I have journeyed to San Francisco every year for the past 20 or so to attend The Fancy Food Show, looking for the new tasty treat that will help my business attract customers and make money. Coming here again, I am struck by the significant competition of many large and especially small companies hocking their wares and how enticing and daunting it seems. I am also an exhibitor with what I like to think are very good offerings from other smaller manufactures in the form of inspired foods, baskets and packing, which I import, so I know the many facets.
Yes, there are and continue to be many chocolates, many ethnic and regional foods, many whole grains and beans, gluten-free products, many in new smart packaging. I have maintained that the food show is about more than just meets the eye or taste buds, doing business is getting to know who are you partnering with and whether the chemistry is right for what you want to develop. There is a good bit of chocolate happening around with a focus on dark chocolate and where the cocoa beans come from. Three players in this market are TCHO Chocolates, Scharffen Berger and Pure Dark. TCHO came on the scene with a few players from the technology world that have taken some of their Wired Magazine fortune and created a “bean to bar” business that is trying to carve out a piece of the large chocolate pie for themselves in a new age kind of way. Hershey’s chocolate purchased Scharffen Berger a few years ago to diversify their chocolate holdings, going upscale and for a particular quality. Scharffen Berger is maybe not the same thing but it continues to flourish and we carry a bit when we get it.
A person assisting me and myself were both drawn to a booth with a new chocolate business named Pure Dark, it had a nice look, it tasted good, it seemed easy. We visited the booth together to find out more and maybe place an order. Upon looking closely at the chocolate, or I should say at the packaging and some of the printed material we discovered something that surprised us. Some of the literature said from West New York, some said from 350 Bleecker Street, New York, NY and some said a division of Mars in very fine print. I was turned off because you like to do business with companies with relatable size. I am not keen to do business with a multi-national conglomerate. When I continued and asked if I could order some product, I was told that it was only available through Hadden House, a large importer distributor that does lots of business with A&P and many other retailers up and down the street. This quickly becomes not a special find but a commodity that is about big guys spending lots of money to pretend like they are growing a company the good old fashioned way, anyway I lost interest fast, the hunt continues.