Specialty Food Masters: What They Offer Over Non-Artisanal Purveyors

As the consumer continues to develop a more sophisticated palate and higher expectations about what they consume, premium food product sales are at an all-time high. 

We partnered with the Specialty Food Association to cover one of the best food shows of the year, the Summer Fancy Food Show, where we got to chat with the most innovative food companies elevating the food industry by selling high-quality products. 

So what makes these products so unique and why are customers willing to go a little out of the way to get them?

At Raffetto's Fresh Pasta, the NYC-based store provides customizable pasta and cuts it right there in front of the customer.

"We offer fresh pasta and one of the coolest thing you can come in and see is a 101-year-old guillotine machine that cuts noodles to order. There's a flavor board where you pick anything from eggs, spinach, to rosemary to lemon or pepper, even chocolate. Then you pick a width like linguine, fettuccine, etc and we cut it up right in front of you. So it takes about 30 seconds or less and cooks in two to three minutes and it's around $3-4 a pound and that feeds three people," said Sarah Raffetto, retail manager at Raffetto's Fresh Pasta to Foodable host Agnes Chung. "People like to cook less, whether it's my generation or not. Whether people are more lazy, more busy, or whatever– it's an easy place to stop by to either get a quick meal to cook at home or something prepared that you don't have to cook at all."

The NYC store Malt and Mold is known for its artisanal cheeses, gourmet food products and beer growlers. As one of the partners points out, customers continue to visit the stores because of the shopping experience and the knowledge the staff offers. 

"I think it's the expertise. When people are walking around a grocery store, a grocery giant mega store might have a wonderful selection of cheese, but there's no one there to really talk them through everything and explain how it's produced, what the milk type is, why it's seasonal, and why the flavors are the way that they are. For us, that's what we offer, that personal interaction," said Caitlin Nish, proprietor and chief cheesemonger at Malt & Mold. "They are looking to us for guidance and how to navigate the now huge artisanal world."

Di Palo's Fine Foods is a family-owned shop in NYC's Little Italy that has been around for over 100 years. The current owner has a hands-on approach to selecting the store's products. 

"I sell mostly Italian products from Italy. In 40 years or so, I must have made about 80 or 90 trips to Italy, developing relationships not only with producers of product, but also with where they source their raw material," said Lou di Palo, president and owner of Di Palo's Fine Foods. "For me, it's very important to see it from the ground-up. I need to see the farmer. I need to see the person who handles the production in the case of the animals, the cheese maker, and all the way down the line to develop a relationship. This is so they understand who I am, what I am looking for in terms of the quality, and also so I can understand how the product is supposed to be so I can present it to the American consumer."

Another NYC gem, Beer Table started as a tasting room for beer, but now offers an array of craft beers & snacks. Catering to commuters, Beer Table has one store located in Grand Central station and the other at the Westfield World Trade Center.

With a huge selection of craft beer to pick from today, how does the store select its products?

"Today, I would say most of our decisions are based on deliciousness. Beer, in general, it's a loaded subject. We can get really political about where we buy from because who just got bought out from Anheuser Busch and we could think about that constantly to decide what were going to put on the shelf," said Justin Philips, owner of Beer Table. "But what it comes down to for us in a practical way is when we taste and taste it blind, it's about what's delicious. That's the key for us." 

Learn more about these specialty food masters in the videos above!