For Joel Skurnik, the vice president of sales for Live Soda Kombucha, exhibiting at the Summer Fancy Food Show meant giving the company a line to reach a bigger mix of retailers in the natural, conventional and specialty channels than other conventions held during the second half of the year, such as the upcoming Natural Products Expo East.
He noted that for Live Soda, which markets a line of kombucha drinks formulated with mainstream flavors, “the path to least resistance seems to be [in] conventional versus natural.”
And as one of several first-time beverage exhibitors, Skurnik offered another compelling reason to why Live Soda attended the event:
“We’re hoping to find up-and-down-the-street distributors to penetrate New York City,” he said.
It was an often repeated answer from many of the companies that BevNET spoke with at the 2014 Summer Fancy Food Show, which was held earlier this week at the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan. The event attracted nearly 80 U.S.-based beverage companies, from start-ups and early stage brands to more mature and established operations, with many executives citing the opportunity of breaking into or enhancing their presence in the New York market.
Although most beverage companies at the event will be making their way to Baltimore in September for Expo East, the Fancy Food Show was, for some, an alternative to the natural products convention, and one that allows them to focus on core accounts in the metro market and Northeast as a whole.
“We’ve done Expo East, and it was OK for us,” NEO Water founder and president Ben Behrouzi. “We have a presence in New York, and there are bigger buyers here: Target, Costco and other large chains.”
Behrouzi also noted that because specialty foods event offered a less crowded setting for beverage marketers than other shows, ones often jam-packed with drink brands, Fancy Food allowed for more time and opportunity to meet with retail buyers.
David Peters, the CEO of Oatworks, an oat smoothie brand, echoed the sentiment.
“We had a good experience because there haven’t been too many beverage companies, said Peters. “You get to stand out a bit more than at Expo West.”
And while the Summer Fancy Food Show has long been synonymous with gourmet products, the event has in recent years showcased companies catering to a convergence of trends, with better-for-you formulations and exotic flavors melding into new and unusual foods and beverages. And with an army of independent — and influential — New York retailers swarming the show floor, the event offered some beverage companies a perfect storm of exhibition.
“In gourmet, there’s a growing need for healthy products,” said Health-Ade Kombucha co-founder Vanessa Dew. “[The show] is a good place to get retailer and distributor feedback.”
With a bevy of new product introductions, the event also gave companies a chance to debut line extensions prior to their launch in later months. Certainly, it was a key reason behind Mamma Chia’s decision to exhibit at the show, where the chia company unveiled its new Vitality + Energy line, a blend of hydrated chia seeds, fruit juice and guayusa.
“It’s perfect timing,” Hoffman said. “We had a lot of buyers that were wanting to launch the product in the fall, and it’s a great opportunity.”
While Motto has yet to add a secondary variety to its brand of sparkling matcha drinks, co-founder Tom Olcott nonetheless praised the Fancy Food Show as a convention where retailers are constantly looking for interesting and high-quality products.
“It’s kind of a cliché when you hear about ‘make a premium product, retail in a premium spot.” Olcott said. “This is a good place to introduce something new.”