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    Denise Purcell
    The SFA’s newly released State of the Specialty Food Industry + 10-Year Category Tracking & Forecasts, 2022-2023 edition, digs into the current business environment. Following are four insights and takeaways from this year’s research.
    The Supply Chain’s Impact on Growth
    The parts of the industry that will grow in the next few years in part hinge on supply chain bandwidth. Makers continue to report they are unable to properly forecast their sales because they often don’t know what their supplier shipments will look like. Lead times for shipments fluctuate, too, causing production schedule delays. All of this influences how makers formulate their products, as they evaluate which SKUs they can confidently produce, made with ingredients they can reliably source and price properly to achieve profit despite increased raw material costs. And once they have products ready for retail, they’re further challenged by shipping logistics, as the trucking industry faces its own issues with short-staffing and rapidly rising fuel costs.
    BIPOC- and Women-Owned Brands in Demand
    Consumers want more BIPOC-, Black, and women-owned brands and retailer buyers and foodservice operators are seeking out incubators, brokers, b2b wholesalers and distributors, and even sales consultancies that specialize in supporting and growing these brands. Showcasing these brands has moved far beyond seasonal features to align with observed months like Black History or Women’s History, and will continue to expand.
    The Next Retail Formats
    The pandemic gave retailers insight into store formats shoppers want next and smaller footprints with minimal human contact are in demand. Expect fast growth of these formats among traditional grocers, who are also reintroducing areas since the COVID scale back with new ideas. For example, redesigned sets like salad bars that are smaller and less labor-intensive and more grab-and-go opportunities. Ghost kitchens and mini fulfillment centers will be prevalent as well. And convenience stores are well-placed to do more ready-meals and foodservice. On the flipside, businesses that were built around high-touch, personal experiences to build loyalty and trust are struggling with the rising demand for convenience, pickup and delivery. They are fulfilling their customers' needs but wonder if it weakens their original position.
    Specialty eCommerce Targets
    In 2019, specialty ecommerce sales amounted to about 4.5 percent of all specialty retail sales. In just two years that share doubled to 9.4 percent, and it will expand further over the next several years, though not so rapidly. By 2023, specialty ecommerce will account for 11.6 percent of all specialty retail sales. For many makers or retailers that sell specialty products, these numbers can be a benchmark for their own goals with specialty ecommerce. Brick-and-mortar retailers ideally should be reporting online sales at roughly the same share percentages as noted above. Likewise, makers that sell their products in ecommerce, whether it’s DTC, or through Amazon or other online avenues in brick-and-mortar retail, should ideally be seeing an online sales share approximate 9-12 percent of their total retail sales in 2021-2023.
    Plant-Based Challenges
    The overall plant-based specialty retail market grew 6 percent, exceeding $7.7 billion in 2021, after stellar 26 percent growth in 2020. Plant-based growth has outpaced the entire specialty retail market, which grew 4 percent in 2021 and 20 percent in 2020.  However, some plant-based categories were among 12 total that grew specialty sales slower than the entire market in 2021. These include Yogurt and plant-based yogurt; Tofu; Creams and creamers (Shelf stable); Plant-based milk (Refrigerated); and Plant-based milk (Shelf stable).  A given category’s degree of maturity, innovation opportunities and in some cases, vulnerability to other emerging category adjacencies may cannibalize sales in specialty. The largest growth gap is with Plant-based meat alternatives (Refrigerated). It grew 34 percent in specialty but 66 percent in the total market. Historically, this category has been composed of 97 percent specialty items, but it changed in the last three years and now non-specialty items are contributing to much of the growth.
    Specialty Beverages Grow Faster than Food
    During 2020’s initial height of COVID, specialty food grew faster (21 percent) than beverages (16 percent), but that shifted in 2021 as specialty beverages grew twice as fast as food. It comes down to consumers seeing certain products as critical, and others as discretionary. In this instance, food was more a consumer priority during the initial phases of COVID but over time, consumers expanded their shopping lists to include more specialty beverage purchases. RTD alcoholic beverages like hard seltzer, hard kombucha, and fermented functional cocktails, in particular, are growing rapidly.
    Opportunities in Perishables
    New this year, we took a closer look at specialty perishables sales, which are expected to reach nearly $33.5 billion in 2022. Perishables (random weight, non-UPC’d specialty items sold in bakery, cheese, deli, meat, and seafood sections) are critical to specialty, both in scale and as a good source of growth. For specialty retailers, perishables departments represent enticing, creative merchandising and execution. Plus, they are important centers for emerging food and beverage innovation that may eventually migrate to packaged goods categories.  
           After being challenged by shutdowns during COVID, perishables can expand to better meet consumers’ needs for hot, ready-to-eat or take-home, heat-and-eat fresh meals; meal kits; sandwiches, side dishes, and salads; breakfast foods; confections and desserts; and hot and cold beverages. But retailers must adapt post-pandemic as many consumer prefer to buy sealed, pre-packaged products (even those prepared in-store), which they perceive as fresher and/or safer. 
    The new State of the Specialty Food Industry research is available for purchase here. SFA members receive discounted pricing.

    Julie Gallagher
    Learn more about the people and products in these Q&As with Specialty Food Association member companies. 
    What does your company produce? 
     Pistachio butter. 
    Did you have a food background before launching your company? 
    No, this is my first time launching my brand and product. I am, however, a health enthusiast and am passionate about food and the food industry. 
    How did the idea for your product/company come about? 
    I founded Seed & Shell with the belief that we can all harness the seeds of potential within us and break free from our shell of self-limiting beliefs to achieve our dreams. In 2019, my mom brought me a gift of pistachios following a family health scare. Pistachios became my snack that got me through those difficult times while I was in the midst of struggling to meet the demands of both my personal and professional life. I knew I could rely on them for their nutritional benefits and also to keep me satisfied.  
    Inspired by my love for pistachios, which are (technically speaking) seeds, and not nuts, I founded Seed & Shell so others could enjoy pistachios in a fresh, new way (like with our pistachio butter). While my initial purpose was to spread awareness to the amazing health benefits of pistachios, I realized along the way that Seed & Shell represented a challenge to myself for personal growth. 
    Why did you get involved in specialty foods? 
    As a foodie and health food enthusiast, I personally am a big fan of specialty foods. They have always been an important part of my lifestyle and my dietary preferences, and I love the fact that so many specialty food brands exist to make a difference in people's lives by bringing new and exciting foods to the market. 
    What is your favorite thing about the specialty food industry? 
    The selection of high-quality and new products that specialty food brands bring to the table. 
    What is one piece of advice you’d give a new specialty food business? 
    Enjoy the journey. 
    If you weren’t running a food business, what would you be doing? 
    I couldn't even be thinking of anything as meaningful that I would be doing with my time other than running my business. I am truly passionate about my company. 
    What does specialty mean to you? 
    Specialty food means being the risk taker of the food world. 

