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Winter 2015 FFS Wrap Up


Before I engage in the dubiously authoritative opining on ‘what I saw in SF’ at the FFS, one notable and, for me, troubling, theme arose from the city itself. There appear to be two San Francisco’s and they are inexorably moving in different directions; massive homelessness and ‘90s-style money-fueled LUXE. These two worlds collided for me following the show when we visited a swank private club reminiscent of that scene in Trading Places shown around by their new cheesemonger who sported a bloody forehead scab having been clocked in the head by a shoe thrown by the homeless guy who lived on one corner of his block. What is happening here San Francisco?

Macro Business Trends:

Trends from the show I found interesting (I’m a bit nerdish about these kinds of things).

Ecuador, Peru, Mexico… these aisles were hopping. I’ve seen them go from the cricket-chirruping, barely dented carpeting to busy and interesting.

Savor California… just amazing. You had to bring a machete to get through the crowds there at various times but it is worth the fight even though many of the products will simply not be available outside of California due to production limitations.

Presented without commentary: distributor booths appeared to have shrunk in size and in numbers.

The American Cheese aisle was always busy, again.

And, the Specialty Food Association continues to bury the new, first-time-at-the-show producers behind a curtain, without booth numbers. Starting a business, particularly a food business, is a sink or swim enterprise. Why not give them a moment center stage before reality sets in? Specialty Food could even start an accelerator with a final ‘shark tank’ at the FFS.

Now on to Food Trends:

The most apparent food trend was coconut. Last year there were a few coconut waters and coconut chips (yum), this year there was coconut milk-based ice cream, coconut nectar, coconut palm sugar, coconut milks, coconut jams, coconut everything. This is A-OK with me. There was some speculation that the reason for this coconut invasion was that some kind of financial incentives had arrived. A quick Internet search has not turned up any qualifying information.

I’m gratified to say I didn’t see any Chia. Perhaps it was there, quietly bulking up grains and health drinks, but no one was shouting it’s a miracle! in the aisles like last year.

In the cheese world (which is nearly my whole world at the FFS) the stinkies are hanging tough. Washed and blue were beautiful to observe everywhere.

And finally, the most unusual item I saw? Birch Syrup presented in increasing levels of concentration. A bit like sweet bitters, but piney. It could be a unique drink addition.

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Stephanie Skinner

Publisher Stephanie Skinner founded culture along with her sister Lassa and cheese expert Kate Arding in 2008. Stephanie was intrigued when Lassa, then a cheesemonger, mentioned that there were no magazines filling the artisan cheese niche.