It’s not just fancy. It’s green.

July 12, 2011

When munching on a sumptuous spread of white truffles, sampling almonds tucked into syrupy preserved figs or chomping on a cigar-sized chunky chocolate bar, do you ever wonder about these luxury foods’ environmental impact?

Apparently lots of consumers do — enough that organic, sustainable and otherwise “green” foods are proliferating at this year’s Fancy Food Show.

Usually held in New York City, the trade show for artisanal, niche and rare comestibles was moved this year to Washington D.C. The U.S. capital’s convention center, which next month will host robotic weapons systems, is the current home to literally thousands of food stalls promoting their wares to the trade. Even if environmental stewardship is not paramount for some companies, many offer at least some products with green cred, since this is what wholesale buyers and their customers demand, according to Louise Kramer, communications director for the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade.

“Specialty food consumers are looking for things like sustainability, fair trade and natural products,” Kramer said as she walked the aisles of the show. “Our companies are typically small businesses, entrepreneurial, artisanal and family businesses … who make food that’s the opposite of mass market food.” It may not be mass market, but the specialty food business accounted for more than $70 billion in sales last year, the association said.

As she walked, she read off slogans for various products: “Fresh, natural, sinful,” “We support American farmers,” “No sugar added,” “No hydrogenated oils.”

“It’s more than just a marketing gimmick,” Kramer said. “They want to know they’re not trashing the environment by eating them.”

Kramer noted that a winner of a 2011 award for innovative package design was Ajiri Tea, which featured packaging made by Kenyan women from banana leaves, banana tree bark and colorful beads made from rolled strips of magazine paper.

The Wolfgang candy company of York, Pennsylvania, doesn’t tout its environmental status. But ask at their booth and they’ll show you chocolate-covered pretzels in a recyclable, compostable package. Theobroma offers chocolate — “certified organic, gluten-free, NON-GMO, carbon neutral, vegetarian, low calories” — in an “eco-organic shipper display.” D’Arbo features all natural fruit spreads in flavors like Sour Cherry and Rose Apricot, with “higher fruit content, at least 50 percent vs. competitors!!!”

Sgambaro promotes its organic pasta made from spelt and whole durum wheat. G.H. Cretors sells all natural popcorn without corn syrup, artificial flavors or colors. The Agricultural Cooperatives’ Union of Aeghion, Greece, offers organic currants, olive oil and citrus fruits.

And then there’s the water from Wales: Llanllyr Source premium natural spring water, “drawn from beneath the organic fields of Llanllyr for over 800 years.”

Not everything had that earnest green tint, though. A big draw at the show was pop diva Patti LaBelle. She put her name on — what else? — Lady Marmalade. It’s a line of seasonings, but somehow they have people humming a familiar song of the same name.

Photo credits: NASFT

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