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Updated: July 1, 2024

Maine food brands shine at Big Apple trade shows

TK Photo / Courtesy, Maine Center for Entrepreneurs Toby Ahrens, right, founder and president of Diggables, promoting the Portland-based snack brand at the New York Fancy Food Show.

From tempeh and mushrooms to niche snacks and coffee, Maine food and drink brands hit New York City in force last week for two trade shows.

A dozen Maine companies exhibited their wares at the New York Fancy Food Show from June 23-25, while a handful took part in the smaller, more exclusive Good Food Mercantile Show on June 22.

Several of the exhibitors are members or graduates of the Maine Center for Entrepreneurs’ food accelerator and entrepreneurship programs. 

"It’s exciting to witness our Maine companies branching out to regional and national markets more than ever, and to collaborate with them on a strategic path to success," said Janine B. Cary, program manager of MCE’s MarketShare program

At the Fancy Food Show
Photo / Courtesy, Maine Center for Entrepreneurs
Emily Dickinson, left, of Farming Fungi LLC (doing business as Mousam Valley Mushrooms) and Janine B. Cary of the Maine Center for Entrepreneurs.

More than 2,400 exhibitors took part in the New York Fancy Food Show, and it attracted around 29,000 attendees, according to a spokeswoman for the New York-based Specialty Food Association that hosted the event.

"In a world that is increasingly reliant on remote work, these shows are critical for building personal relationships with existing retailers and distributors as well as key new buyers,” Toby Ahrens, founder and president of Diggables, a Portland-based snack brand launched in 2023, told Mainebiz after the show.

“Buckwheat is going through a renaissance, and it was really cool to have new retailers actively seeking us out for a change,” he added. “We were in good company — Maine businesses showed up in force! We had lots of folks telling us that they had no idea that there were so many awesome Maine food businesses looking to expand. It was a great show.”

Other exhibitors

Diggables was joined at the New York Fancy Food show by Balfour Farm, Bixby Chocolate, Farm Fungi LLC (doing business as Mousam Valley Mushrooms), Green Bee LLC, Kittylamb, Libellula, Maine Grains, Maine Homestead, Pineland Farms Cheese, Thai Culinary Arts Studio and Tootie’s Tempeh.

Bixby Chocolate also won a Gold Sofi Award for its Belize Chocolate Bars, which it displayed at the show.

"I loved seeing the diverse group of exhibitors from the great state of Maine at this year's summer show," Specialty Food Association President Bill Lynch told Mainebiz in an emailed statement.

"The breadth and quality of products from Maine was impressive and speaks to the bright future for domestic specialty food manufacturers.

“From Sofi-Award-winning Bixby Chocolate to on-trend crunchy snacks and mushrooms to globally inspired delights like Thai meal kits and Italian olive oils, the foods and beverages showcased by Maine-based SFA member companies offered something for every buyer and food lover at the show,” he added.

Kate McAleer of Bixby Chocolate at a trade show.
Photo / Courtesy, Maine Center for Entrepreneurs
Bixby Chocolate's Kate McAleer shows off her award-winning products.

Bixby Chocolate and Maine Grains were also among Maine exhibitors at the Good Food Mercantile Show, along with Coffee By Design, Speckled Ax and Turtle Rock Farm.

“The Good Food Mercantile show in NYC is small, one-day, curated show of businesses creating tasty, authentic, responsible foods where Maine Grains has been able to meet grocery buyers, resellers and members of the press who are eager to learn about our new products on the market,” Amber Lambke, co-founder and CEO of Maine Grains, told Mainebiz.

“We also have a chance to spot products that pair well with ours in our online and dry goods shops and talk with founders about their mission, practices and products.”

Save the date 

More than 50 members of the MCE's food accelerator programs will have a chance to promote their specialties on their home turf this fall at the Maine Food Producer Showcase & Golden Fork Awards in Portland. Find out more about the Oct. 24 event here.

Find out more about MCE's food accelerator programs here.

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