Tuesday, July 14, 2009

What's special about specialty food?

Back from the "Fancy Food Show" in New York, the leading marketplace for specialty food in the US. Back with a huge sense of disappointment.

Specialty food seems to be reduced to chocolates, tea and various salsas and sauces. But the sad thing is that it seems that there is no difference if they were made in Maine, Florida, Texas or California. Peach salsa everywhere… Chipotle everywhere...ah yes, and now everything is "natural".

How come that in a country as vast as the US with all the different zones, climates, ethnical influences and heritages those producers who call themselves "special" predominantely have these standardized products? How come that there is more industrial made food at a show like that than artisan one? Is calling your product "natural" or targeting it to a special diet group all that it takes to be special? Is it not about being different from the mass-marketed, processed food products? Of creating food that tastes of terroir?? That tells a individual story???

There has to be someone in the Midwest making a unique yambutter and someone in California that catches the Mexican and Asian influences and interprets them in a novel way. The question we have to ask us: What is the signature crop/produce of an area/state? What are the signature tastes? Who puts it together in a jar/bottle/box? Does anyone?

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