(UPDATED 3/30/11)

NOTE: Some early blog coverage has already been posted, and I’ll keep updating this list as I find event round-ups or coverage of specific products.

MyLifeOnandOffTheGuestList: http://bit.ly/dEhLNi
GlutenFreeMike.com: http://bit.ly/gVefqE
Gluten-Free Fun: http://bit.ly/gpxur6
HeyDoYou.com: http://heydoyou.com/food-fete
Refresh (Supermarket News blog) http://bit.ly/fDAt88
Kafi Drexel of NY1 News (via Facebook): http://on.fb.me/f74BNc
Brooklyn Allergy Mom: http://bit.ly/gAZWbJ

The first of our new health-focused Food Fête events took place last night in New York City, focusing exclusively on allergen-free foods.

Allergies and intolerances to foods that contain gluten, dairy, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, soy (and more) affect a growing number of Americans who are always on the lookout for foods they can safely eat. The idea behind this event was to bring together a collection of such products to help educate writers and bring attention to a food-related health issue that doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon.

Given the product niche, this Food Fête was more intimate than most of our events — showcasing products from 14 companies. Dominating the product offering were a variety of gluten-free baked goods including cookies, breads and snacks. Pasta Prima introduced two very delicious raviolis, the first gluten-free ravioli to hit the market.

A few companies, including Chobani Greek Yogurt and Lucini Italia, focused new attention on existing products that are naturally gluten-free, giving allergy-sensitive consumers options they might not have otherwise considered, given these products are not specifically marketed to people with Celiac disease.

The National Peanut Board, which at first glance might raise some eyebrows as to why they’d be included among a collection of allergen-free foods, delivered the message that while some experience peanut allergies, peanuts and products made from peanut flour are gluten-free and widely consumed by Celiacs.  Finally, General Mills was on hand not only to promote their line of gluten-free cereals and snack foods, they recently launched GlutenFreely.com to provide consumer education on living with Celiac disease.

Profiles of all the participating companies can be found at www.foodfetepress.wordpress.com.

More than 40 food writers and bloggers interested in this specific product category were treated to some totally new products from companies they had not heard of as well as those from several familiar brands.  Food blogger and author Sloane Miller (a.k.a. Allergic Girl) also signed complementary copies of her new book “Allergic Girl,” set to hit stores in a week or so.

I’d like to extend a huge thanks to the participating companies and all the writers who came out last night.

Next up for us is our “Healthy Foods for Kids” press event on April 28 in New York.


My 15 minutes

For those who know me either personally or professionally, also know that I stutter.  It’s one of those things I’ve dealt with since childhood, often struggling to make the best of a challenging situation.

CNN.com interviewed me last week for a piece on stuttering related to the film “The King’s Speech,” about Britain’s King George VI, who stuttered.

The article ran online today, so I couldn’t resist sharing it.

Here’s the link: http://bit.ly/igl9fl

UPDATED (see new links to media/blog coverage below.)

Food Fête kicked off its seventh year on Monday, Jan. 17 in San Francisco with our annual West Coast media event.

It was our largest West Coast event in terms of exhibitors (26), with media attendance around 55 food writers and food bloggers.

Click here for the list of our exhibitors and their profiles.

Not surprisingly, dairy products continued to be well represented with 8 companies on hand including Tillamook Cheese, Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, California Milk Advisory Board, Emmi Roth USA, BelGioioso Cheese, Chobani Greek Yogurt and Organic Valley.  I, fortunately, am not lactose intolerant, so…

I was glad to see some familiar faces among the media attendees including Amy Sherman (Cooking with Amy/BlackboardEats.com); Joanne Weir (JoanneWeir.com plus her numerous television cooking programs), Jolene Thym representing the Oakland Tribune and her ThePickyEater blog; Anna Wolfe from The Gourmet Retailer, Betty Teller (Napa Valley Register),  Jill Nussinow (TheVeggie Queen) and Richard Turcsik from Grocery Headquarters, among others.

Jane Maynard, one of our first-time blogger attendees, wins the prize for being the first to post her round-up of Food Fete and the Fancy Food Show.

UPDATE: Here are some additional posts:

I’ll continue to post links to coverage resulting from Food Fête here in the coming weeks and months.

We’re now shifting gears to our next two events, both taking place over the next  three months, and in New York City.  On March 1, we’re bringing together a collection of special products for the “Food for People with Food Allergies” event.  The “Healthy Foods for Kids” event takes place on April 25.

Here’s the link to the online application for all of our 2011 events: http://www.bit.ly/foodfete2011.

Food Fete is Moving to Atlanta

Food Fête is bidding farewell to the amazing food scene of Portland (but the not-so-amazing Pacific Northwest winter climate) beginning Saturday, Dec. 18.  I am heading to Atlanta, where I lived in 2007-’08.

During the weeks leading up to the new year, I’ll be on the road toward the ATL, plus visiting friends along the way for the holidays.

Effective Jan. 1, 2011 my new contact info will be:

15 Habersham Rd.
Unit G08
Atlanta, GA 30305
281-727-8248 (current mobile)

Where Did the Fall Go?

It has been so long since I posted here, it’s almost embarrassing.  But a lot of good things have been happening over the past few months to keep me busy.

A quick recap.

We partnered with BlogHer to produce a special Food Fête event during their 2nd annual BlogHer Food Conference in October in San Francisco.  It was a big success with more than 230 food bloggers — all BlogHer Food conference attendees — stopping by to see new products and mingle with food producers.

