Over 1,600 exhibitors spread over two halls of the Moscone Center in San Francisco. The aisles are packed with people from all over the world. The mix of smells is all but impossible to describe and the breadth of products on display is overwhelming. People are sitting on steps, leaning against walls and finding any respite they can to relieve aching feet, tired legs, and sore backs. This is the Winter Fancy Food Show
Many miss the magic of a show like this one. They are there for a purpose, to sell or buy, to meet or reconnect, to scope out the competition, or search for innovation. It’s an arduous three days for exhibitors and attendees alike. Yet, it is also a great gathering of an amazing industry.
This amalgamated mass of humanity is there to celebrate food. To many in attendance, it’s about the beauty of food, the dance that it performs when it meets our mouths and is savored. For others, it’s about the social connectedness derived from sharing a meal. Food has a power to bring people together, to create and reinforce tradition. Some are mission-driven. Working tirelessly to find ways to end hunger, eliminate food deserts, and sustainably feed a planet whose population will eclipse 9 billion by 2050. Food is also an economic engine. It’s not only a nutritive source, it’s also a source of opportunity and wealth creation, and many are there in that pursuit.
I know of no other industry that has all of these tentacles. One that is so completely woven into the fabric of culture, nation, ethnicity, and religion. Sure, technology gets much of the buzz, and it has the ability to alter lives and change the way to do business. But, by a simple aroma, it cannot transport you back to your grandmother’s kitchen or to an amazing little sidewalk bistro in Girona, Spain. Only food can do that. Technology has the power to start a conflict but it’s food’s ability to gather people that is often at the root of its resolution.
Yes, of course, I am biased and unabashedly so. I think this is the best business to be in for all of the reasons above and so many more. A great example happened after the first day of the show. A group of us worked to bring the first affiliate chapter of Naturally Boulder to Northern California. We launched Naturally Bay Area. A non-profit with a mission to stimulate growth, entrepreneurship and exceptional leadership in the Northern California food and natural products industry. Also to foster sustainable and responsible best practices in our industry, and facilitate collaboration and mutual support among our members.
We decided to gamble and leverage the show to hold a launch party. We hoped, and lost a bit of sleep worrying, that we could get 50 to 100 people to join us. By the Friday evening prior to the event, we had to cut off the RSVPs as over 200 had committed to attend. The event was an amazing success and there was a powerful energy in the room. These were all people ready, willing, and excited to help support those coming up. The future innovators, entrepreneurs, and game changers. Like I said, I can think of no better business to be in. When we're tired, stressed, mired in the minutia, we need to pause and reflect, it could be worse. We could be working for Facebook or Google ;-)