SFA Live: Making Good Food Available for Everybody

The Summer Fancy Food Show offers a chance for innovators to share new flavors and products they hope will revolutionize the food industry. Host Paul Barron welcomed a number of leaders in the industry to the live stage this year during the signature Specialty Food Association (SFA) New York City event.

Two noteworthy interviews were with Dino Borri, the vice president of Global Partnerships for Italian marketplace and restaurant Eataly, and SFA President Phil Kafarakis. Barron chatted with Borri and Kafarakis about developing key partnerships and the ever-growing consumer demand for specialty products.

Dino Borri, Eataly VP of Global Partnerships

Born in a small town in Piedmont, Italy, Dino Borri has lived and traveled worldwide promoting high quality food and the Italian lifestyle.

Borri first joined the food industry in 2000 to work for Slow Food, an organization that branded itself as an Italian response to the growing popularization of fast food. The grassroots organization swiftly went global, campaigning to protect dying or forgotten local food cultures and traditions. Eight years later, Borri brought that knowledge to Eataly and began launching new branches of the combination store and restaurant in Japan and in multiple locations throughout the continental United States.

“We’re a window for small producers,” says Borri. “I’m happy when I see one of our original products in other chains and retailers. One of our goals is to expose the producer to other retailers — we’re not jailers about that. There’s so much good food in the world, and good food should be for everybody.”

Founder Oscar Farinetti designed Eataly to have the same products used by the restaurant available for purchase in its adjacent marketplace. At present, forty stores have been established worldwide — and according to Borri, another Eataly location in Texas is in the works.

Check out the video above to learn more about Eataly’s mission and Borri’s thoughts on the growing popularity of artisanal and specialty products.

Phil Kafarakis, SFA President

Phil Kafarakis handles the day-to-day operations of the SFA, overseeing the management of more than 3,400 member companies within the $120 billion specialty food industry. The Summer Fancy Food Show is the largest specialty food show in North America, with over 200,000 specialty foods featured. Hundreds of food companies were in attendance this year from states including New York, California, New Jersey, and Florida, and over fifty countries were represented. Germany was this year’s partner country.

“Our mission is to bring the community together to learn, network, and connect,” says Kafarakis. “When you leave here, we want you to feel like you did some business. There’s an outcome — not just information.”

Looking ahead, Kafarakis shares that the organization has seen “explosive growth” in the beverage industry. “Beverage is going to be a bigger part of what we do.” Specialty foods as a whole represent the fastest growing segment in the food business, growing at a rate nine times faster than traditional foods. In addition to expanding its membership policy, Kafarakis shares that the organization is eyeing international possibilities.

“You can’t do everything all at once,” he notes. “But the infrastructure has been built. We’re going to take some steps to see how the brand fits into the interests of our members.”

Check out the video above to learn more about the future of SFA and current specialty food trends!

How the Specialty Food Industry Has Evolved into a $127 Billion Industry

There has been a shift in consumer demand for hand-made, artisan foods in the last few years. It’s no longer just our industry recognizing the art and dedication behind these products. We decided to sit down with Specialty Food Association President Phil Kafarakis to talk about this shift and how it’s impacting the specialty food sector.

The Specialty Food Association (SFA) has been around for 65 years, so this segment is not new to the industry. Previously known as the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT), the Specialty Food Association is best known for its bi-annual Fancy Food Show. It has been sold out every year for more than 10 years, proving that specialty food products are growing in popularity.

Artisan food manufacturers have built up the community after a shift in consumer behavior. Consumers are asking questions they didn’t used to ask like, ‘Where does this come from?’, ‘Who makes this?’, ‘What’s its story?’ and this community is finally getting a chance to shine.

Restaurants operators have helped to foster thus growth. “They’ve got phenomenal cheese cases from around the world, they’ve got charcuterie bars, these folks represent the industry at large. And what we're finding is that no longer does it serve the membership to be buyer specific to the retail channel," said Kafarakis. So now, by opening up their doors to a wider range of consumers, we are seeing that the foodservice industry is not the only sector infatuated with fancy food.

Kafarakis also notes that there are special challenges associated with opening up to the market at large. Being specialty food, some artisan manufacturers might not be prepared to provide large quantities of product as the larger, non-specialty food companies. The SFA’s job is to prepare them and help them be successful– while retaining the authenticity and integrity of their products. With more than 35,000 manufacturers ranging from startups to mature companies, the specialty food sector is now a 127 billion dollar industry.

Specialty Food Association Names Phillip M. Kafarakis as New President

Specialty Food Association Names Phillip M. Kafarakis as New President

By Kerri Adams, Editor-at-Large

The not-for-profit trade association– Specialty Food has hired a new president. Phillip M. Kafarakis will be bringing 30+ years of experience to the role–specifically in strategic planning, innovative brand management, and membership development.

Prior to joining the Specialty Food Association’s executive team, Kafarakis was the Chief Innovation and Member Advancement Officer for the National Restaurant Association (NRA,) a trade organization that supports over 500,000 restaurant businesses, since May 2013. “Think of me as the business guy that helps fund the mission and work closely with our philanthropy and advocacy to make sure we aligned on primaries of the industry,” he told Foodable last year about his role. 

Before that, Kafarakis was with McCormick & Company in Hunt Valley, Md for 10 years and also held executive leadership roles at Jones Diary Farm, Kraft and Cargill. 

Specialty Food’s focus is to provide information about the $120.5 billion specialty food industry. The association provides statistics and data about product trends, while putting on the worldwide Fancy Food Shows, offering education programs and helping to build business opportunities for members. The association has over 3,200 members in the food and beverage industry– including distributors, manufacturers, exporters, brokers, retailers, importers and other professionals.

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2015 Restaurant Innovation Summit: Robots, Food Hacks & Tech Trends

2015 Restaurant Innovation Summit: Robots, Food Hacks & Tech Trends

By Jessica Bryant, Managing Editor

Innovation has become an essential part of our industry. Without it, restaurant operations would remain clunky, outdated, and certainly not aligned with consumer habits and demands. Earlier this week in San Diego, the National Restaurant Association’s annual Restaurant Innovation Summit (RIS) brought technologists together from all across the globe to mix, mingle, and discover and share big ideas of the future.

“The main focus of RIS is the future of technology when it comes to restaurants and how to drive sales by using and embracing new ideas,” says Anna Tauzin, senior marketing manager, innovation & entrepreneurial services at the NRA. “It was originally created as an idea from several key board members who wanted an event focused around payments and has grown to include marketing, operations, workforce, and tech.”

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Inside the National Restaurant Association Headquarters With Phil Kafarakis

In this episode of On Foodable Weekly, brought to you by the Foodable WebTV Network, Host Paul Barron is in Washington, D.C. at the National Restaurant Association (NRA) headquarters’ test kitchen with Phil Kafarakis, Chief Innovation & Member Advancement Officer at the NRA. 

What does Kafarakis’ role entail? What three pillars guide the work of the NRA? How does the long-standing association integrate and prop up innovation? What can operators look forward to in the industry in terms of advocacy and change? Find out all this and more in the full episode above.