Food Fella: Fancy Food Show shines ‘across the river’

This year’s Fancy Food Show, hosted by the Specialty Food Association, featured a plethora of companies looking to capture the top food trends that are sweeping through the food industry today. As this gigantic vessel of globally inspired food docked itself at the Javits Center in New York City, it showcased a tremendous amount of unique and innovative ways companies all over are creating these new foods and beverages.

According to the SFA’s annual State of the Specialty Food Industry Report, specialty food sales jumped 9.8% between 2016 and 2018, reaching $148.7 billion last year. This more than likely was a byproduct of increased interest from both consumers and retailers.

A recent featured blog from our friends at the Food Institute in Upper Saddle River said another trend that has endured for the past few years is water. But this isn’t just your standard spring water. Startups are adding extra benefits like more oxygen or sustainable sourcing to create a high-end drink, while some are offering add-ins like flavor straws or drops. Others are building on the popularity of coconut water, adding juices and spices to differentiate themselves. Maple water, rose water and aloe water also have been trending.

One New Jersey institution that was exhibiting at the show and has also been a catalyst in the food and beverage industry for many years developing new manufacturing trends and products is the Rutgers Food Innovation Center. We caught up with the staff at the Incubator Village, which was stationed on the top floor overlooking the entire trade floor. The entire Rutgers FIC team was there, meeting and greeting with specialty food companies from around the world, talking about how its staff and the Bridgeton and Piscataway centers can help grow their food businesses through learning, Innovating and accelerating.

Many successful food companies have had their beginnings at Rutgers FIC, such as First Fields, an all-natural tomato ketchup company, the Impossible Burger, a plant-based meat company, and many more. I’m sure we’ll continue to see a variety of new and upcoming companies rolling through the facilities in this environment of change.

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Reach Rutgers FIC at:

You read it right: ‘Gourmet chicken fingers’ come to N.J.

Buffalo balsamic blue. Thai fiesta. Salted caramel pretzel.

That’s just a small sampling of the wild and crazy flavor selections for chicken fingers, all creations by Sticky’s Finger Joint, which recently opened its first location in New Jersey and eighth overall at The Outlets at Bergen Town Center in Paramus.

The New York City-based gourmet chicken finger restaurant was launched in 2012 by childhood friends Jon Sherman and Paul Abrahamian.

According to its website, “Sticky’s takes the classic chicken finger to an elevated level by not only locally sourcing ingredients and using farm-raised, antibiotic-free, hormone-free chicken, but also by putting unique, flavorful and creative spins on this childhood favorite.”

The eatery is now open next to Cava.

Here are some facts that Sticky’s has shared:

Sticky’s Finger Joint was created out of a love for chicken fingers, and the desire to think outside the box for a how a restaurant could serve them. The eatery launched with over 25 homemade dipping sauces on the menu, inspired by cuisines from around the world. It finds local graffiti artists to put up original murals on the walls. It hires people from all different backgrounds and wants to make everyone feel at home when they are in the store. It sources ingredients locally and use farm-raised, antibiotic-free, hormone-free chicken. As the company continues to open new stores and build its team, it never wants to lose sight of what got it where it is today: passion, creativity, inclusivity and delicious chicken.

One thing for sure is that expanding to New Jersey is certainly a “cluck” in the right direction. There are plans for a location in Bridgewater to open by late summer and in Union in early 2020. Good luck to all at the Sticky’s Finger Joint family and keep on creating those outrageous flavor combos! 

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For more information about Sticky’s Finger Joint, go to:

RoNetco gives back, awarding scholarships to students

Here’s some good news regarding one of the member retailers of Wakefern Food Corp.

RoNetco Supermarkets Inc., operators of ShopRite supermarkets in Sussex, Morris and Warren counties, has announced its scholarship winners for the 2019-2020 academic school year. 

RoNetco is committed to continuing education, providing $22,000 in scholarships every year to associates and children and grandchildren of associates from its seven ShopRite supermarkets and corporate office. 

A very positive approach that has proven well for the food retailer is to help students develop work skills by offering opportunities to learn and earn while working at RoNetco; this is demonstrated through the summer internship program for rising college juniors and seniors, as well as workshops, seminars and an in-house development program that helps to instill and cultivate competencies and leadership skills. 

Now employing over 1,600 people, RoNetco provides opportunities for associates to pursue a post-high school education by offering scholarships, but it also encourages staff members to take advantage of a generous tuition reimbursement program and discounted tuition with participating colleges and universities.

RoNetco currently owns and operates ShopRite locations in Netcong, Byram, Flanders, Newton, Mansfield, Succasunna and Franklin. ShopRite of Sparta will be its eighth location, opening this fall. 

The following are recipients of the RoNetco scholarships:

  • Natalia Voitek, resident of Blairstown, received the Dominick V. Romano Scholarship ($4,000, named in honor of RoNetco’s chairman, CEO and president). She is a rising junior at Monmouth University studying nursing.
  • Madison Hartman, resident of Blairstown, was awarded the Pasquale T. Romano Scholarship ($3,000, in memory of RoNetco’s late president). The rising sophomore at Rutgers University is studying business. 
  • Timothy Forst, resident of Hopatcong, received the Thomas & Vincenia Romano Scholarship ($2,500, named after RoNetco’s founders). He is a graduating senior at Hopatcong High School.
  • Mackenzie Utter, resident of Boone, North Carolina, was awarded the RoNetco Distinguished Achievement Scholarship ($2,500). Mackenzie is a third-year student at Appalachian State University in Boone, studying creative writing.
  • Alex Baker, resident of Hackettstown and student at Rutgers University. Baker is the son of Jeffrey Baker, manager of payroll and human resources at RoNetco’s corporate headquarters.
  • Melanie Haid, resident of Hackettstown and student at Hofstra University. Haid is the daughter of Petra Haid, who works in the ShopRite of Flanders.
  • Olivia Hofer, resident of Andover and a future student at the University of Pittsburgh. Hofer is currently a senior at Lenape Valley Regional High School.
  • Jacob Huhn, resident of Flanders and a future student at the University of Richmond. Huhn is the son of Melissa Huhn, who works in the ShopRite of Succasunna.
  • Kaley Maguire, resident of Hackettstown and student at Centenary University. Maguire is a 2019 graduate from Warren County Community College.
  • Kaitlyn Sargent, resident of Port Murray. Sargent is off to her first year at Centenary University to study criminal justice.
  • Emily Taveras, resident of Budd Lake and a senior at Mount Olive High School. She is headed to the County College of Morris to study criminal justice.
  • Allison Thorn, resident of Boonton and a student at William Paterson University. Thorn is a junior at William Paterson, studying English literature education and elementary education.
  • Roy Julian Valverde, resident of Budd Lake. Valverde is currently attending County College of Morris studying digital media.
  • Joseph Voitek, resident of Blairstown and a student at Moravian College. Voitek is the son of Paul Voitek, RoNetco’s Pharmacy and Customer Service supervisor.

Congratulations and good luck to these students and a sincere thank you to the owners of RoNetco Supermarkets for your investment and desire to educate and train our next generation of workforce!