    Julie Gallagher
    How long have you been with SFA and tell us about what you do?
    I’ve been with the SFA for 3 months. I am Bill & Lysa’s Executive Assistant.
    What is your favorite memory or experience from your time with the SFA? The Summer Fancy Food Show. It was amazing to see it for the first time, and I loved being able to engage with the members.
    Where were you born?
    Matawan, NJ
    If you could only pick 3 foods to eat for a month, what would they be?
    Pasta, Chicken & Broccoli
    What is your fondest food memory?
    Every year around the holidays all the ladies in my family get together and bake cookies, and it is one of my favorite traditions.
    Do you prefer to eat in or dine out?
    It depends on who is doing the dishes! (Which is usually me) So I’ll go with dine out!
    Best piece of advice you have been given and has served you well?
    Don’t make decisions when you’re angry
    What is the strangest thing you’ve eaten?
    Alligator Tail
    What is your favorite food city?
    Charleston, South Carolina has delicious food and some of my favorite restaurants.
    If you didn’t have to work for a living, what would you do?
    Travel around the world, I love to explore new places.
    Where is your favorite place that you have traveled to?
    Costa Rica 

    Denise Purcell
    The specialty food market has prospered amid two difficult years. According to SFA’s newly released State of the Specialty Food Industry research, the market hit $175 billion in retail, foodservice, and ecommerce sales is 2021 and continues to grow at a faster rate than all food.
    Growth will continue but at a much slower pace than the industry experienced in the 2020 stay-at-home whirlwind of grocery shopping and at-home meal preparation. The market faces well-known challenges due to inflation’s role in pushing food prices, supply chain difficulties, fuel cost increases, packaging shortages, and shipping issues. Growth over the next few years depends heavily on shifts in these challenges and supply chain bandwidth.
    In the Summer issue of Specialty Food magazine, you can discover the highlights from this year’s research, such as sales and forecasts in key segments, fastest-growing categories and subcategories, and COVID’s impact on category sales. In addition to a deeper dive into all this data, the full 112-page research— available for purchase in the specialtyfood.com Learning Center—also details key trends driving opportunities and decision-making in the market. Here is a preview of some:
    Home cooking and baking slows as COVID subsides. As COVID took hold in 2020, consumers returned to kitchens in full force. Up until then, consumer food spending had been pretty evenly split between groceries versus at restaurants, but tilted heavily back on groceries almost overnight, with specialty benefitting from the shift. Fast-forward through 2021 and dollar sales growth in various cooking/baking categories has taken a turn, giving back much of the 2020 COVID gains. But unit sales through April 2022 are strengthening, suggesting that home cooking/ baking will remain a long-term trend but not nearly as strong as the pandemic-influenced phenomenon.
    Collaboration carries the industry forward. Supply chain challenges necessitated long overdue SKU rationalization, not only among makers who have pared down production to essential products, but also retailers who are more cautious than ever about bringing in new products. The impetus is on makers to innovate with far more thought, R&D, and investment. Innovation centers, incubators, and culinary kitchens are ramping up efforts to help producers design, package, and create products that will make their way into specialty retail.
    BIPOC- and women-owned brands in the spotlight. Consumer desire for brands from Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC)- and women-owned companies is skyrocketing. According to the State of the Industry’s companion research, Today’s Specialty Food Consumer, published in September 2021, 17 percent of specialty food consumers say they buy specialty food “to support diverse suppliers (e.g., women-, Black-, BIPOC-, LGBTQ+-, veteran-, disabled- owned companies).” Meanwhile, 22 percent of SFCs said they prefer to shop in stores that feature these types of brands/products.  
    Increasingly incubators,  distributors, and brokers are specializing in supporting diverse-owned brands. Retailer and foodservice operators are also seeking out a broader diversity of brands. Target launched its Racial Equity and Change program with plans to spend $2 billion+ with Black-owned businesses by 2025. Pop Up Grocer featured a Washington, DC spot to highlight brands that are women-owned, BIPOC- and queer-owned, and/or local. Many specialty retailers, such as PCC Natural Markets, are retooling their mission to address Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, which is translating to product assortment in stores.
    To learn more about The State of the Specialty Food Industry + 10-Year Category Tracking and Forecasts, 2022-2023 Edition,  look for upcoming information about our webinar on July 21.  

    Denise Purcell
    The SFA’s Regulatory Update webinar series is designed to educate and inform about the latest legal and regulatory updates around food production and distribution. Hosted each month by Jeni Lamb Rogers, associate general counsel of supply chain at Branded, the webinars cover such topics as Standards of Identity, food safety, labeling claims, and FDA regulations.
    Here is a sampling of information shared at some recent webinars. You can click through to find the full recordings, which are free to SFA members.
    “Although there is the common perception that they are outdated and irrelevant, the Standards of Identity still matter and can have legal consequences. They are most relevant to products or ingredients like cheeses, macaroni and noodles, fruit butters, jellies, preserves, cacao, sweeteners, salad dressings, and flavorings.—FDA Action to Modernize the Standards of Identity
    A Shared Facility Declaration won’t prevent a recall if the allergen ends up in the product, but it could be used as mitigating evidence in a lawsuit because you attempted to provide a warning. Furthermore, it’s really about deterrence.—Are You Recall Ready?
    The first step that a company should take is to create an internal health hazard evaluation, which should happen one to two hours after the discovery of an issue. Then, outside counsel should be engaged, typically within a business day.—Advanced Topics in Food Allergen and Gluten-free Labeling
    In the FTC’s eyes, an influencer’s endorsement is the same as a consumer testimonial, meaning it must comply with the same standards. The endorser of a product must have actually tried it, as well as been honest in their review of it. The influencer cannot make claims about the product that would require substantiation that the company doesn’t have, such as health or environmental benefit claims.--Influencer Marketing Compliance  
    Regulatory Update webinars can be viewed live or recordings can be downloaded any time. Here is the webinar schedule for the month. And to ask questions or continue the conversation, you can go to this forum.

