Summer Fancy Food Show featured expanded coffee and tea presence

This year definitely represents the return of trade shows! The latest was the Summer Fancy Food Show, which took place at the Javitz Center in New York City (12-14 June) for the first time since 2019.

The 2022 Summer Fancy Food Show may have been smaller than in previous years, but it did not feel that way and still had many country pavilions featuring myriad companies from individual countries, along with booths under banners of specific food categories. And the show was packed – more than 1800 exhibitors – well attended by both exhibitors and attendees, with one exhibitor noting that buyers from key specialty retailers, multinational retailers (like Whole Foods and Walmart), and the foodservice industry were at the show. Although, as another exhibitor pointed out, “there is no longer actual buying and selling taking place at any trade show so, while we had a lot of foot traffic and interest, we’ll see in three to four months if this was a ‘good show’.”

I have attended the Summer Fancy Food Show for many years, even before becoming editor of T&CTJ, and since joining magazine, I have observed the impressive growth of coffee and tea companies exhibiting. Many years ago, it was just a few higher end coffee and tea brands looking for distribution in specialty food retailers, whether branded or private label. But as the show has evolved to include a wider variety of retailers, so too has the number – and type – of coffee and tea companies exhibiting. For example, Shun brand, was showcasing its stem (rather than leaf) tea — popular in Japan, where it is based, but new to the US market. Japan GreenTea Co Ltd was focusing on its beautifully packaged and delicately flavoured Sweet Sakura (cherry blossom) Tea (pure and blended with green or black tea), though it also had a variety of green teas. The quantity of companies touting matcha was strong, and included the Japanese Export Council, which represented about eighteen small matcha and green tea companies from Japan.

I noticed a greater number of companies featuring herbal and fruit teas than those with actual Camellia sinensis in it, but there were of course, black, green, white tea and matcha products offered. Bonne Maman, the brand known primarily for its all-natural fruit preserves, jams and jellies, was looking to expand its new line of aromatic and herbal artisan teas, crafted by a France-based tea master, that was introduced earlier this year. The SKUs have names like Dream, Serenity and Vitality and feature ingredients like lavender, rose hips, hibiscus, lemon balm, and elderflower.

Twinings was presenting the two newest SKUs in its popular Superblends line: Immune Support +, a caffeine free, blackberry-flavoured hibiscus and elderflower herbal tea that has zinc, which supports a healthy immune system; and Glow +, a peach-flavoured white tea that has B7/Biotin, which supports healthy skin.

Clipper Tea revealed its newly revamped herbal line that has been designed to appeal to the American tea drinker, and which features new recyclable packaging and flavours such as Organic Snore & Peace, a chamomile and lavender blend, and Organic Orange & Turmeric, which is also caffeine free. The new flavours also include Organic Earl Grey Black Tea and Organic Green Tea & Lemon (both contain caffeine). Clipper’s new holiday SKUs, Winter Spiced Berry and Winter Apple Cinnamon, both organic and caffeine free, will roll out in the fall.

The largest presence, however, were the boba/bubble teas, which seemed to be on every other aisle! There majority were ready-to-drink bubble tea brands, but there were also companies offering just the boba/bubble pearls and instant/soluble mixes. Catering to Gen Z consumers who are embracing boba/bubble teas, most were the lighter fruit juice-based that ‘pop’ in the mouth, rather than the dense, chewy tapioca pearls, but those SKUs were also available. Inotea, for example, featured Pobble, its ‘popping bubble tea’ that is fruit-juice based – including the pearls, with flavours such as mixed berries and hibiscus, mango and red dragon fruit, passion fruit and apple. But the brand also showed its milk tea line: Matcha Green Tea Latte, Brown Sugar, Honeydew, Taro and Banana Bubble Tea with tapioca pearls.

On the coffee side, brands like Nobletree and Death Wish Coffee were looking to expand their brick ‘n mortar retail presence. Nobletree previously sold its coffees through its cafés and online but closed its cafés prior to the Covid outbreak and is now focusing strictly on retail (including online). Its SKUs, all 100% Arabica, range from ‘upper mid-tier’ priced to high end priced and include single origin varieties and microlots. Death Wish Coffee, the ‘strongest coffee on the market’, which had been primarily sold online since its founding in 2012, is looking to further expand its grocery store distribution. The brand was also showing its newest high caffeine item, Espresso.

Many other coffee companies were highlighting flavoured coffees such as Jack Daniels and Cold Stone Creamery ice cream-flavours (a multiple ice cream flavours), as well as holiday flavours. There were also companies presenting a variety of instant coffees ranging from Turkish to cold brew — all higher end than the average ‘grocery store’ instant coffee and targeting the active, on-the-go consumer.

It is great to see trade shows coming back, and especially, the expanded presence of coffee and tea at the Fancy Food Shows. The Winter Fancy Food Show will take place in Las Vegas, Nevada, 15-17 January 2023, followed by the Summer Fancy Food Show, 25-27 June 2023 in New York City.

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