Editor's Letter

In Full Swing

Tis the winter market season—and the chance for the 2015 Winter Fancy Food Show to once again play matchmaker for thousands of purveyors, exhibitors and buyers. This specialty food industry is seeing growth at an exciting time, and with the opportunity to connect with both homegrown and international companies, it's a buyer's delight. There's a long list of reasons why I truly enjoy this industry, but one thing that's inspiring in a retail setting is specialty food stores' habitual efforts to lace their shelves with small business after small business, small batch after small batch. This is a specific niche—and retailers have the tough job of reaching a critical mass of people while still providing their core customers with a variety of fresh and relevant product lines to keep them interested. I offer up congratulations to the independent shops of the world—this market is growing at an impressive rate, approaching $100 billion in 2016, and you're keeping pace while welcoming new customers left and right. Through conversations this year with chefs, buyers, cheese mongers and more, I'm ripe with optimism for the future, and you should be too.

Consumers have done an honorable 180 by taking interest in labels, ingredients and who they're buying food from. What was once a box of exclusivity, the specialty food industry has knocked down its walls and broadened its inclusion of healthfocused items, among others. This market's thriving on a sense of uniqueness at price points that match, but what's different today is the opportunity to bring items to the masses who truly care about what they're eating. We're seeing an abundance of locally sourced ingredients and sustainable promises, and according to year-end reports, more and more consumers are looking for those certifications.

Check out page 10 for an insight into today's specialty food consumer, as well as a gourmet gift guide that's sure to lead you right through the show. Flavored teas are also continuing their rise in popularity, so we've dedicated our Flavor Focus section (8) to the sipping staple. Check out page 16 for a revamp of down home barbecue items, as well as page 18 for a sampling of new and infused pasta sauces. Cheese and chocolate gifting have also spiked, so this issue, we've brought you new merchandise in confections (29) and cheese (26). We hope that these pages will arm you with the tools you need to have a truly successful and enjoyable winter gourmet market season.

Happy reading,
Megan O'Neill
Associate Editor