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Mar 10, 2013 05:05 PM

Anyone in the biz go to the New England Food Show today?

I'm curious on your take if you did. We just got back. It was our first ever (got badges for a possible startup we are considering) The floor was mobbed and difficult to navigate. Lines were very long at most booths who were giving out samples, and it almost seemed like many were there just to pig out on "free" food instead of getting information. There were some terrific gourmet products mixed in with the proverbial pizza rolls. There was some truly excellent products shown. One of our main interests were the various and varied bread bakeries, a few small artisanal bakeries were awesome and we never would have found them otherwise. Likewise with the charcuterie companies. The well know purveyors like D'Artagnan were there, but it was the smaller unknown craft curers that impressed. A few major distributors dominated the larger booth spaces. We were especially impressed with a couple of the Italian importers. The craft beer and spirits booths were so jammed the aisles were tough to navigate. I'm surprised the show planners don't either widen the aisles, or spread out the vendors. And what is with the lack of seating to rest the feet and look over the materials one collects as you go? I'd be curious to hear others impressions.

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  1. I'll letcha know tomorrow - I always skip Sunday because crowds.

    1 Reply
    1. re: enhF94

      Agree; since we were working all 3 days, we kind of passed Sunday in a haze, becasue lots of VIP badges, (um, most?) get given out to people who aren't even in food service...

      I actually wasn't that impressed with the bakeries; I'm more used to the locals that get much more play on these boards. OTOH, I hope La Nina Tortillas out of Everett gets a bigger distribution, because they are all natural and delicious, very impressive.

      I am already a fan of Green Mountain Creamery, a Greek yogurt maker out of Vermont, who was set up across from Paul Marks...And Paul Marks, of course, is a good place for getting a large variety of artisanal cheeses...Plus, did anyone visit Pete and Gerry's Organic eggs and sample their ethereal egg custard? Oh man....

      I love to walk the seafood said (we'll be on the seafood side next year, yay!) for every kind of fried, and frozen seafood.I'd grill a batch of steak, then say, "Okay, I'm off to find some fried seafood now!"..

      It makes me a little nervous to see some countries treating the ocean like a never-ending resource to mine. Of course, they're not looking for people like us, these are hard-dealing business people trading in seafood futures...

    2. Thought not in the biz, I was also there yesterday. I arrived early with comfortable shoes and low expectations. Since I'm not in the market for patio heaters, ice makers, uniform service, etc. I focused more on the food, and I share your impression. Mostly frozen fare for restaurant fryers. Some excellent imports, and I had some impressive ravioli. I was pleased to see spirits along with the beer, and the one table of Italian wines was pleasing.
      On the Seafood Show side it was a different mood. Many of the booths had small tables where you could see international deals being made. Having arrived at 10, we left before 2pm. My husband and I paid $12 to park, and decided it was worth it, but would probably not go back unless compelled.

      1. This year seemed a lot like last year to me - slightly better variety of vendors. A few comments on your impressions:

        sampling (that's what we're all there for, right?): this year had fewer boring cheese samples (yay), a bit more charcuterie (yay), and fewer pastry samples (sigh). Fewer samples total, but in my book that was fine and frankly less overwhelming. D'Artagnan didn't give out foie gras samples while I was there, but the Scottish fish booth did allow me a little Glenfiddich, which was... very nice of them indeed.

        I tried Budweiser Black Crown, figuring I'd never shill for an entire pint. It was sadly unpleasant on all counts and frankly I like regular Bud better. At least the taste of tin reminds me of my childhood...

        Hilarious moment of the show: SYSCO representative apologizing that the pasta was "a little al dente, sorry." She saw the shock on my face and said "yeah, I like it better this way too."

        Lack of seating: well, the target market is people who stand all day. My feet are tired, but all my friends who work on the line thought the carpeted floor was the height of comfort. I totally understand why civilians would want to attend/sample/gawk, but honestly, after the samples you'll be bored. There's a lot of stuff civilians don't like to talk about, like liability protection, label-makers, cost-per-unit, HACCP plans. If you aren't interested in contracting with a supplier, there's really very little to say beyond "thanks for my sample" or "love your product." Which, naturally, you can say a lot - but if you want a sample-fest, consider one of several charity-related events like Taste of Boston that are geared toward civilians.

