Large International Turnout at New York’s Fancy Food Show 2023
Even as they tried to put last year’s U.S. port disruptions as a “bad dream”, foreign food suppliers, making a strong presence at the recent New York Fancy Food Show 2023, hoped that such disruptions would not recur in the future.
“Foreign food suppliers passed through some very tense moments as food shipments to the U.S., one of our biggest markets, lay uncleared for a long time at U.S. ports, particularly on the west coast,” said Servet Turgut, the export director of an Istanbul-based Turkish dry fruit exporting company at the show.
The show is North America’s largest event for specialty foods and is organized by the Specialty Food Association (SFA). Sales of specialty foods and beverages across all retail and foodservice channels neared $194 billion in 2022, up 9.3 percent over 2021, and are expected to reach $207 billion in 2023, according to SFA’s annual State of the Specialty Food Industry Report. The specialty market is composed of 63 food and beverage categories which combined account for nearly 22 percent of retail food and beverage sales.
The show attracted 2,400 exhibitors from 50 countries and regions, with Italy, France, Spain, Greece, Turkey, Portugal, etc. represented by large exhibitor contingents. Asian countries such as Japan, South Korea, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, etc. were also well represented. Morocco as this year’s “partner country” presented an array of products ranging from olive oil through dates to packaged tin foods.
Foreign exhibitors, eager to take advantage of the bullish trend in specialty food sales, were making a strong pitch at the show, even finding innovative ways to beat the inflation and the high freight and storage costs. One Malaysian company that seemed to generate considerable buyer interest at the show was Selangor-based Doluvo Bhd. Sdn., which used a clever marketing strategy to penetrate the U.S. market; it has been selling its “Pops Malaya” brand of shelf-stable ice lollies, using Amazon to sell its products. The “Pops Malaya” brand has, meanwhile, become the fastest selling item for Amazon. Doluvo, a 100% women-owned and managed company, attracted a steady stream of consumers and buyers.
In an interview at the show, Yasmin Karim, the company’s CEO/Founder, said that her company had established contacts with several distributors/brokers having business connections with retailers. “We work closely with the Malaysian agricultural ministry’s office In Washington. Our pops are made of a high fruit content, a characteristic appreciated by the consumers,” Karim said, adding her company would also participate in the ANUGA food show in Cologne, Germany, later this year.
Doluvo ships the pops as liquid which can be stored at room temperature, instead of deep freezing them which would require refrigeration all the way to the retailers. The liquid pops are purchased by consumers who can then freeze them in their refrigerators and consume them as frozen pops. Selling pops in liquid form is also advantageous because the ships take about two months to transport our containers from Port Klang in Malaysia to the U.S. east or west coast. The costs for shipping them in frozen form would be prohibitive as a result of the constant refrigeration needed for the long shipment period.
Another big Malaysian brand name at the show was Julie’s Mfg. Sdn. Bhd. of Melaka. While Julie’s is a household name in Malaysia and many other countries, its cookies and other products adorn the shelves of, mainly, Asian supermarkets in the U.S. The company now wants to break into the U.S. mainstream food market.
“We do sell our products to a mainstream distributor who, however, packages it under his own brand name … however, we want to sell these products in the mainstream market under our own brand of Julie’s,” Martin Ang, the company’s director told Global Trade at the NYFFS. Ang has regularly participated in the show in the past and has built up a broad business network in the U.S. Julie’s products are exported to 90 countries around the globe, with exports accounting for some 60% of its total turnover of about US$ 100 million.
Ang said that Julie’s peanut butter cookies were a fast-selling item in U.S. market; other bestselling items included Le-Mond lemon-flavored biscuits, chocolate/tiramisu biscuits, etc. Ang, who also participates in the Las Vegas food show, finds the New York show attracts more buyers. Like many other exhibitors at the show, Ang also wished the show would have longer hours, like they have in Europe, from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, instead of from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. “They can also extend it by one day to a four-day event and make it worth our investment coming here,” Ang said.
