By the time I finish writing this sentence, I imagine another industry trade show will have been cancelled. In my 20 years of covering the food and beverage industry, I have never witnessed such widespread disruption to business. I don’t believe any among us have been left unaffected by the current crisis.

I count myself among the lucky few who have been able to visit a conference in 2020. As I do every year, I attended the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco in January. I view the show as a great way to begin the year and learn about products aiming to carve out space in a diverse and flourishing marketplace. The show always provides insight into how the product landscape will take shape in the coming year. Until the COVID-19 crisis descended upon us, 2020 was shaping up to be a year charged with innovation from food and beverage product developers. 

The show floor was loaded with cutting edge products and exhibits that not only set a tone for a productive business environment, but offered energetic inspiration to partici-pants. To walk the aisles of a trade show like the Fancy Food Show is to experience the commitment, positivity and blind hope of entrepreneurs and established business owners alike. It’s an opportunity to immerse oneself in the frenetic activity shared among brand owners and product developers.
At the 2020 Winter Fancy Food Show, I discovered an array of trends in the areas of plant-based foods, sustainable food production, global flavors, and wellness. Memorable products include Peanut Butter Dipped Vine-Dried Grapes from Life’s Grape; Teranga Baobab Juices; Hops Water H2OPS, a sparkling water with subtle hops flavors; Pescavore Ahi Tuna Jerky; and Plant-Based Tomato Jerky from Bella Sun Luci.

This list represents a very small sample of the innovative new products showcased at the 2020 Winter Fancy Food Show. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to inter-act in-person with brand owners, and learn more about the products they have injected with mountains of time and energy. Attending the show not only helps me do my job better, but buoys me with a confidence in the bright minds of the food industry—they always uncover a creative way to bring ideas to light.

After weeks of social distancing, I find myself looking back to the few days I spent at the Moscone Center with a wistful gaze. It seems odd to connect emotional longing to something as matter-of-fact as a trade show, but nonetheless, I am doing so. Here’s to perseverance, ingenuity and the truths we reveal as we patiently sift our collective imagination.