Come Hungry, Leave Happy
(Business 2.0) – Veteran attendees know the drill: Don't snack before going to the Fancy Food Expo held in New York each summer. The premier gathering for those who buy and sell gourmet food products, the Expo displays delicacies ranging from fine wine to wild boar prosciutto. Overall, the industry generates global revenues of more than $20 billion a year, and sales were up 6.5 percent in 2002. So what's hot in haute cuisine for 2003? At the always-crowded booth of D'Artagnan, a $30 million distributor of foie gras and specialty meats based in Newark, N.J., visitors had the opportunity to taste-test several of the biggest trends sweeping the industry. --BRAD WIENERS
Home on the Range
D'Artagnan vendors such as Northern California's Niman Ranch (which sells beef and pork) and Quebec's Giannone Poultry have one thing in common: free-range meats. The segment is experiencing double-digit growth, but the trend has little to do with political correctness; most customers choose organic meats for their superior taste.
Butter: The New Olive Oil?
Just as the staple of Mediterranean cuisine went upscale and diversified, butter is poised for gentrification. Among the many kinds on display at the Expo: organic butter, herb butter, and an Indian clarified variety known as ghee. At D'Artagnan's booth, the truffle butter, which sells for $34 a pound, received prime placement.
A Mushrooming Niche
Specialty mushroom production in the United States has jumped 60 percent in the past eight years. In 1979, 70 percent of global mushroom sales were of the basic button variety. By 1997, buttons accounted for just 32 percent. D'Artagnan has seen its mushroom import business grow to $5 million annually.
The Other Red Meat
For diners who crave something more exotic than beef, venison has become a top-selling alternative. That's great for New Zealand's economy, as 90 percent of the deer meat consumed in U.S. restaurants is imported from the Pacific island nation. Branded under the Cervena appellation, the meat is from a select European breed.