    Lysa D Teal
    SFA is proud to announce a partnership with (included)! The (included) membership collective is for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) executives in CPG who are dedicated to one another’s success, who advocate for diverse representation, and who commit to amplifying BIPOC voices and brands. (included) has a membership of approximately 70 BIPOC-owned CPG companies that are actively looking for ways to expose their brands and products to top-tier buyers. 
    The Specialty Food Association is likewise committed to fostering a diverse, equitable, and inclusive community of specialty food makers, buyers, and consumers. This partnership presents an opportunity to break down the traditional barriers of entry to the specialty food trade by promoting BIPOC-owned businesses at the SFA’s Fancy Food Shows, where we attract and engage audiences in trade, and educational and networking events to help grow their business and advance the consumption of specialty food.  
    Our first collaboration together will be at the Summer 2022 Fancy Food Show. We are happy to have 10 (included) companies become members of the SFA and these 10 companies will exhibit in the (included) Pavilion (booth #935).  This partnership will introduce BIPOC-owned companies to the Fancy Food Show and the specialty food buyer community and, in turn, function as a new channel for membership growth and diversity for the SFA.   
    The Specialty Food Association looks forward to a long and fruitful relationship with (included).  Please visit the (included) booth #935 to meet our newest SFA members and sample their products. Participating companies include:  
    AYO Foods    Bon AppeSweet Inc   Good Food For Good Inc.   Green Sahara   Herbal Tea-rapy LLC   Mighty Gum  Mocktail Club  Sweet Logic   Waju Water  Wildwonder Brands Inc. 

    Denise Purcell
    In the past year, the Specialty Food Association launched its Maker Prep webinar series, an educational program to designed to help new makers get ready to do business in the industry. The ongoing series brings in subject matter experts and experienced members to cover such topics as funding, branding, bringing your product to market, working with distributors, and more. Each topic is covered in a package of two or more webinars, complete with Q&A sessions, plus extra resources.
    Here is a sampling of information shared at some recent webinars. You can click through to find the full recordings, which are free to SFA members.
    Factoring is another option for financing. That is when companies receive upfront payments against invoices to help with operating expenses until full payment is received. The key benefit to factoring is more predictable cash flow, but there are fees associated with it.—Keith Lohler, K2 Financing, Funding Your Business: Working with Lenders
    “The retailer is a shared customer between you and the distributor. Relationships with retailers can give you leverage in what’s mostly a ‘David and Golliath’ situation.”—Jack Acree, Saffron Road Foods, Working with Distributors: Strategies for Success  
    When preparing to meet with a distributor, a company should know its products and pricing, as well as that of its competitors. It’s also helpful to know case/pallet minimums, shelf life, and share any special product issues.—Ian Kelleher, Peeled Snacks founder, Working with Distributors: The First Key Steps  
    Finding space in the sea of sameness can be a challenge, but your sales team may have valuable insights to offer so you can position your brand differently in the marketplace.—Christian Klawitter, Bright Design, Building a Brand Expression  
    “Founding a brand rarely starts with, ‘hey, let’s run a supply chain,’ yet if you don’t, your brand will fail.”—Veronica Lehman, consultant and Pure Organic founder, Understanding the Supply Chain Continuum  
    Logo, flavor, product image or flavor cue, and two to three relevant callouts should be used on the front of package. The back of package should include storytelling and any other romance copy regarding flavor, key ingredients, cooking ideas, and suggested uses.—Andy Kurtts, Buttermilk Creative, Package Design and Branding  
    Maker Prep webinars can be viewed live or recordings can be downloaded any time. Here is the webinar schedule for April and May. And to ask questions or continue the conversation, you can go to this forum.

    Denise Purcell
    Whether it’s consumer trends, innovative marketing techniques, or new sales channels, the specialty food industry is always evolving and even the most successful companies need education and resources to keep up. With that in mind, SFA's In The Know webinars are designed to educate and inform established and mature companies in the specialty food community.
    This ongoing series brings in subject matter experts and peers to cover topics that are important as a company matures such as logistics and sourcing, export opportunities, and succession planning to name a few. Each webinar includes a Q&A session, and we also provide extra resources to keep you informed. 
    Following is a sampling of information shared during various In the Know webinars. You can click through to find the full recordings, which are free to SFA members.
    Start with one platform (like Instagram) and build from there. Instead of trying to hit every social media platform at once, focus on doing a few things well. Prioritize platforms where you know your target audience is spending their time. Once you are in a good rhythm on your starter platforms, gauge bandwidth to expand onto other channels based on resonance with your target.—Katie Bell, Pulp+Wire, Social Media Marketing for Startups
    “An often-cited export sales statistic is that 95 percent of potential consumers are located outside of the U.S., so it’s a natural inclination to want to consider international sales.”—Molly Burns, Food Export – Midwest, The Benefits of Export
    Keep an eye out for fake domains, account verification, spelling and grammatical errors, and unauthorized email addresses (hover your mouse over email address to see the domain) to protect yourself against email phishing.—Monica Moore and Dave Curley, All Covered, Cybersecurity Fundamentals for Your Business
    “You need to do the things that will continue to make your business sustainable either at the loss you’re incurring now or at the cash flow you’re bringing in.” –Jack Acree, Saffron Road Foods, Raising Prices in Uncertain Times
    Other opportunities exist if you’re unable to get your product on a television show or movie through the prop or set decoration departments. The costume department, as well the hair and makeup department, are often stocked with drinks and snacks for the actors and crew to enjoy behind the scenes. –Jessica Cohen, founder of The Product Agent, What to Know about Product Placement in Film and TV
    In the Know webinars can be viewed live or recordings can be downloaded any time. Here is the schedule for April and May. And to ask questions or continue the conversation, you can go to this forum.

