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Trendspotting at the Lipari Food Show

Distributor clocks record attendance, as positivity and innovations ramp up
Lynn Petrak, Progressive Grocer
Lipari Food Show - global
The international section at the Lipari Food show included several new vendors this year, many from the Middle East and Mediterranean regions.

If this year’s Lipari Food Show is any indication of the state of food manufacturing and retailing, things are looking up. The annual selling show, which took place on April 17 at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, Mich., with a 2024 game-inspired theme of “Savings Across the Board,” brought in a record amount of Lipari customers who browsed offerings across specialty grocery, international, prepared foods, deli, bakery, confections, dairy, frozen, packaging and meat and seafood categories. 

More than 8,000 retail pros came out to the event and had a chance visit over 800 booths to learn about more than 15,000 items, including several from Lipari-owned brands. “This will be our biggest year ever and we have retailers that are coming from probably almost every state in the union,” said Nick Lenzi, SVP of marketing for the Warren, Mich.-based Lipari Foods, during a tour of the show floor with Progressive Grocer.

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According to Lipari Foods President Thom Lipari, the numbers were matched by an elevated enthusiasm as the disruptions of the past few years seem to have eased. “The turnout has been fantastic this year and I think what we are seeing is the industry is really starting to get back to normal coming off COVID. 2023 was a transition year, and it seems like the vibe now is customers are back to doing business the way we’ve always done business – instead of protecting their business, they are trying to grow it,” he told PG, adding, “Manufacturers are back, too. They were in an era where they were trying to put out what they had, and now we are starting see new items come in, and new programs.”

To Lipari’s point, scores of brands showcased and sampled new products at the show. While plant-based foods were in the spotlight in recent years, many innovations this year centered on the enjoyment and value of the eating and drinking experience. “We’re showing somewhere around 800 new items this year, including some in new categories,” Lenzi affirmed.

Simple Solutions
Lipari Foods' own brand, Simple Solutions, offers more grab-and-go salads.

Going global: Many new items were displayed at the show’s expanded international section. Here, retail attendees could check out an array of Mexican, Central America and South American foods as well as booths specializing in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean, including several new vendors on hand this time around. 

Stepping up flavor: In addition to highlighting the exploration of different cultures through food, this year’s selling event reflected other trends within the CPG and retail arenas. The quest for new flavor experiences, for example, was evident in new products like Matcha Almond Latte from Califia Farms and Caramel Apple Popcorn from Lipair’s Backroad Country brand.   

Bites are back: Consumers’ appetite for permissible indulgences was a factor in other innovations, like vegan chocolate cupcakes from the Abe’s brand, bite-sized Bacon Cheddar Stuffed Bagels Bros ‘N Dough, mini cups of edible cookie dough from The Cookie Dough Cafe and many other products. 

It’s go time: To meet the tastes and time crunch among today’s shoppers, brands are back to promoting convenience-oriented products. Lipari, for its part, has added a line of ready-to-eat salad kits under the Simple Solutions’ brand. Other examples include a snack kit with mild salami, provolone cheese and roasted almonds from Veroni. 

After the show, Lipari Foods donated unused products to Forgotten Harvest, to distribute to local charities. Last year, the company gave away more than 43,000 pounds of food following the one-day event. 

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