Between bites of samples gathered on the Fancy Food Show floor today (not literally from the floor, but from exhibitors there), I got to chatting with some retail buyers about what they're in the market for.
While I tasted a dark chocolate bar that counted chipotles and popping candy (like Pop Rocks) among its ingredients, Lisa Bruce told me she was keeping an eye out for an industrial-sized tahini that can be used by Wegmans' prepared food chefs.
An army of about 30 or 40 folks from the chain converged on N.Y. for this year's show, which offers a great opportunity to meet with existing suppliers, she said. New partnerships were also in the works as "fun things" like flake salt caught the eye of one of Wegmans grocery buyers, according to Bruce.
Meanwhile, Bill Vella, a fresh foods department manager for a ShopRite store in Lincoln Park, N.J., was keeping his eyes peeled for goat and sheep cheeses, and complimentary fare like fancy crackers.
"Grafton had some nice cheeses," he said of the Grafton Village Cheese Company which makes hand crafted cheese in small batches from the milk of Jersey cows that graze on farms in Vermont. Spanish cheese brought by The Cheese Works Company, which imports and distributes items in the category, also got his attention.
After a year of slow sales, Jacob Rasmussen made the trip from Albuquerque, which is home to one-store Fremont's Fine Foods, which he owns. He was in search of hard cheese and blue cheese, that might help turn things around. "Any [retailer] who says they're doing great is lying to you," he said.
Andrew Laske, a perishable buyer for Target, wasn't willing to reveal the contents of his shopping list, but he did comment on traffic at the show. The eight time attendee noted that it was heavier than usual.