        Frozen Product Battle: there are always two or three soft-serve booths, almost always with lines. The programmable "choose any of these eight flavors" frozen yogurt was a pretty-looking disaster; see pic below. I liked the soft serve in the corner ("we're almost out of vanilla so we're saving it for buyers") on flavor, texture and "seems like food" scores.

        High point: Sir Jeremy Bell, "the man in a skirt," was shilling for Gosling's. He's hilarious and will happily come to your corporate bonding gig to shill booze, teach you excellent toasts, and "edu-tain" you about several different Scotch, Rum or Absinthe ("Glenmorangie is more orangey, remember?").

        Once again, NOBODY in B2B was even considering moving to retail: combi-ovens, vac-sealers, micro greens - all off the table for retail sales. I can't blame them but dammit I want my specialty ingredients, thanks.

        Seafood Show: it's really something to see the enormous by-country displays. The photo below includes maybe a third of the total show floor, including Ecuador, Thailand, the USA, Indonesia and Vietnam. China is massive. There is fish everywhere and hardly any fishy or ammoniac smell at all.

        (Full disclosure: I've omitted any mention of booths staffed by anyone I know.)

        7 Replies
        1. re: enhF94

          Thanks for your impressions. Clearly, the Seafood Show is a far larger concern and a true International Trade Show. We didn't walk the floor as it wasn't an area of interest for us. We are putting together a business plan so the Food Show was an educational experience for us. We were there for ideas and to develop supplier leads, not for free grub. I've gone to many trade only shows (CES, Hardware, Housewares, Hobby & Craft Assoc. and others) and I've never seen one set up with a dearth of tables. Even more than providing a welcoming respite, it's a place to do business away from the booths where vendor and buyer and speak in relative privacy. Strange to ignore that IMO.

          I concur with your statements on the Soft Serve booths. I was also looking to see someone doing a true frozen custard and was sadly disappointed. Still, it was an enjoyable and somewhat informative experience.

          1. re: CapeCodGuy

            re: vendor/buyer business spots, I figure the organizers chose to pack the show floor as tightly as possible, and work out leads post-show. I assume the biggies send on-the-spot leads to the rooms off the show floor that surround the pit to follow up, and the small vendors rely on post-show follow-ups (scan my badge, etc.), but I'm not a buyer so I don't see that game up close. I guess this keeps the hawkers from getting tied up so they can collect maximum leads, and then everyone gets to follow the reconnect post-show.

            Notably, the Seafood Expo and Food show are _not_ simul-scheduled next year; I assume this means that business is up, one show (presumably seafood) needs more space, and the two events can afford to exist without the other.

            1. re: enhF94

              You are probably correct regarding the lead situation, but I think it's still short sighted to avoid the tables for attendees who might need a spot to converse about their findings so they can follow up in the booths themselves. At least that's what I have my people do when we attend a trade show en mass. Each split up and seek new and exciting, meet later and compare notes, then follow up as a group.

          2. re: enhF94

            Speaking pf the country displays, for some reason, "India says Quality Seafood" just cracked me up...I think Indian seafood, I think boney pomfret...

            1. re: enhF94

              Seeing all the things you get buy pre-frozen for restaurant fryers has kind of ruined bar food for me...;)

              1. re: galleygirl

                Oh, for sure. Moments like that were what stopped me from being "the guy who critiques the fries and chicken tenders." Also getting my hands on a SYSCO catalog or a USFoods catalog. Suddenly you care a lot less about "these guys do slightly thicker breading than the pub down the street."

                I guess now that I'm thinking about it, restaurants that serve that kind of thing get a per-dish pass from me, but the price for the pass is total max grade of C-. Not that I'm actually grading, but you get the point.

            2. I went today and found it smaller with more narrow aisles and some notables such as Baldor not participating. Lot's of good cheese, charcuterie and the like. The seafood show had lots of goodies too. I enjoyed much smoked salmon but the Louisianna oysters were tasteless, like at the super buffets.