    Denise Purcell
    The humanitarian disaster in Ukraine is the latest example of food industry support. Since Russia launched its invasion, chefs, food organizations, foodservice operators, and grocers have hosted events, mobilized resources, and pledged funds on both widescale levels for large chains and local efforts by restaurants and independents. Below you’ll find a summary of some efforts to support the impact of the devastation. 
    Chef José Andrés’ nonprofit food relief organization World Central Kitchen has volunteers in Poland, Romania, Moldova, Slovakia, and Hungary, serving over one million meals to Ukrainians as they flee the country. The organization has more than 330 distribution points in 55 cities. WCK is also working with dozens of chefs and restaurant partners in 12 cities within Ukraine to serve those who remain in the country.  Within Ukraine, Ievgen Klopotenko, winner of MasterChef Ukraine in 2015, has turned his restaurant into a bomb shelter for feeding civilians and Ukrainian fighters.  The Fresh Market is running a fundraising campaign through April 12 in which proceeds from register donations and through the sale of special bouquets made with sunflowers, Ukraine’s national flower, will be given to World Central Kitchen.  Bake for Ukraine is a worldwide bake sale launched on Feb. 26 that allows independent bakers to raise money for organizations like World Central Kitchen, International Rescue Committee, and Sunflower of Peace.  Aldi company Aldi Sud, headquartered in Essen, Germany, about 1,100 miles from the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, has donated 5 million Euros for immediate and long-term humanitarian aid. Aldi UK, part of Aldi Sud, is offering jobs to Ukrainian refugees. Kroger is sending emergency food assistance to refugees through a monetary grant from The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger Zero Waste Foundation to the United Nations World Food Program’s Ukraine Emergency Fund. Kroger will match all gifts made by its associates and customers, up to $250,000.  Restaurants across the U.S. hosted fundraisers to donate proceeds. In Chicago, Wherewithall, operated by Johnny Clark, a Ukrainian-American chef, and Beverly Kim, launched a Ukrainian menu and donated a portion of proceeds to Razom for Ukraine, a pro-democracy nonprofit. Brooklyn’s pierogi restaurant Pierozek ran a similar event to support Ukrainian Armed Forces. In Portland, Kachka restaurant donated all proceeds from its Chervona Wine Cocktail to the Red Cross’ humanitarian efforts in Ukraine.  Southeastern Grocers, parent company of WinnDixie grocery stores, Harveys Supermarket, and Fresco y Más, donated 100 percent of proceeds from its private-label Ukrainian vodka in the month of March to the International Committee of the Red Cross.   Shoppers at Publix can add donations to register totals and all funds will go toward the Red Cross’ work to distribute food, medicine, and medical supplies to Ukrainians impacted by the war.  Grocery distributor and retailer SpartanNash enlisted its military division to send supplies like baby formula, energy drinks, and over-the-counter medications to Poland. The company has pledged $1 million to support the humanitarian disaster.  This is just a small sample of activities going on throughout the food world. If you know of more that should be highlighted, want to share what you are doing in your own businesses and communities, or have an idea about how to help, please join our conversation here on the specialtyfood.com Community Hub.

    Julie Gallagher
    How long have you been with SFA and tell us about what you do? 
    I've been with the SFA since April 2019. Initially, I was hired on as a temporary Project Manager on the sofi™ Awards. As of March 2020, I took on the role of Social Media Manager and officially became an SFA employee in September 2020. 
    What is your favorite memory or experience from your time with the SFA? 
    My first time working at the 2019 Summer Fancy Food Show would have to be one of my favorite memories. I was in awe of the convention, the food, the people and the energy! SFA is a community full of interested, passionate, and innovative specialty food lovers! Meeting the sofi Awards winners, specifically, was a highlight for me as I had been working closely with them leading up to the Meet & Greet. 
    Where were you born? 
    Trenton, NJ 
    Do you prefer to eat in or go out? 
    If my mom or nonnina is cooking, I prefer in. Otherwise, I love me a good meal out. 
    What is your fondest food memory?  
    I feel fortunate to have had a variety of fond food memories. One that sticks out to me the most was on Christmas Eve in a small mountain town in Calabria, Italy. I stayed with family-friends to celebrate the holiday. We started the seven fishes at 8 pm and continued on past midnight. Food was on rotation for 4+ hours, and, of course, it was incredible. 
    What is your favorite food city? 
    Every city has its magic, however, Italy as a whole rarely disappoints. 
    What is the strangest thing you’ve eaten? 
    I was given a sugar cane stalk to gnaw on in Haiti. I didn't really care for the texture. It was a unique and interesting experience. 
    Best piece of advice you have been given and has served you well? 
    You become what you surround yourself with. 

    Denise Purcell
    The Specialty Food Association recently launched a podcast as part of Heritage Radio Network’s programming. Hosted by SFA’s content and education team, Spill & Dish: A Specialty Food Association Podcast tells the stories of SFA members, the entrepreneurs, makers, and buyers behind the foods and beverages in the specialty food market. Listeners can discover the inspiration, recipe, craft, culture, ingredients, and production methods that make specialty food special and get a deeper understanding of the people and motivation behind the products.
    Here is a sample of some conversations taking place in Spill & Dish episodes:
    “What we wouldn’t do again is think that we can belong anywhere. You want to be sure you grow sustainably and organically. Buyers are enticing. A big buyer comes in and says, we love your product, we want you to be in 3,000 stores. And you think, great opportunity!  But maybe you don’t belong in those 3,000 stores. Test first in maybe 300 stores.” 
    —Michael Antonorsi, Chuao Chocolatier, on what he would do differently when building his brand
    “All women. It’s never lost on me that it was a group of women who were saying, yes, join our community, we will mentor you and teach you and you’ll learn from our wins and mistakes, and we’ll welcome you into the fray.”
    —Jill Giacomini Basch, Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co., on cheesemakers welcoming newcomers to the early specialty cheese movement in California’s North Bay
    “There are a significant—not huge—but significant number of buyers who don’t care about the romance of a family business and heritage and that these are our personal recipes. You’d occasionally be interrupted by someone barking, ‘Can you or can you not give us six free jars per item per store?’ and didn’t want to hear about my grandmother.”
    —Doug Renfro, Renfro Foods, on the biggest surprise he encountered in the specialty food business
    “We came here not knowing a word of English and had to start from scratch and didn’t have anything at all, but I loved the opportunity we got from support of the government and the people in this country, and I wanted to try my best. I had a dream to give back to the community.”
    —Channy Laux, Angkor Cambodian Food, on fleeing the Cambodian genocide as a child and eventually starting a specialty food career
    “Don’t be afraid to ask questions. No one expects you to know all the answers. No one thinks less of you for not knowing. It’s worse if you pretend you do know and barge into something and make a huge mistake with it.
    —Laura Sorkin, Runamok, on advice she’d give new specialty food companies
    Listen to episodes here or follow wherever you get your podcasts.