Buyers were minutely scrutinizing the olive oil products at the individual booths at the large Turkish pavilion. The business of some Turkish exhibitors had been adversely affected by the supply chain disruptions and cargo congestion at U.S. ports. However, they were happy that their shipments were now being cleared faster than last year at U.S. ports.
Davut Er, the chairman of the Aegean Olive and Olive Oil Exporters’ Association, the olive oil exporters’ interest group headquartered in Izmir, Turkey, who also owns an olive-oil company Eroglu, said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the supply chain situation, adding that Turkey’s exports in 2022 had been “twice as high” as in 2021. He said that Turkish olive oil exports this year were expected to grow twice as much as in 2022; he was expecting the volume to increase to 100,000 tons in 2023, up from nearly 50,000 tons last year.
But Er lamented that container prices were nearly three times higher from Turkey to the U.S. “We have encountered delays and disruptions (in deliveries),” he said. The Turkish government had also stopped giving subsidies to Turkish exporters because of the massive earthquake allocations which had resulted in budget cuts. He said that Turkey’s major competitor was Egypt for table olives. “However, for olive oil, our competitors are Spain, Greece, Italy, etc.” He said that the show had “satisfied our expectations”.
Bedri Girit, the chairman of the 7,000-member strong AEGEAN Aqua and Animal Products Exporters’ Association, said that Turkey exported in 2022 seafood products worth $ 1.5 billion, poultry $ 1.5 billion, dairy products valued at $ 0.5 billion and other food products worth $ 1.640 billion, totaling some $ 4.3 billion.
Girit said that inflation was a global problem and had dampened the demand for upper-end products.
Asked to compare the Fancy Food Show with other international trade shows, Girit said that the Dubai food show was more attractive for Turkish companies because Turkish food products were widely marketed in the Middle East whereas the New York Fancy Food Show is a channel to tap the U.S. market.
“Because of the rising health-consciousness of the average American, there is a trend towards consumption of low-sodium items such as nuts, olive oil, salmon fish, etc. Turkey can ship salmon by air cargo which saves time for the buyers.”
Steven Weisensee, the transportation sales manager of Continental Logistics of Cranberry, New Jersey, who had a booth at the show, said that his freight brokerage company handled between 7,000 and 8,000 TEU containers in 2022. The containers come, mainly, from Europe but also from Asia. “The crisis caused by past disruptions has eased lately,” he noted, pointing out that ports such as Savannah and Georgia were expanding berths and other infrastructure assets. He said that Savannah port was efficiently organized both for truck and rail transportation. (End)
Side bar – Bill Lynch, SFA President, Calls Show a “Record Breaker”
In an exclusive interview, Bill Lynch, the President of the Specialty Food Association, which organizes the New York Fancy Food Show, was pleased with the run of the show which he described as a “record breaker” after the gloom that descended during the pandemic. Lynch, who spoke of double-digit growth in the number of exhibitors at this year’s show compared to the pre-pandemic figures, noted that consumer tastes are changing, with people looking for healthy food items.
“They are looking for alternative foods which are nutritious … global flavors are in and new products keep coming in from different countries,” he said.
When asked to comment about supply chain disruptions, he said that during the pandemic there were supply problems such as access to glass for packaging, port congestion, inflation, scarcity of labor during the pandemic, etc., all of which contributed to delays and shortages.
Consumers have more access to products and they are paying attention to processing and scrutinizing the environment footprints.
Morocco was the “partner country” this year with its pavilion presenting a colorful look and its exhibitors showcasing a large array of food and agricultural items. “The ‘partner country’ presentation has been successful and will be continued,” he added.
Lynch pointed out that 337 million pounds of food were annually exported to the U.S. He said that educating buyers and consumers in the U.S. about their food products would help the exporting countries penetrate the U.S. market.
The SFA has been working closely with a number of countries and has sent missions to countries such as Italy to help the suppliers showcase their products at the Fancy Food Show in New York.
As demand for display space grows, Lynch revealed that the SFA was looking at expanding or utilizing “to the fullest” any unutilized space.