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Local, gluten-free, and organic lead at Fancy Food Show

Unit sales of specialty foods grew nearly 14 per cent, says association

Products organically made within 200 miles (322 kilometres) of stores and without wheat were the hit of the 2015 Summer Fancy Food Show in New York this week.

Every other booth, it seemed, promoted locally made, organic or gluten free items. Even Walkers, the famous shortbread biscuit maker from Scotland, is going gluten-free, introducing three new cookies using rice flour instead of wheat to Canada this fall.

Retailers and foodservice operators from across the U.S., and several from Canada, were treated to pavilions hosted by more than 30 countries covering the full range of specialty categories. The Canadian pavilion, tucked away off the main floor in a secondary expo space, featured about a dozen exhibitors.

VIP Seafood, a processor and distributor based in Shediac, N.B., has been exhibiting at the Fancy Food show for several years, gaining great exposure to American and Canadian buyers.

This year, the company introduced a new salmon line that is smoked before it’s frozen, giving it a unique flavor. “We have a super product that we want to get in front of a wider audience and the Fancy Food show helps us do that,” Sandra Lee, president of VIP Seafood, told Canadian Grocer

First-time exhibiter Duinkerken Foods from Slemon Park, P.E.I., was getting in on the gluten-free trend with a line of baking mixes and ingredients.

Ron Dehmel, sales manager for the company, said Duinkerken went to the expo to launch its products to the U.S. marketplace after having considerable success in Canada. “We’re having a great show and expect to have distribution of our products in the U.S. very shortly,” he said.

Other Canadian exhibitors included National Importers from Richmond, B.C., which was promoting its baby snack Baby Mum-Mum, and Crosby Molasses of Saint John, which promoted its Crosby’s and Grandma lines of pie fillings and more.

There was even real iceberg water from Berg Water, based in Mount Pearl, N.L., which claims to be Canada’s best-known luxury water.

The Specialty Food Association, which sponsors the Fancy Food Show, reported the Top 10 best-selling specialty food categories have shifted since 2013.

Cheese is still the biggest category with US$3.7 billion in sales, but coffee and cocoa have jumped over frozen and refrigerated meat, poultry and seafood for second place. Bread and baked goods rounded out the top five.

The fastest growing categories in unit sales are refrigerated pasta and pizza sauces, up 78 per cent since 2012, followed by refrigerated pasta and eggs, both up 53 per cent.

Other notable gainers in unit sales are functional beverages, nut and seed butters and energy bars and gels. Overall, unit sales of specialty food grew 13.6 per cent.

Retailers interviewed at the show said “local” is the most important product claim today, and predict it will remain so in three years.

In addition, about two-thirds surveyed are now selling products with non-GMO claims.

The Summer Fancy Food Show was held at New York City’s Javits Center and wrapped up today.

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