Next, our regular winter Food Fête event, scheduled for January 17 in San Francisco, officially sold out yesterday, marking the earliest we’ve ever hit that milestone.  In fact, we’re already pre-selling exhibitor tables for some of the new health-focused events coming in 2011, which is also very encouraging.

Read all about our event plans for 2011 here.

So, what does all this tell me?

Food Fête, which turns seven in 2011, has been very fortunate to have not been negatively affected by the tough economy of the past couple of years.  In fact, our business has never been stronger, experiencing year-to-year growth.  I see this trend continuing into 2011, as evidenced by the early interest among food companies already contracted to participate in our events next year — some of which are more than six months away.

I’ve said this before, but I am continually humbled by how the specialty food industry, public relations agencies and the food media have supported Food Fête. We continually strive to create better events by learning from our mistakes, staying on top of what’s happening in the industry and operating our business from a position of integrity and delivering value.

Keep up with our progress by following us on Twitter at @foodfete and “like” our Facebook page.

Happy holidays!

(UPDATE 9/27/10: We’re offering a $250 “early bird” discount off the exhibitor fee at our San Francisco event. Deadline to qualify is Nov. 15)

I announced our 2011 event plans a couple of weeks ago (see press release), which involve producing a total of five media events, three which are brand new and have a specific health focus. Four of the five events next year also will be held in New York City.

The brochure with information on each event is now ready for download by clicking here. Pricing and tentative dates are also included.

We’re now accepting exhibitor applications for all of our 2011 events. A single exhibitor application can be accessed at http://bit.ly/foodfete2011.

Favorable comments and feedback from the food press and PR agencies indicate we’re headed in the right direction, so I’m personally very excited about lies ahead.

I hope you are too.

I’m very excited about what’s been keeping me busy for the past couple of months–namely, pulling together our 2011 event schedule, which I’m happy to announce includes three completely new events, each focused on a specific health issue.

Here’s a link to the official press release: http://pitch.pe/84484

Since 2005, Food Fête has produced two press events annually — one in January in San Francisco, and the other in June in NYC — each timed alongside that big trade show known for “fancy” foods (Disclaimer: Their lawyers prefer I refrain from mentioning their name).  The one exception was last fall when I added a regional food event by taking a small collection of artisanal food products from Oregon to New York, which press attendees loved by the way.

That got me thinking.

Healthy eating and foods aimed at specific health conditions are flooding the pages of food magazines and blog posts, so maybe it’s time to create a platform for products that address specific health issues.  So, that’s what we’re doing. While we’ll continue producing our annual January and June events next year, we’re adding three new health-focused events in New York City, which will showcase:

  • food products for people with food allergies
  • healthy foods for kids
  • glycemic-friendly foods for diabetics

If you follow the specialty food industry, you probably already know the aforementioned food trade show is temporarily moving from New York City to Washington, D.C. in 2011 and 2012.  Based on my informal research with NYC-based media who regularly attend our events, there’s a good chance many won’t make the trip to D.C. due to tight work schedules and travel budgets.

That’s why our flagship summer event will remain in New York City for 2011 and 2012.  The San Francisco event is already scheduled for Monday, Jan. 17, 2011, and we’re still finalizing the date for the New York event in June.  By the way, our January and June events will not be themed, and open to all product categories.

If you’ve done the math, that means Food Fête is producing five events in 2011.

A couple of other changes are also in store for next year, which I’m anticipating could get mixed reviews.  First, we’re saying goodbye to the media gift bag as you’ve come to know it.  We’re a very lean operation, and given our expansion plans, I must commit every resource to producing the most meaningful events possible.  That means not spending time and manpower managing the logistics of receiving hundreds of cases of food products, then sorting and stuffing 175 bags in a matter of hours.

As Food Fête has grown, so have the challenges of creating the gift bag.  This past summer, we even tried outsourcing the gift bag assembly to a fulfillment house.  It sounded good on paper, but in trying to accommodate far too many exhibitors who missed the fulfillment shipping/delivery deadline, what should have been a time and resource-saver turned into, well, let’s just say the opposite of that.

I’m the first to recognize the sample distribution component of the gift bag is important to companies without the resources to do it themselves, so I am looking into alternatives that meet the same objectives, but without physically creating a bag.

For the past two summers, the gift bag has actually grown into two bags, which the media have commented are heavy and  cumbersome to deal with as they leave our venue.  We’re also attracting a growing number of perishable products at our events, which obviously cannot be added to the bag, so “schwag” gets substituted in their place — something I don’t want the gift bag to become.

On the positive side, exhibitors and their agencies will no longer have to deal with the cost and hassle of shipping cases of product, hoping it arrives on time and in tact — because sometimes it doesn’t.

We’re also eliminating the “Networking Level” participation option.  We typically have only a few participate at that level each event, and after evaluating the pros and cons, I’ve decided it no longer supports our growth strategy.  Since we’re eliminating the gift bag, the stand-alone, gift bag-only option is also gone.

My hope is all the positive changes will outweigh any perceived negative ones, and that everyone is looking forward to our new health focus in 2011. The media have already indicated they’ll support multiple themed events, so we’re anticipating a record year.

The 2011 event brochure will be available soon, at which time we’ll also be accepting applications for all of next year’s events.

Use the comments section to tell us what you think about our plans for 2011.