Celebrity Chef Robert Irvine Predicts Specialty Food Products to Become the New Mainstream Market

Celebrity Chef Robert Irvine Predicts Specialty Food Products to Become the New Mainstream Market
  • Millennials, Gen Z, and social media play a big role in the rise of specialty food products.

  • Chef Robert Irvine discusses how specialty foods are no longer on the sidelines in the food service industry.

Consumers today have higher expectations for the foodservice industry. Millennials and Gen Z specifically are looking for specialty foods that offer more options for a healthier diet.

Whether it’s creating new chef-inspired meals and products, or chefs using specialty food products in their menus, the specialty food industry is on the rise. Earning in $140.3 billion within the last year, there is a convergence between chefs and specialty food makers to meet these expectations.

At the 2018 Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City, Foodable’s Paul Barron sat down with Robert Irvine, celebrity chef, and owner of Robert Irvine Foods, as they discussed the role of specialty food in foodservice and the latest dining trends.


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Trending New Products to Feature in Your Restaurant From the 2018 Summer Fancy Food Show

Trending New Products to Feature in Your Restaurant From the 2018 Summer Fancy Food Show
  • The 2018 Summer Fancy Food Show can help you find a new product to feature in your restaurant.

  • Foodable found new trendy products you’ll want to include in your menus.

If you’re an operator, your goal is to have an on trend restaurant with the latest products to keep you there.

The specialty food industry has been growing, earning in $140.3 billion last year alone. So how can you decide on products that will keep you trending?

Foodable has you covered. We attended the Summer Fancy Food Show, presented by the Specialty Food Association, a specialty food trade show showcasing the latest innovations in the industry.

Here is a quick look at some products you won’t want to miss out on.

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Vegan Cheese, Cocoa Beans from Colombia, and Other Picks From the Summer Fancy Food Show

Vegan Cheese, Cocoa Beans from Colombia, and Other Picks From the Summer Fancy Food Show

As an operator, you are always on the lookout for new products to keep your restaurant on trend.

Today, the specialty food industry is exploding with so many high-quality products, sales in this market have spiked by 11 percent. But with so many options, it’s difficult to choose.

That’s why attending a specialty food tradeshow like the Summer Fancy Food Show, presented by the Specialty Food Association, is a great way to do research on the latest and greatest food products.

Foodable had a front row seat at the show this year (don't miss our live Facebook coverage here) and will be highlighting many of the food companies that stood out from the rest.

Here is a quick round-up of five picks that caught our attention.

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Specialty Foods Earned $140.3 Billion in Sales in 2017

Specialty Foods Earned $140.3 Billion in Sales in 2017
  • Specialty foods sales are surging within the past three years.

  • Earning $140.3 billion in sales in 2017 alone.

Jerky and meat snacks, ready-to-drink coffee and tea, rice cakes, and water. What’s one thing that all these products have in common?

These are some of the specialty food categories that have seen the highest dollar growth from 2015 to 2017.

Overall, specialty food sales have risen 11 percent in the past three years, according to the Specialty Food Association. Raking in $140.3 billion last year, this segment has grown faster than all food sold at retail.


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The Food Market of Tomorrow: What Premium Stores are Looking For on the Summer Fancy Food Show Floor

Specialty food markets, like Whole Foods and smaller grocery stores are offering customers not only premium, fine products, but also a more enjoyable shopping experience.

Foodable has partnered with the Specialty Food Association to cover this year's Summer Fancy Food Show where guest host and Supermarket Guru, Phil Lempert sat down with leaders from some of the grocery chains elevating the food retail space. 

So when these individuals go to a show like this with thousands of different products to explore, what are they looking for?

"The best thing we can do for our customer is find that thing that they don't know they want yet," said Trip Straub, president and CEO of Straub's Markets. "Sure, we want to get the latest trend type items, the best selling type items and bring those to even St. Louis where they will sell. But those items that we can source, that we have tasted, that are phenomenal and we know the story behind the producer...we need to bring that to St. Louis because they may not have heard about that if they don't leave town. Those are the winners we are looking for on the show floor."

Although the Fancy Food Show is a great place to discover new products from all over the world, Whole Foods has a program where the chain partners with local foragers. 

"We have a great local program where we have established that credibility in the community and in the regional levels, so right now we have 11 autonomous regions and we have representatives who are out on the field seeking not just produce, but other types of opportunities to integrate into our portfolio of products," said Cathy Strange, the global executive coordinator at Whole Foods Market. "We have had great success with brands that now have turned into big commercial brands and were proud to be a part of that success."

Guests also discuss how important it is to keep the trust of today's highly-educated consumer.

"In the last 10 years, what I have experienced at Kings, is about building that brand trust and that trust with the consumer that when they come into your store they know it's going to be fresh, it's on point, it tastes delicious, it's healthy for them, and it meets their needs, "said Scott Zoeller, vice president of deli, meat and seafood at Kings Super Markets.

Learn more about how food markets have evolved and what the future holds in the video above!