    Denise Purcell
    At the recent Winter Fancy Food Show in Las Vegas, the SFA offered a roster of in-person education sessions to help specialty food companies navigate industry topics like supply chain challenges, ecommerce, and effective branding.
    In addition to a slate of sessions offered under its Maker Pass, SFA also hosted The Basics: The Business of Specialty Food, its longstanding day-long workshop to help prepare new companies for doing business. 
    Here is a sampling of information shared during the Winter Show education program with information on how to purchase the sessions.
    “Sales and marketing are out in front. This is the stuff that’s under the hood. But now, it is front and center.”—Bob Burke, Natural Product Consulting, Solving the Supply Chain Crisis
    Do three things everyday: listen and translate, build content, build community. Doing these over and over builds commerce.—Jomaree Pinkard, Hella Cocktail Co., Building a Brand, The Basics: The Business of Specialty Food 
    In-store tasting events are a great way to include chocolate even if it’s not the focus. Offer it as a sweet note at the end and you’ll find most carts will include it after the event.—Matt Caputo, Captuto’s Fine Market, Fine Chocolate Trends and Marketing Strategies for Specialty Food Retailers
    “If your team understands the destination and is equipped with trust to have creativity and act in the moment, you break down barriers and all members are doing their part in the moment to help the team succeed.—Jeff Grogg, JPG Resources, Innovation in the Face of Uncertainty
    “At the end of the day, Amazon customers are not your customers, they are Jeff Bezos’ customers. So should you drive a portion of your business toward Amazon and is Amazon ever profitable for your own business?”—Lou Nicolaides, Ludwig Marketing & Sales, Launch and Increase Your Online Sales
    To learn more, or if you couldn’t make it to the Show in person, you can go here to purchase the packages of sessions for The Basics and for Maker Space. SFA members receive discounted pricing.

    Julie Gallagher
    I’ve been with SFA for almost two months now. I’m working to build a program which will grow buyer membership and encourage buyers to become more involved and active with SFA. 
    What is your favorite memory, experience, or story from your time with the SFA?
    Going to my first food show is still one of my most favorite memories.  I was in awe seeing the vast array of specialty foods and confections from all around the world in one location.  Having the opportunity to meet and talk with people who were just as appreciative and passionate about food was inspiring.
     Where were you born?
     I was born in Louisville, KY
     What is your fondest food memory?
    Attending the White Truffle Festival in Alba, Italy.  We spent 10 days partaking in some of the most luxurious dining experiences I’ve had to this day.  Each dish was truly a work of culinary art.
    Do you prefer to eat in or go out?
     Ooh…that is a tough one.  I love to cook, but I do love a fantastic restaurant experience.  I draw inspiration from both.
     What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve been given that serves you well?
     Nothing good happens after midnight!
     What is one of the strangest things you’ve ever eaten?
     Horse meat is the strangest thing I’ve eaten.  I was not a fan.
     What is your favorite food city?
     This is another challenging question for me.  I’ve been fortunate to have dined in a lot of fantastic cities.  I can’t narrow it down to just one, so I picked my four favorite cities/towns for dining. New York City, Prague, Sorrento, and Grand Case in St. Martin.  I selected these places not just for the fantastic restaurants available to choose from, but also for the memories these places evoke for my family and me.

    Russell Kolody
    Welcome to the 2022 sofi Awards, the 50th Anniversary honoring creativity and great taste in the specialty food industry!
    Some important dates to remember:
    ·       Online entries ($105 per entry) for the 2022 Awards will remain open until March 31.
    ·       Product entries will be accepted at Rutgers Food Innovation Center from until April 8.
    ·       Judging for the 2022 sofi Awards will begin on April 12 and run through April 29.
    What’s new in 2022:
    ·       We’ve simplified our award levels to Gold and New Product.
    ·       You spoke, we listened!  We’ve broken out additional categories for this year’s Awards.  The following are stand-alone categories…Barbecue Sauce*Hot Sauce*Meat and Poultry*Seafood*Olive Oils*Nut and Other Oils*Vinegars.
    ·       The 2022 Product of the Year and New Product of the Year Awards will be announced live at the 2022 Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City.
    Key member and product eligibility rules to keep in mind:
    You must be a member in good standing of the Specialty Food Association.
    ·       2022 membership dues must be paid in full.
    ·       Entries in the New Product category must have been introduced to the U.S. market after February 28, 2021 and before February 28, 2022.
    ·       Products competing in all categories must be selling in the U.S. market no later than February 28, 2022.
    ·       All product entries must be ready for sale. Mock-ups and products still in R&D phase will not be accepted.
    If you have any additional questions or need further assistance, please reach out to us at sofiawards@specialtyfood.com

    Julie Gallagher
    Specialty Food’s first issue of 2022 features up-and-coming trends from the SFA’s Trendspotter Panel, explores the supply chain hurdles being scaled by food retailers, and profiles the food scene in Las Vegas, site of the Winter Fancy Food Show.
    More highlights from the winter issue:
    Specialty Food Maker: This section, that includes topics and business news to help producers and suppliers build their operations to stay prepared for challenges, features “5 Best Practices for Product Packaging,” “Maker Q&A: Challenges Ahead,” and “Is Food Purchased Online Safe?” Category Spotlight: “Coffee and Tea’s Wake-Up Call” Pandemic-driven changes in at-home coffee and tea consumption have been a boon to non ready-to-drink varieties. Cheese Focus: “American Cheddar Comes of Age” As consumers continue to seek comfort foods, it behooves retailers to keep their selection of domestically produce Cheddar cheese up to date. Retail Therapy: “Minimizing Food Waste” Specialty Food asked a trio of retailers about their strategies for minimizing food waste

