today’s convenience stores.


The U.S. convenience store industry has over 151,000 stores and accounts for nearly $700 billion in sales. More and more time-starved consumers are turning to convenience retail operations for on-the-go meals and snacks. The industry continues to evolve fron gas stations that happen to sell food to food retailers that happen to sell gas

  • While convenience stores have offered fresh, prepared foods for years, it is only over
    the last decade that the trend has accelerated. Food prepared on-site accounts for more than 62% of total foodservice sales.
  • The trend toward quality fresh food programs and trusted brands continues to grow.
  • Foodservice can deliver new customers inside the store, and at a higher profit level
    than gas.

Conference Beat™ – Natural Products Expo East – Baltimore, Maryland September 2014

Over 24,000 natural food enthusiasts attended this festival of conscious capitalism.  There is no mistaking that this is not a “big food” show.  Even the largest exhibitors are featuring collections of brands and products all designed for a unique consumer target. Everyone has a story about food, family and the passion that ignited their business.


Expo Highlights:

  • Consistent double digit growth in all categories of organic and natural foods brought 400 new exhibitors among the 1,200 that were present.
  • Accessibility of healthful food is on the minds of many attending this show that want to find a solution to serving the 24 million Americans who live in food deserts.
  • The politics of food and government regulation is a hot topic and the focal point of the Natural Products Association that works on behalf of the companies in the natural products industry.

Conference Beat™ – Flavor Experience – Newport Beach, California August 2014

Chefs and foodservice professionals from many segments of the industry and their food & beverage suppliers gather for this annual conference about the business of flavor and innovation to learn about new ways to delight their customers.  It is a non-stop flavor and tasting experience.


What’s New In The Business of Flavor:

  • Fresh and healthy continues to inspire menu development, yet indulgence worth the splurge is back in vogue.
  • New flavor experiences from Asia, the Americas and Mediterranean countries continue to captivate.
  • The quest for authentic experiences is driving a reinvention of “eatertainment.”
  • Forget dinner; it is always snack time in America.

Conference Beat™ – International Dairy Deli Bakery Association Annual Seminar and Expo – Denver, Colorado June 2014

Leaders in the dairy, deli and bakery business gathered for the association’s 50th anniversary.  Over 9,000 professionals and more than 1,500 exhibitors gathered to be inspired by keynote speakers and learn about the latest new products and opportunities for deli and bakery operations.  Conversations focused on the challenges and opportunities of consistently delivering healthy, interesting, fresh and delicious food to consumers.

 … More