Shaping The Future Of Food at the 65th Annual Specialty Food Association’s Summer Fancy Food Show

Summer Fancy Food Show 2019
(R to L) Specialty Foods chief Phil Karafakis presented top Front Burner/Foodservice honors to Chris Muir of Wild Hibiscus Flowers
  • T&S Brass Eversteel Pre-Rinse Units
  • BelGioioso Burrata
  • Inline Plastics
  • Easy Ice
  • McKee Foodservice Sunbelt Bakery
  • Atosa USA
  • RAK Porcelain
  • Imperial Dade
  • Day & Nite
  • AyrKing Mixstir
  • DAVO by Avalara
  • RATIONAL USA
  • Simplot Frozen Avocado
  • AHF National Conference 2024
  • Epiq Global Payment Card Settlement
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The Specialty Food Association (SFA) welcomed over 30,000 attendees and 2,500 exhibitors from around the world to the 65th annual Summer Fancy Food Show on June 23-25 at the Javits Center in Manhattan.

North America’s largest specialty food and beverage event for the trade, the 2019 Summer Fancy Food Show was the place to see and taste 200,000 specialty foods and beverages, and attend a full range of attractions, programming and events. Christina Tosi, two-time James Beard award-winning chef and founder/CEO of Milk Bar, was the keynote speaker and she joined SFA President Phil Kafarakis for a Q&A.

During the Front Burner Foodservice Pitch Competition, hosted by chef Elizabeth Falkner, three contestants were given five minutes to extoll the virtues of their foodservice products to a panel of judges.

Elizabeth Falkner
(L to R) Front Burner ’19 host Elizabeth Falkner with Joyce Appelman of TFS

Versatility was the name of the game at the 2019 Front Burner Foodservice Pitch Competition where Chris Muir of Wild Hibiscus Flower Company impressed judges by pitching the company’s Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup product, which has countless applications in food and beverage.

Wild Hibiscus Flower Company is a small family company that makes products with minimal ingredients and a long shelf life. Unique to the market, the syrup contains whole hibiscus flowers and flavor, giving it both culinary and aesthetic appeal. The syrup can be used for cocktails, baked goods, or vinaigrettes, while the flower can be used as a garnish on salads, charcuterie plates, or desserts.

  • Easy Ice
  • RAK Porcelain
  • DAVO by Avalara
  • RATIONAL USA
  • Imperial Dade
  • T&S Brass Eversteel Pre-Rinse Units
  • McKee Foodservice Sunbelt Bakery
  • Day & Nite
  • AHF National Conference 2024
  • Epiq Global Payment Card Settlement
  • Inline Plastics
  • Simplot Frozen Avocado
  • AyrKing Mixstir
  • Atosa USA
  • BelGioioso Burrata

“Our goal is adding value to customers and distributors,” said Muir. “Someone will see the flower in a glass and want to order that at the bar.”

Daniel Fitzgerald Small Axe Peppers
Daniel Fitzgerald of Long Island City based Small Axe Peppers brought his firm’s unique story to the show floor

Wild Hibiscus Flower Company beat out Small Axe Pepper’s The Bronx Green Hot Sauce, made with serrano peppers grown in community gardens in the Bronx, which was pitched by Daniel Fitzgerald, and Olo & Company’s Chipotle Paste, a concentrated chipotle pepper paste in a tube, pitched by Tessa Lowe. Event attendees voted live via text message for the “Fan Favorite” product, which went to Small Axe Pepper’s The Bronx Green Hot Sauce.

Summer Fancy Food Show 2019
(L to R) University of Massachusetts foodservice chief Ken Toong and Mehdi Menouar

The judges for this year’s competition included Angela Flenoy, director of innovation and strategy at Sysco; Ken Toong, executive director of University of Massachusetts Amherst Auxiliary Enterprises; and Sean Buchanan, vice president of sales and marketing for Sustainable and Specialty Foods. They scored the syrup high in innovation, quality, and foodservice chef appeal, noting that the number of applications makes it a must-have product for foodservice operators.

Summer Fancy Food Show 2019
(L to R) A large contingent of UK manufacturers including Martin Brooks of Sharpham Park and Ed Faber of Braehead Foods

A trio of Lifetime Achievement Award recipients and eight members were inducted into the Hall of Fame. Receiving Lifetime Achievement Awards were Benny Curl of Byrd Cookie Co., who spurred distribution of Byrd Cookies from Harrods to Hong Kong and beyond; Ariane Daguin of D’Artagnan, who grew a meat and game business by organizing small farmers and promoting conscientiously raised meat; and Bob Moore of Bob’s Red Mill, who founded America’s whole grain movement.

Inducted into the SFA’s Hall of Fame were Robert and Margaret Garcia of RW Garcia Co., Inc., Allison Hooper and Bob Reese of Vermont Creamery, Shawn McBride of Foah International LLC, Ahmed Rahim and Reem Hassani of Numi Organic Tea, and Stewart Reich of Hanson Faso Sales & Marketing.

A spice blend that draws on the rich culinary traditions of India, Mom’s Magic Masala All-Purpose Indian Fusion Spice Blend won the 2019 sofi Product of the Year and was one of a total of 154 sofi award winners selected as the best specialty food items from a field of nearly 2,000 entries.

Summer Fancy Food Show 2019
(L to R) Kayla Mulanax and Jim Simons of Estrom Candies

Early trend picks included jerky and meat snacks, vegetable-based carb substitutes, and mission-driven, sustainable products and companies. The SFA Trendspotter panel, made up of buyers, chefs, educators, writers, and industry watchers, combed the exhibit hall each Show day in search of the categories, ingredients, and attributes that are trending.


The Specialty Food Association is a thriving community of food artisans, importers and entrepreneurs. Established in 1952 in New York, the not-for-profit trade association provides its 3,800 members in the U.S. and abroad the tools, knowledge and connections to champion and nurture their companies in an always-evolving marketplace. They own and produce the Winter and Summer Fancy Food Shows, and present the sofi™ Awards honoring excellence in specialty food. Learn more at specialtyfood.com.

  • DAVO by Avalara
  • Epiq Global Payment Card Settlement
  • McKee Foodservice Sunbelt Bakery
  • Imperial Dade
  • T&S Brass Eversteel Pre-Rinse Units
  • Simplot Frozen Avocado
  • Day & Nite
  • Atosa USA
  • RATIONAL USA
  • Easy Ice
  • Inline Plastics
  • AHF National Conference 2024
  • AyrKing Mixstir
  • BelGioioso Burrata
  • RAK Porcelain
Joyce Appelman
Joyce Appelman is the SCOOP News Editor and Senior Contributing Writer for Total Food Service and previously the National Communications Director for C-CAP, Careers through Culinary Arts Program. An industry leader supporting education and scholarships, she has been instrumental in opening career opportunities for many young people in the foodservice industry. Email her at joyceappelman@gmail.com