    Claudine Berti
    The SFA Member Product Marketplace was recently upgraded to a new look and added functionality to make your brand and products more discoverable to qualified buyers and to enable direct online ecommerce. Many members are already on the Product Marketplace. But if you aren’t, or even if you are and could use some help improving your showroom, adding products or becoming transactional for ecommerce, we’ve got you! 
    At next week’s Winter Fancy Food Show, the SFA Member Product Marketplace will have a booth ( #2717) where members can bring their products to get free product images from a professional photographer. Then we’ll upload those product images to your Product Marketplace showroom to get you started. We’ll also have our partners from the Infinite Aisle, the transactional component of the Product Marketplace, in the booth to walk you through the onboarding process for the Infinite Aisle so that you can walk away from the booth ready to sell! 
    What’s more, the SFA is hosting a promotion exclusively for Winter 2022 Fancy Food Show member exhibitors on the SFA Member Product Marketplace. From Feb 21 through 25, we’ll spotlight member exhibitors to our digital audience of thousands of qualified specialty food buyers. There’s no fee to participate and all exhibiting members will be included in the promotion. To increase your visibility during this exclusive promotional week, update your profile with show discounts or special offers.  
    SFA Member Product Marketplace 
    Winter 2022 Fancy Food Show Exhibitor Spotlight 
    Quick Set Up Guide: 
    Log in to your account at www.shopspecialtyfood.balluun.com/en-us     Go to your Profile details, indicate whether you are extending any sales or discounts  Select YES for “Offering Winter ’22 Show Promotion” (call out: this will help buyers find your discounts)  Enter discount details in “Winter ’22 Show Promotion Details”  Go to your Showroom to add/edit products, images, lookbooks, videos and more!  Visit the Product Marketplace booth  #2717 for help updating your Product Marketplace profile for this exciting buyer-focused promotion. We’re excited to be getting back to business and can’t wait to see you at the Product Marketplace booth next week! 

    Julie Gallagher
    Through February 15, the Specialty Food Association will accept nominations for SFA Leadership Awards, Lifetime Achievement Awards, and the SFA Hall of Fame. Anyone may nominate either a current or former SFA member. Award winners will be celebrated at the 2022 Summer Fancy Food Show this June.
    The SFA’s three separate award categories celebrate leaders, legends, and remarkable innovators whose work helps shape the future of food. Maybe you were trained by them, work side-by-side with them today, or even see them in the mirror! 
    SFA Leadership Awards honor exceptional individuals who champion the positivity of our industry. Winners are recognized in one of three categories: 
    • Business Leadership: For creating economic opportunity and improved quality of life for food industry personnel.  
    • Citizenship: For improving communities through positive environmental choices, sustainable practices, hunger relief, and/or literacy.  
    • Vision: For pioneering new approaches, innovative products, and positive business models. 
    The SFA Hall of Fame honors those whose career contributions, innovations, and successes within the industry continue to inspire and motivate others. 
    Lifetime Achievement Awards are presented to past and current Association members whose careers are widely recognized as advancing the specialty food industry. 
    Nominate someone today!

    Megan Rooney
    Can you believe that the Winter Fancy Food Show is less than eight weeks away? Me either! After almost two years, it is going to feel incredible to finally reconnect in person in Las Vegas. It’s already a hectic time of year, so preparing for your first Show in a long time may seem overwhelming. That’s why we’re excited to offer our How to Succeed at the Winter Fancy Food Show webinar taking place Wednesday, January 5 at 1pm ET.
    During the webinar, SFA Director of Trade Show Operations, Jennifer Carney, and her team will talk through deadlines, programs, and other valuable info for Fancy Food Show exhibitors. You’ll learn about onsite logistics, move in, shipping, freight, the comp booth package, sampling, refrigeration, and much more. You'll also hear from Alexis Tejeda, Regional Sales Manager at Runamok Maple, who will provide a member's perspective on how to prepare to exhibit, how to work the booth, and how to follow up with leads. We will wrap with a live Q&A period, so bring all your questions!
    If you are exhibiting at the Show, you may register in advance for this webinar here. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. If you are unable to attend live, a recording will be available later that day. If you have any questions, please contact education@specialtyfood.com. Again, we hope you will join us for this valuable webinar and look forward to seeing you this February in Las Vegas!

    Julie Gallagher
    Specialty Food Association President Bill Lynch hosted the first annual SFA Way Awards, Wednesday, which recognized eight Specialty Food Association staff members that represent the SFA’s values in how staff engage with members and each other. The winners were voted for by their peers in each of the eight areas represented in SFA’s core values.
    An additional honor, the Stephen Leeman Award, was given to the staff member that received the most votes across all award categories. This award is named after the first president of the SFA (formerly NASFT, the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade), dating back to 1952 who was also the first signature on the Association’s certificate of incorporation.
    The 2021 SFA Way Award winners are:
    Exceptional Service
    Jessica Caceres, events & member development production manager
    “She works so hard to serve our members each and every day,” said one colleague. “She pulls so many disparate pieces of information for them so that they have a smooth path forward.”
    Tressa Kennedy, director, membership 
    “She is one of the kindest and most respectful people I know and whenever I work with her it’s a pleasure," said an SFA staffer of Kennedy.
    Jennifer Carney, director, tradeshow operations 
    “She is so passionate and dedicated to her work,” said Carney’s colleague. “She’s always willing to teach and help others with patience.”
    Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
    Katina Williams, director, brand marketing 
    “Nobody is working as hard as Kat at making a DEI impact,” said one of Williams' colleagues. “She is the only staff member leading a committee that is not a leadership team member.”
    Anthony Bavaro, director, financial planning & analysis
    “The epitome of respect and support..always ready to help research and answer questions and work through problems despite an intense workload and does it with a respectful, pleasant attitude,” said an SFA staffer of Bavaro.
    Jon Cross, digital specialist
    “He provides exceptional service,” said an SFA staffer. “He’s so responsive and has a collaborative mindset. He is inquisitive and wants to understand how to best serve fellow staff.”
    Lysa Teal, SVP, finance & planning 
    “She is a strong leader that brings an internal service mindset," said an SFA staffer. "She has addressed so many issues from the past and calls it like she sees it ... willing to be transparent and tackle challenges.”
    Ongoing Learning
    Megan Rooney, education specialist
    ... always up for new projects and developing new skills... well-rounded in multiple areas of support ... poise, professionalism, and inclusivity ... respect and teamwork ... willingness to support in multiple capacities ...
    Stephen Leeman Award
    Jessica Caceres, Events & Member Development Production Manager
    “The SFA Way Awards were established to provide a platform of recognition for those staff members that live out our core values every day in how they engage one another and our members,” said SFA President Bill Lynch. ”What is so special about this recognition, is that it comes from their fellow peers on staff that personally experience the greatness they bring to their jobs each and every day. The SFA Way is how we do things here and is what makes this such a special organization for staff and our members.”

