NEW YORK -- The National Association for the Specialty Food Trade here is encouraging supermarkets to join the trade association under a new category called General Member.
Of the 25,770 attendees at the Fancy Food Show held here in July, 855 individuals were registered from supermarkets or specialty supermarkets, according to the NASFT.
Supermarkets represent 65% to 80% of the volume of sales for specialty-food products, said spokeswoman Jennifer Leuzzi. They are becoming increasingly important to the trade group. Of the current 24 general members, seven are supermarkets, she said, adding that the NASFT projects membership in this category will be at 250 next year.
From 1986 to 1994, the NASFT offered a 'retail division' membership that allowed members access to food shows, explained Leuzzi. That evolved into the Preferred Buyers' designation. With the evolution and expansion of membership benefits, including training materials, the NASFT decided to extend full membership to retailers who would profit from these enhanced benefits, she said.
Currently, NASFT membership for manufacturers, distributors, importers and brokers is up to almost 2,000, with approximately 400 to 500 new members being added each year, Leuzzi said. The trial membership is a way to join immediately, on-site at the shows, to gain instant access to the benefits prior to the formal review process. After the review, membership becomes permanent. The fee is always $200.
"Supermarkets are a growing segment for the NASFT as more specialty-food products are moving onto the supermarket shelves. Products that were once only available to smaller specialty shops are expanding into supermarkets -- which is very important to the NASFT," Leuzzi said.
Retailers visit the shows to see new products and to make purchases for their stores. Some of the exhibitors at the Summer Fancy Food Show here in July told SN that they were not interested in selling to supermarkets, but others said they definitely were.
The trade association is using the upcoming Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco as a draw, since membership benefits will apply for that show, which is slated for Jan. 23-25 at the Moscone Convention Center.