March 27, 2012 | By Shannon Kelly
It was a shocking revelation that we hadn’t attended a consumer festival in nearly ten years.
Maybe we were tired after too many years on the trade show circuit, attending events like the International Gift Show, Fancy Food Show, International Housewares Show, Coffee Fest, Natural Products Expo and Gourmet Foods events as buyers.
It’s not that we’re jaded exactly—it’s just that the opportunity to spot something truly new and noteworthy in a sea of Chupa Chups and Beanie Babies is rare. For every 2.6 million square feet of exhibit space, there are generally two or three products of note that you can not get or see online, or when connecting with a local vendor or distributor.
Fortunately for you and us, product launches are not exclusive to trade shows. Consumer’s insatiable cravings, especially in the food and beverage industries, to meet purveyors to connect with locally made goods drive demand for events where there is a greater degree of transparency. And bloggers can be thanked, in part, for broadening the reach of product reporting.
This connection between product and producer was evident this past weekend at the California’s Artisan Cheese Festival in Petaluma as we sipped and sampled alongside cheese mongers, cheese lovers, bloggers, and traditional media.
Motivated by direct to consumer (D2C) sales, profits from events like these directly impact the bottom line thanks to the elimination of distribution and freight (remember that these purveyors need pricey cold transpiration to keep products viable at grocery). Events like these, which launched in 2007, have been popping up thanks to the influx of food savvy customers.
Our favorite session was the “Bacon, Bubbles + Brunch” event with Chef Duskie Estes, sponsored by Clover Stornetta Farms. It was a wonderful opportunity to show the versatility of cheese—paired with meat (loved the Black Pig Meat Co. bacon) and wine (shout out to Iron Horse Vineyards). Did we mention that Chef Estes is the Queen of Pork? She and her husband, John Steward of Zazu Restaurant + Farm in Santa Rosa won the Grand Cochon — the national 555 Cochon competition in Aspen, CO.
It’s events like these that showcase everything dear to our hearts—locally sourced foods, passion for craftsmanship, and community. These are products made in small batches by people with a passion for what they do.
Exhibitors at the Artisan Cheese Festival may not have a tradeshow booth at a national event but for these passionate trendsetters, the size of the stage is not the prize — it’s the quality of the end product that matters most.