    Julie Gallagher
    The Specialty Food Association’s Leo Squatrito, vice president of events and member development, gave a digital tour of the Las Vegas Convention Center. The venue will be home to the 2022 Winter Fancy Food Show, taking place February 6-8, 2022.
    “If you haven’t been to Vegas in awhile it’s changed quite a bit over the last two years during the pandemic and I’m going to give you a sneak peek into some key areas on our show floor, talk about our registration and verification processes, and give you the information you need to come join us in Vegas,” said Squatrito.  “Whether as an exhibitor or attendee, we’d love to have you.”

    Denise Purcell
    The Specialty Food Association's recently released 2021-2022 edition of Today’s Specialty Food Consumer, a companion report to the annual State of the Specialty Food Industry research, dives into generational preferences, shopping habits, and purchasing motivators. Here are six takeaways from the new research.
    Diversity and sustainability support. Younger consumers care deeply about products from diverse suppliers, including women-, BIPOC-, LGBTQ- , veteran, and disabled-owned business, as well as those that are better for the environment (sustainable, upcycled, etc.), and they show it with their food dollars. Supermarket’s generation gap. Traditional supermarkets, long the top channel for specialty food sales, are experiencing a generation gap that could shift the market in time. While Boomers far and away prefer supermarkets to buy specialty food and beverages, the channel sees a significant drop with Gen-Xs, and gradually diminish in popularity with younger generations. Convenience, discounters, and clubs are on the rise, a situation that will grow as more Gen-Zs reach adulthood. Supermarkets who flourish are likely those focused on convenience, local, and small formats. New online audiences. The online grocery consumer landscape shifted in 2021 to bring in many more mature adults. Specialty brands must modify their marketing focus online beyond Gen-Zs and Millennials. Gen-Xs are a generation to focus on. They upped their online orders significantly during Covid, and likely have the greatest need for online ordering over the next year. Generational messaging. Specialty brands should tailor and emphasize messaging to different generations. Older generations want to hear more about products’ quality ingredients, while younger generations resonate with new and interesting innovations. Choosing products with health in mind is universally important to all generations, even more so as a result of the pandemic. OK Boomers! Boomers’ buy-in has been strong during the last two years. While it’s true that they’re less likely than others to be SFCs, when the do engage, they’re among the most likely to buy given categories at least occasionally. Targeting Boomers is an under-tapped opportunity for specialty companies, with so much emphasis often placed on young generations. Impulsiveness lives. Specialty food makers and retailers shouldn’t underestimate the “X” factor—impulse purchasing. Even in a year that severely impacted food discovery, with consumers reducing shopping trips, limiting browsing, and curtailing time to be curious, some 30% of SFCs made impulsive specialty purchases. Numbers have consistently risen over the last four years. You can read research highlights in the fall issue of Specialty Food Magazine. And the full report is available for purchase here or bundled with the State of the Specialty Food Industry research and category forecasts. SFA members receive a discount on pricing.

    Denise Purcell
    The Specialty Food Association has released its 2021-2022 edition of Today’s Specialty Food Consumer, a companion report to the annual State of the Specialty Food Industry research. Separating this research into its own report this year has allowed us to dig deeper into the behavior patterns, preferences, and habits of specialty food and non-specialty food consumers.
    The good news is that specialty food purchasing remains strong with nearly threequarters of adults (73 percent) reporting that they buy specialty foods and beverages. But, a year and a half of a global pandemic, economic uncertainty, social unrest, and political divide isn’t without its consequences, and they are surfacing in consumer enthusiasm. This year’s survey results show more lethargic response rates to questions pertaining to specialty food usage, behaviors, and attitudes.
    The research indicated this ennui is more a sign of the times than a red flag, as sales and consumer interest are still strong. But the annual report does offer insights into areas where consumers are engaging, which can help with marketing products and attracting shoppers in-store. Here are three that stand out:
    Carry diversity-owned brands.  Some 19 percent of all adults—not just specialty food consumers—said that they prefer to shop in stores that feature products from women-, Black-, BIPOC-, LGBTQ+-, veteran-, and other diverse-owned companies. This sentiment skews higher with specialty food consumers and even higher with Gen-Zs. In addition to helping support the owners, carrying these specialty brands can be a gateway to attract young specialty food and non-specialty food consumers. Reach more mature consumers.  Marketing attention often focuses on young consumers, but don’t dismiss older generations. Boomers’ buy-in has been strong during the past two years, for example, and they present an under-tapped opportunity for specialty companies. Emphasizing local and regional products, offering promotions  and  coupons tied to shopping habits or dietary needs, communicating COVID safety measures, and having employees in the store who are knowledgeable about specialty products are just some of the ways to impress and engage this group. Focus on online opportunities. The online grocery consumer landscape shifted in 2021 to bring in many more consumers. More than half (57 percent) of all adults said they’ve bought groceries online in 2021. That’s a 76 percent increase over 2020, or 62 million new online grocery shoppers. And again, the emphasis is on a more mature audience. Gen-Xs upped their online orders significantly during the pandemic, and report that in the past month they still ordered more than they did pre-COVID. Online shopping will remain an important channel, and a massive opportunity for brands. You can read more research highlights in the recently released fall issue of Specialty Food Magazine. And the full report is available for purchase here or bundled with the State of the Specialty Food Industry research and category forecasts. SFA members receive a discount on pricing.

