Conference Recap


Gary Chiappetta
CEO& Partner

January 30, 2020

If there was a period of “Enlightenment” for food, it could be marked by the year 2020. Specialty food manufacturers are driving change so quickly that national CPGs are scrambling to catch up. A new food economy is being created by a wave of entrepreneurs, food technologists and visionaries that want to change the way people think, shop and eat. In January 2020, I had the chance to meet some of these entrepreneurs at the 45th Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco. There were approximately 1,539 booths registered through the Specialty Food Association (SFA) where I experienced firsthand a plethora of new ingredients, ingredient pairings, food products and food alternatives from all around the world.

While once an incredibly niche market, specialty food and beverage sales now account for more than 16% of all food and beverage purchases in the United States. More specifically, beverages own an 18% share of the overall specialty market because of the growing demand for functional and ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages that address need states from energy to relaxation, gut health to mental focus. There were many of these beverages featured at the show and other products included confections, cheese, coffee, snacks and spices. Along with those, there was a lot of buzz around natural, organic and ethnic foods associated with Mediterranean, Keto, gluten-free and vegan diets according to Mintel researchersDavid Browne and David Lockwood on the Five Key Drivers in Specialty Food in 2020.

At the Fancy Food Show, there was a lot of hype around plant-based meat alternatives like the Impossible Burger and non-dairy brands such as Califia Farms and Elmhurst that produce almond and oat milk. But Miyoko Schinner, the CEO and founder of Miyoko’s Creamery, was a standout. An early influencer, Schinner opened her vegan business over 30 years ago. Her booth was constantly buzzing with people eager to try samples of her vegan-friendly fermented cheese and cultured butter, which had an incredible taste and mouth feel. In an interview with Arielle Feger, the SFA’s content associate, Schinner discussed her vision to build a food brand that combines food technology with culinary traditions to make cheese and butter without cows. She also announced that she was working with a dairy farmer to convert land for livestock into land for agriculture: all these changes reflect a new ecosystem of healthier people and a healthier planet.

The Mintel team also shared some interesting trends that are fueling growth in online, brick-and-mortar and food service spaces. Based on their research, claims such as plant-based, All-Natural, Organic, Non-GMO, Locally Sourced and Eco-Friendly are attention draws for consumers dedicated to a better-for-you (BFY) selection of food in their refrigerators or on-the-go occasions. According to Mintel, Gen-Z and Millennial consumers prioritize their purchases by healthy convenience, whereas Gen-X consumer look to specialty foods as a replacement for take-out. Boomers are more prone to preparing their favorite foods from scratch.

Regardless of demographic, the one overarching trend surrounding specialty food manufacturers is the consumer demand for transparency and traceability. To meet this demand, there has been a rise of B-Corps who are voluntarily meeting high standards of accountability and certified by the non-profit B Lab. Many start-ups and small specialty food companies are leading this movement and putting pressure on larger corporations and food manufacturers. While it’s only a matter of time before big brands follow suit, others such as Danone are already striving to meet B Corp standards of social and environmental transparency.

But all CPG companies, large or small, should take care in the design and communication of product claims on pack. Brand packaging designers and strategists need to work together to ensure their verbiage and communication hierarchies align with consumer need states and desires for nutritional balance. At Kaleidoscope, our tools and methodology guide our clients to systematically assess packaging concepts that are deliberate and support brand core. More importantly, our approach is designed to be tested and validated with consumers to dial in the messaging that is most important on front of pack (need states) and helps determine what should appear on the sides or back of a package.

Welcome to the future of food and food manufacturing where accountability to the well-being of consumer health is at the forefront of innovation, product development
and design.