Stepping out onto the floor at the annual Summer Fancy Food Show, which has been hosted by the Specialty Food Association (SFA) in New York City for 63 years, is like walking into the world’s largest supermarket—that is, if every product had one of its creators explaining why you just have to try it.

The Summer Fancy Food Show is an event designed to promote growth in commerce in the specialty food industry, which includes producers and purveyors of unique food and beverage items, often produced in small quantities—and is open to qualified buyers and industry professionals from around the world.

The 2017 show brought together more than 2,550 exhibitors from 55 countries to New York City’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center from June 25 to 27. They offered samples of the latest and greatest new specialty food products, and took advantage of the opportunity to hone their marketing skills; many of the companies represented at the show are small businesses that are increasingly looking to market their products directly to consumers, in addition to retailers. More than 180,000 specialty foods and beverages were available for attendees to try as they walked through the bustling Javits Center. Booths were organized by geographic location, including an entire aisle dedicated to Brooklyn- and Queens-based companies as well as a variety of international pavilions.

One of the show’s most successful new initiatives was LevelUP, an interactive attraction that explored the future of food through reports on consumer trends, forecasts for demand in various product categories and tastings of cutting-edge foods—seaweed pastrami, for one. LevelUP gave attendees the chance to hear from food industry luminaries like “Supermarket Guru” Phil Lempert, Trip Straub of Straub’s Market, Shelley Balanko of The Hartman Group, David Lockwood of Mintel and others.

This year’s show also included a pitch competition. Exhibitors had just a few minutes to sell a panel of four food-industry experts on their most innovative product. West Chester, Pennsylvania–based TBJ Gourmet took home the top honors for its black pepper bacon jam, which was also designated a “fan favorite” in a text poll conducted on-site. The Summer Fancy Food Show was also the setting for SFA’s 2017 Lifetime Achievement Awards presentation, where seven producers and purveyors of specialty foods were honored for their contributions to the industry over the years.

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