Earlier this week, we attended the Summer Fancy Food show. It's an enormous annual exhibition of passion, ingenuity and sheer sensory-overload. It filled the entire Javits Center. Any new food that we might see on store shelves or taste in restaurants in the coming months was probably on display first at the show.
Now that we've had a chance to reflect on all the products and ideas we saw as we walked the miles of aisles, and on our many conversations with chefs and manufacturers, we'd like to share our observations. In our opinion, it all added up to a lot of good news.
Good news for Voilà Chocolat, good news for you, and good news for the planet. Here are the top 3 themes we've gleaned from the show:
1. Life is going to be sweet, varied and beautiful
Honey appeared everywhere, both as a natural alternative to processed sweeteners and as beautifully bottled varietals to be savored each for their own unique taste.
Just as consumers continue to gain new appreciation for the diverse varieties and sources of foods such as wine, coffee, and cheese, they are about to be treated to new horizons in honey. We are happy to see consumer interest and manufacturer-driven education that foods such as honey can reflect all the uniqueness and variety of their geographic origin and of the people who produce them. This is something we love about chocolate, too.
Also, the more consumers know and love about honey, the more aware they may become about bees. While bees don’t pollinate the cacao trees from which chocolate is made (fun fact), bees do pollinate over 70% of the crop species that provide 90% of the global food supply. More people knowing and caring about the state of the world’s bee population can only mean good news for everyone.
2. Manufacturers and consumers care about health
Not only did we see less high fructose corn syrup and much more honey, we also saw agave and palm sugar. We saw foods that swapped out generally less healthy ingredients for more natural, novel ones. (Have you tried cactus yet?) We tasted snacks that snuck plant-based proteins where you wouldn’t usually expect to find protein. We spotted “all-natural,” “clean,” and “no artificial ___” on so many packages. In every category, including chocolate, we saw health concerns and benefits being addressed with thoughtfulness and transparency.
We’re delighted that producers across all food industry categories are emphasizing the nutritional value of foods and using healthier ingredients. Producing and indulging in delicious food does not need to be at odds with preserving health. We believe this ourselves, of course: we seek out and enjoy the health and nutritional benefits of a little cacao every day.
3. Companies are taking more responsibility
Alongside all the labeling and discussion of health, we also saw a lot more “non-GMO” and “Fair Trade” symbols than before. Many exhibitors spoke to the broader impact of their products and their business practices. There was a lot of new packaging designed to produce less waste, to be more efficient to ship, and to be recyclable. Several companies even handed out their samples on VerTerra natural palm leaf plates, which Voilà Chocolat already uses and likes a lot. We were intrigued and inspired by the number of businesses now taking the significant time and investment to really get to know their suppliers, such as by regularly visiting the farms where their ingredients are grown, sharing tools and tips with growers, and observing first-hand the practices being implemented.
An increasing percentage of food manufacturers seem to be prioritizing social and environmental sustainability. They seem to believe, as we do, that sustainable and responsible practices are not just a feel-good endeavor or a marketing tactic but a smart, long-term strategy aimed at preserving the very systems on which our food supply and our businesses depend.
Good news, all around.