    Julie Gallagher
    I specialize in building thoughtful, strategic, and results-driven marketing campaigns to tell compelling brand stories that make audiences pay attention. My second passion is my work on the SFA’s DEI Committee.
    Where do you live? I am truly a Jersey Girl, born and raised. I live in New Jersey and North Carolina part-time.
    What’s your favorite memory or experience from your time with the SFA? The first time attending the Fancy Food Show during my first week at the SFA! There were so many people and so much food. It was amazing and a bit intimidating.
    What’s your fondest food memory? That would be my first time hosting a large family Thanksgiving where I cooked. Now it has become tradition since they all realized that I can actually cook!
    Do you prefer to eat in or go out? I prefer to eat in and try new recipes.
    What’s your favorite food city? It depends on what I’m eating… Italian, soul food, and seafood are my favorites. Treviso, Italy had awesome food. For soul food, try anywhere in the Carolinas. But for seafood, there’s no place better than the Jersey Shore!
    What’s one of the strangest things you’ve ever eaten? Bee Pollen Granules
    What is your favorite memory, experience, or story from your time with the SFA? The first time attending the Fancy Food Show during my first week at the SFA! There were so many people and so much food. It was amazing and a bit intimidating!
    What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve been given that serves you well? There have been a couple of things. A former VP once said, “Is that the hill you want to die on today?” He actually said “sword,” but…LOL. Seems morbid but it made sense. From that point on, I picked my battles because the goal is to win the war.  

    Denise Purcell
    Optimism is high among the specialty food supply chain, who weighed in in the recently released State of the Specialty Food Industry report, on what the future holds for specialty post-pandemic. Here is some of what they had to say about growth, values-based shopping, diversity and inclusion, and retail innovations.
    “That crystal ball after last year got even murkier. We’re excited because we’re leaning into the mission to grow, we’re adding another fulfillment center and actively expanding the network to serve our members. We see it as a huge year of growth. We view it as getting back on track to the incremental steady growth that we were had prior to the tailwind that we had in 2020. What a great year to be in food and what a great year to introduce people to new products and tell your stories and do great work with food.”
    -chief merchandising officer of a specialty ecommerce retailer
    “There was an underlying sort of tension in our society that led to this moment where people wanted to have an opportunity to express themselves and basically vote with their dollars. 
         We’ve heard from customers ‘supporting brands that are doing good makes me feel good.’ There’s a massive opportunity here to transform the shopping experience itself—it’s not just buying the stuff that you need, but inducing an emotional experience that makes you feel good about what you’re doing—supporting great brands that are making a positive difference in this world.”
    -CEO, cofounder of a specialty ecommerce retailer
    “We should all be optimistic because specialty products and health and wellness products are what people need. Consumers are going to come out of the fog in the last year and realize that what they eat is important to their long-term health and the health of their families.”
    -CEO of a specialty chocolate brand
    “Pre-pandemic, we launched a financial assistance and visibility program for suppliers that are women-, minority-, LGBTQ-, veteran-, and disabled-owned. We’ve had so many more requests from retailers to show them more examples of suppliers like this. With the increase in interest, there will be more callouts on shelves and in campaigns around those companies.”
    -SVP, category management and growth solutions for a specialty distributor
    “I’m hearing from the manufacturer and vendor side that they are not fully ready with the pack sizes to support the foodservice business, which is very concerning. It’s not going to be an option for very long for foodservice to take retail packaging. On the flip side, are restaurants going to continue to have these slimmed down menus that drive down margins? That could very much change the shape of the industry for a long time.
         We expect retail food to remain strong in terms of being better than pre-COVID numbers. Within that, we expect specialty to continue growing at a much stronger rate than conventional food. I think the foodie culture has been exasperated, but its grown [differently] with everybody cooking at home and watching TV food shows.”
    -national sales director at a specialty importer and distributor
    “We predict innovation stations will pop up within retail to try to bring excitement back into stores, creating an area for new products to drive trial and awareness.”
    -SVP, category management and growth solutions for a specialty distributor
    “It will be interesting to see the evolution of how brick-and-mortar operations shift, whether curbside and deliveries become an even bigger focus. With ghost kitchens, it’s pretty phenomenal to think about what you can accomplish if you don’t have massive numbers of customers in your building every day.”
    -chief merchandising officer of a specialty ecommerce retailer
    You can learn more about market growth, fluctuations, and drivers, as well 10-year category tracking and forecasts by purchasing the State of the Specialty Food Industry, 2021-2022 Edition. 
    And weigh in on what you think the new post-pandemic industry norms will be in our discussion in the Community Hub. 

    Gretchen VanEsselstyn
    There are so many fun parts to my job as Director of Education at SFA, but my favorite is working with some of the greatest brains in our industry. It’s a thrill to call upon people whose work I’ve admired and ask them to teach our members what they know. And the best part – they say YES. 
    With that in mind, I’m delighted to announce the next cycle in our Maker Prep series which focuses on branding. You’ll hear from the leaders of three powerhouse agencies: Moxie Sozo, Bright, and Buttermilk Creative. All three focus on specialty food and beverage brands and – if you’re an SFA member – you’ll get three hours of their combined expertise for zero dollars. It’s part of your benefits package as a member! (If you’re not a member yet, join us! And in the meantime, the whole series is $50 for you.) 
    On October 14, you’ll learn the Fundamentals of Branding. Why are some companies beloved by consumers while others fight to be remembered? Creative agency Moxie Sozo will talk you through the process of creating a compelling and authentic brand and share four amazing case studies along the way.  
    On November 11, we’ll delve into Building a Brand Expression with creative branding house, Bright. You’ll learn how to make sure your brand stands out in a crowded competitive set and ensure continuity and growth in the future.
    And on December 9, we’ll cover Package Design and Branding with Buttermilk Creative. You’ll learn how to make the most of the short time you have for shoppers to notice your product on the shelf by developing a cohesive design strategy and prioritizing messaging.
    I’m so pleased to make these webinars available to you.
    If you’re just learning about Maker Prep, please check out the recordings of our two completed series: Working with Distributors and Financing Your Business. 
    And let us know what you need to learn more about – Maker Prep is designed for you! Reach out any time: education@specialtyfood.com

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