Two years ago, bean chips were one of the hottest snack foods at the Summer Fancy Food Show. Now we’re seeing the actual roasted chickpeas, the latest step in the evolution toward healthier, more natural snacks, said Louise Kramer, communications director for the Specialty Food Association.

“Retailers want what’s new and healthy, less-processed and with simple ingredients,” she said. “And people want food with stories behind them. The products have to talk themselves off the shelves.”

U.S. specialty food sales hit a record $109 billion in retail and foodservice channels last year, and there’s no shortage of stories in the new-brand pavilion at the New York City show, which started Sunday and runs through Tuesday, from a pair of nuclear power plant engineers who created an unsweetened carbonated tea brand to a mom with two sets of twins who launched a vegetarian soup business.

Gina Stryker began making vegetarian food 12 years ago for her yoga-instructor husband’s retreats, and eventually the students told Stryker she should bottle and sell her soups. (read more…)

Geoffrey A. Moore’s 1991 hit book “Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers” has become a technology industry bible for understanding the recurring patterns of the adoption of disruptive innovation. Moore breaks up the population into five groups: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards. The “chasm” refers to a gap between the innovators/early adopters groups and the others. While the innovators and early adoptions are excited to try new technology for technology’s sake or to gain a differentiator from the competition by being early to adopt, the later groups are harder to convince without solid evidence and may resist technology adoption entirely until the innovation has become the de facto standard.

The principle of the innovation lifecycle and the struggle associated with crossing the chasm has been incredibly helpful to me as an innovator within the restaurant industry, thinking about the industry’s innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards. (read more…)

Increasingly adventurous restaurant guests aren’t settling for plain grilled cheese or the same-old Swiss on a sandwich, chefs say. Foodies and their ever-more sophisticated palates are in search of new flavors, and eateries are answering the call with innovative dishes that meld flavors from around the world.

Rob and Karen Lawlor left restaurant careers when they bought Denver-based The Truffle Cheese Shop eight years ago and, in addition to selling retail and teaching cheesemaking classes, the shop sells its cheese to a long and growing list of local eateries. In recent years, Denver’s restaurants have gotten more innovative with their menus to feed the increasingly sophisticated palates of their guests, Karen Lawlor said.

“The restaurants in Denver are more sophisticated than they were even five years ago, and they’re looking for European products as well as local,” she said.

These days, the shop stocks cheeses from a growing list of countries and regions including France, Italy, Spain, Croatia, Switzerland and Denmark. (read more…)

Wendy Davidson has almost 25 years of experience as an executive in the food and beverage industry, and she successfully balances her professional responsibilities as president of the Kellogg Company with volunteer work and her role as a mother of two. She is a member of the company’s Global Leadership Team, the Kellogg North America Leadership Team, the Global Snacks and Global Breakfast Operating Councils, the Women of Kellogg network and serves as executive sponsor for the Global Talent Management Advisory Team. SmartBrief interviewed Davidson about how she defines work-life balance and what advice she has for women who want to become leaders in the industry.

What advice do you have for women who want to become leaders in the industry?

I’ve been very fortunate in my career to have a network of industry colleagues who have provided invaluable coaching and advice as I explored opportunities to stretch and grow. They’ve given their time to share their experiences and insights to help me as I transitioned into new roles both personally (as a mom!) and professionally. (read more…)

Specialty food sellers are set to make their annual trek to the Javits Center in New York City for the Summer Fancy Food Show this month. The three-day show starts June 28 and, for the first time this year, the Specialty Food Association has launched an ad campaign and partnered with grocery retailers Kings Food Markets, Morton Williams and FreshDirect on promotions designed to raise awareness of specialty foods.

Each year, the trade show floor bursts with booths filled with new treats, innovative twists on traditional favorites, indulgent goodies and healthful snacks. This year’s lineup will include 2,400 exhibitors from around the world, sampling about 180,000 products, 100 of which are part of the retail promotion, the association said in a press release. The retailers will promote food and beverages from companies including Brooklyn Brine Co., Cypress Grove Chevre and Tate’s Bake Shop, with in-store signage, sampling, discounts and online messaging. (read more…)