Last year, I had the chance to attend the IFFA Show in Frankfurt, Germany, for the first time. Along with being overwhelmed by the size and scope of the show itself, I had the chance to explore the neighborhood around the fairgrounds in Frankfurt.

Left to my own devices outside of the show hours, I spent some time at the mall next to the show. There, in the middle of a multi-story shopping center in downtown Frankfurt, there was a fresh market where shoppers could stop and pick up some groceries for dinner. This was how I came to understand that the idea of shopping for a week’s worth of groceries at once (or a month’s worth if you go to club stores) was an American invention. It’s much more common to shop more often for groceries, and use them immediately.

I don’t know if that mindset would ever reach America, but the small meat markets that I visit would be ideally suited for that mindset. They could even make it easy on shoppers by offering a pre-packaged meal kit. It could include a protein entrée that they can pop in the oven, along with a couple of heat-and-eat side dishes and dessert. By helping to take the guesswork out of the consumer’s equation, markets could become a destination when nobody knows what to make for dinner.

As for IFFA itself, the equipment was truly amazing to behold, but the most clever thing I saw was a vending machine for meat products. I saw it in action and spoke a little with the manufacturers, and I knew it would just be a matter of time before some enterprising butcher saw the possibility and ordered one in the United States. Rick Reams of RJ’s Meats ended up being that enterprising butcher, and his vending machine has been doing a good business of selling his products after operating hours or during holidays. You can read more about him in this newsletter.

I’ve heard it said that ideas that start in Europe take up to five years to make it to the U.S. I think the industry should cut that by a few years and look overseas for ideas more frequently. A good idea is a good idea, regardless of where it starts.