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Jan 7, 2008 01:33 PM

Fancy Food Show Questions - for SD show [moved from SF Bay]

I plan on attending the Fancy Food Show which is being held for the first time in San Diego this year, and had a few questions posted to this board, since the FFS has been in SF until this year's show:

1. Blogs have mentioned how big this show is. I think the rules that I've read about so far are:

- Be selective in your sampling
- Have a plan (for example -- visit all chocolate vendors first, if that is your focus)

Any other recommendations on how to maximize one day at the show?

2. There's a show rule of "no removal of samples from the show floor". I was hoping to bring some samples home to share with my "other", since I don't really want to taste 100+ samples all at once during the show. My questions:

- How tightly do they enforce this 'no removal of samples' rule?
- Are they really going to search my backpack if I load it full of samples?
- Any hints about how to get around this rule?
- How open are vendors about sharing samples? Do they give away packages of product?

Thanks in advance!

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  1. IFFCS is extremely large, and the vendors are not necessarily arranged by product type, so visiting all chocolate vendors at once is not really a good plan, unless you only go to see one type of product. There is a focused tasting room, where they pick 3 items, and you can taste all items submitted in those categories (but those may not be what you want to taste). There are also the "pavilions" (specific aisles in the exhibit hall) dedicated to each country, but those booths are very small. I think if you go up and down each aisle, you'll see everything, but it's up to you to pace yourself and decide what to taste (or not). Take lots of notes, get all the spec sheets and leave your contact info with everyone you are interested in. Don't waste too much time w/vendors you already know, just make it an update kind of stop.

    As for sampling, they do enforce the rule, but I'll also tell you that on the last day of the show, you can get lots of samples right before the show closes. At least they didn't enforce it last year, and I saw many, many people leaving w/cases of product. Most vendors don't want to ship any product back, so they either give it away or donate it to the local food bank, as arranged thru show mgmt.

    Bottom line--go hungry, and enjoy yourself!

    1 Reply
    1. re: rednails

      I've been to the show a few times (not happy about it being moved from San Francisco I can tell you) DiningDiva is absolutely right about it being overwhelming. Things I would recommend:

      - Walk the floor as rednails suggests. The first time I went I stopped at pretty much every booth and found myself fairly full within a couple of hours. If anything really grabs your attention stop for a taste and make a note to come back. This helps especially as often times you have to jockey to talk to vendors who are scrambling to set up deals with everybody.

      - Leave the cheese for later. This my just be something for me as I have a thing for cheese that borders on pathological, but there are a number of quite well stocked cheese vendors which lured me in quickly and left me feeling like I had eaten 13 pounds of cheese before noon. Which I had.

      - Don't fall for the charms of the booze booths. Another first day mistake I made was sampling the various wines and beers that were at the show a wee bit too early. I didn't get drunk by any means, but had to fight the urge to just go lie down for a while. Those booths are very much worth visiting, just a little later in the day. 'Bout the time you're hitting the cheese perhaps?

      - Hit the outer edges of the show. The big names (big spenders) will all be located in the central parts of floor, however if you take the time to walk by the far flung edges of the show you will almost certainly find some gems. It's pretty easy to cruse those parts as there are also a lot of booths that you will be able to pass by pretty easily. That part of the show may be what you want to hit first as it goes quick and is a good area of the floor to take notes for returning to when the more popular booths get more crowded.

    2. I agree with a lot of what Rednails said. It's a very large show and it can be a bit overwhelming, particularly if you aren't used to attending food shows. Wear comfortable walking shoes.

      A strategy that has worked reasonably well for me over the years is to walk the show once to get a general overview of what's being shown. I make notes about booths and/or specific products I'm interested in and then go back later. This may not work for you if you've only got 1 day. I've also learned to be picky about what I taste. A lot of little tastes of lots of little things can quickly add up to too much.

      This is one of may favorite shows. It's fun and a little quirky. I'm really looking forward to it and am so gald it's in SD this year.

      1. They give you transparent bags for all the literature, etc. and I've seen them confiscate and empty ones that were full of samples at the exits. I don't personally recall them searching backpacks; I usually carry a bookbag or small messenger bag and haven't been searched. A bulging backpack might look suspicious, though. My only act of larceny has been to put some of the stuff in my pockets, which I doubt they will search.

        The generosity varies by vendor. Last year I was given a good-sized bottle of Nando's Piri Piri sauce because I happened to mention off-handedly that I liked the Nando's Chicken chain. Other places won't take a broad hint.

        I recommend two passes through the whole event, spread over two days if necessary (unless you are an avid walker, it will be necesary). The first time exercise restraint, sampling only what you absoliutely can't resist and develop a plan of attack for the second pass. if you have no self control, you can start from the opposite end on the second day. Keep in mind that a high percentage of stuff available for sampling will not be particularly chowish, and forget about sampling every flavor of every snack cracker, etc.

        1. I've been to this show a few times both in SF and NYC. It is overwhelming, to say the least. I honestly can't coment on the best way to attack the floor - vendors are spread out all over the place in lots of halls, and there is a lot of ground to cover. If you're looking for something in particular, I'd map out where the vendors are that you definitely want to visit and tackle those first. It costs a lot to participate in this show as a vendor, so there are a lot of specialty food gems that can't attend. What I'm saying is that you're not necessarily seeing the best of what's out there.

          As far as samples, I brought A LOT home on the last day, without any problems at all.

          I'm really shocked that the show has been moved to San Diego from SF. Not that my opinion matters!

          1 Reply
          1. re: nancyhudson

            It'll return to SF in 2009. NASFT presents their rationale for the occasional move on their website:


          2. I usually take a few minutes before entering to review the floor plan map in the show catalog, highlighting any "must visits". Then en route to those, I cruise by the other booths. Next time they're in SF, I'm going to plan a 2-day visit, as I just can't spend more than 2-3 hours at a time without ending up stuffed, sick and exhausted!