Bill Lynch, President, Specialty Food Association: Q&A

Bill Lynch Summer Fancy Food Show Specialty Food Association
Bill Lynch (R, dark blue blazer) addresses the crowd at the ribbon cutting for this year’s Summer Fancy Food Show at the Javits Center in New York, NY

With the ever-evolving landscape of the food industry, it is essential for professionals to stay informed about the latest trends and innovations.

With the challenges of inflation’s impact on hospitality menus and the need for more efficient staffing, Total Food Service wanted to share the vision of key industry leaders as we head into 2024.

TFS had the opportunity last month to visit with Bill Lynch, President of the Specialty Food Association, to gain insights into what restaurant and foodservice attendees can expect at the upcoming Winter Fancy Food Show in Las Vegas on January 21-23, 2024. 

Lynch’s shows have become a highly anticipated event for industry professionals, offering a platform for networking, discovering new products, and staying updated on current industry trends.

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As President of the Specialty Food Association, Lynch has extensive knowledge and expertise in the world of specialty foods, making him the ideal person to provide valuable insights into the event and what makes “sense & cents” for next year. 

During the interview, Bill Lynch discussed the exciting features and highlights that attendees can look forward to at the winter show.

He emphasized the focus on innovation, showcasing cutting-edge products and technologies that are revolutionizing the foodservice industry.

From plant-based alternatives to sustainable packaging solutions, the show aims to present a wide array of options that cater to evolving consumer preferences.

From Asian-inspired fusion dishes to Latin American spices, the possibilities are endless for those who dare to innovate.

Lynch’s perspectives offer a glimpse into the future of foodservice.

Attendees can expect an event filled with innovation, diversity, and sustainability, while industry professionals can prepare for the evolving demands of consumers in the year ahead.

What are the emerging food trends that manufacturers will be showcasing at the Winter Fancy Food Show?

Bill Lynch SFA
Bill Lynch

We’re very proud of the SFA Trendspotter Panel program as it allows for our members, and the industry at large, to gain direct insight into current and future trends.

For 2024, overall, there is an emphasis on maximizing pleasure and minimizing stress. The Panel predicted that beverages, cell-based meat and seafood, peach, Calabrian chili peppers, Tahini, soup, Black Sesame, ube, and milk tea, and value will be the focus.

Additionally, mushrooms, environmental impact, upscaling the everyday, elevated convenience, and global flavor exploration continue to trend. We look forward to seeing these trends, and more, at the Show.

In what ways can shopping at the Winter Fancy Food Show assist a chef or food & beverage director in adding creative menu ideas to their establishment?

The Show attracts top specialty food producers from around the world under one roof, so it’s an excellent opportunity for discovery for food service professionals.

Specialty foodservice is a $30B+ industry and an important part of crafting new menu ideas.

In addition to finished, packaged products, specialty food makers are showcasing ingredients that can add flourish and flavor to all kinds of menu items – and even inspire new ones! Hundreds of our exhibitors have indicated that they are “foodservice-ready” and can be shopped by chefs and F&B directors looking for ideas that set them apart.

Will there be any educational seminars or workshops offered during the event to enhance attendees’ knowledge and skills?

Our education team has been working hard, and they’ve planned some excellent programming covering a variety of topics, including AI, Today’s Specialty Food Consumer, the importance of third-party certifications, a Trendspotter Panel discussion, the Fancy Face-Off pitch competition, and buyer perspectives. 

Are there any specific beverage trends that attendees should be aware of?

Functional beverages continue to grow in popularity, as do non-alcoholic beverages. Related to this would be 2024 Trend Predictions, so look out for peach flavors and mushrooms.

Additionally, we have Flights of Fancy in the Beverage Pavilion, where attendees will hear about and sample the latest consumer trends in coffee/tea, waters, juices, functional, and non-alcoholic beverages.

Could you provide a brief overview of the topics covered in these educational sessions?

Again, we’re fortunate to have a dynamic team, and they’ve built out some great programming focused on innovation, trends, and the business of specialty food.

Snacks are projected to be the number one category in 2024, and in our Pavilion Pop-Ups we’ve got Snackologist Jeannette Donnaruma at Fancy a Bite? in the Confectionary, Snack, and Bakery Pavilion, where you can sample snacks and discuss trends.

Additionally, we have Taste the Future: AI-Enhanced Marketing for Specialty Food Products, and Little Labels, Big Impact: How Third-Party Certifications Communicate Credibility and Drive Sustainable Growth.

Our team has got their finger on the pulse of what matters to our attendees.

With the opening of the new Fontainebleau Hotel in Las Vegas, will there be any designated time for attendees to experience the vibrant culinary scene of Las Vegas? Are there any plans for organized culinary tours or events outside of the show’s venue?

There’s definitely time outside of the Show to visit specialty food stores and the myriad restaurants both on and off the strip.

This year we’ve added Winter Fancy Food Show After Dark, which has additional networking and nightlife opportunities, including Official Networking Event Open Bar Packages and Expedited “Guest List” Access to four of the hottest Las Vegas Nightclubs, with the option for upgrades. 

We’ve partnered with Lip Smacking Foodie Tours again. The VIP adventure takes attendees to the city’s most sought-after restaurants to savor signature specialties.

Winter Fancy Food Show attendees will receive VIP seating, three to four signature dishes at every restaurant and a guided walking tour between stops packed with insider information about Las Vegas and sights along the way. 

Will there be opportunities to network with renowned chefs and industry experts during the Winter Fancy Food Show?

We love to have foodservice professionals attend our Show as there’s so much cross-pollination between that industry and specialty food.

We’ll have industry experts and chefs onsite, whether it’s the Trendspotter Panel, speakers, or attendees.

How can attending this event benefit professionals in terms of expanding their industry connections?

More than ever we understand how impactful it is to be together and exchange ideas, and we’ve established events to make this possible.

The networking lunch during Scale Up Saturday prior to the Show and the opening night Fete de Fancy, a celebration of SFA volunteers and community, are wonderful ways to broaden connections – to say nothing of walking the Show itself and meeting countless exhibitors.

Are there any initiatives in place to encourage collaboration and knowledge sharing among attendees?

We’re a not-for-profit trade organization, and volunteering with the SFA is an excellent way to have an impact within the industry.

The SFA Open Mics, which are part of the Show education programming, and Meet Suites, which can be reserved for one-on-one discussions, are other great options that allow for collaboration and knowledge sharing.

Will there be exhibitors specifically focused on sustainable and eco-friendly food and beverage products?

Many of our members are focused on sustainability and eco-friendliness. These are terms that will be searchable within the Fancy Food Show app.

Can you share any success stories from previous Winter shows where attendees found inspiration and implemented innovative ideas in their establishments?

Actually, the inverse, as the restaurant-to-retail pipeline is very real, whether it’s Carbone, Lidia Bastianich, Maria Loi, Pierre Thiam, and more, we’ve got some great restaurateurs and chefs bringing products to market.

That said, we’d love to hear from your readership about the inspiration they’ve found at the Fancy Food Shows!

Learn more about the Winter Fancy Food Show at their website.

  • DAVO Sales Tax
  • AyrKing Mixstir
  • T&S Brass Eversteel Pre-Rinse Units
  • Inline Plastics Safe-T-Chef
  • Day & Nite
  • Imperial Dade
  • RAK Porcelain
  • BelGioioso Burrata
  • McKee Foodservice
  • Simplot Frozen Avocado


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