Trade shows are coming back - SKUFood
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Trade shows are coming back

Trade shows have been part of our food and beverage industry for a long time. We know food and beverage trade shows are great opportunities to see new items, learn about the trends and see customers. This week I had the opportunity to attend the Canadian Produce Marketing Association trade show in Montreal. It was a chance to reconnect with the industry in person. Google can provide definitions, but it does not always help you understand the importance of the term or perhaps even a specific meaning in our industry. We are going to share some food and beverage industry terms and explain how they can benefit or impact your business.

Trade shows are industry events where the buyers and sellers gather to exhibit products, service to the industry and connect with existing and potential customers. At trade shows suppliers should focus on the benefits their products bring to customers and consumers.

The first round of trade shows might be more important than ever

As we have all endured the pandemic trade show were postponed, pivoted to virtual formats or cancelled all together. It has been one of the big changes suppliers and retailers have learned to live with.

I would admit to being somewhat apprehensive to join hundreds in Montreal for this event. I have been fortunate to do most of my work virtually and reduce the time I have been on the road or with other people. It was odd to see so many people together but it was also reinvigorating to see people in person and catch up with friends and colleagues.

There was an atmosphere of getting focused on business and looking for opportunities to grow sales and profits. It was apparent customers (retailers and distributors) were interested to see who was there and what they had to offer.

There was a focus on sustainability as this trend continues to be top of mind in produce and the entire food industry. New packaging and stories about environmental impact were on display. We have not solved all of the packaging challenges but industry does continue to move forward.

Convenience was also a focus for some exhibitors with more work being done to make life easier for consumers. We know more millennials are shopping retail and they like to see some or most of the work done for them. A package such as all the ingredients for an omelet except the eggs is an example.

We also saw the maple leaf on a lot of packaging. Consumers want to know where their food is coming from and the maple leaf is a very simple and effective visual to communicate “produced in Canada”.

Trade show tips for suppliers

Think about your purpose and build a plan before you attend any trade show. You really do need to think about why you are going and what should happen for you to achieve that return on investment. It is expensive to travel, attend a show and we also need to factor in what our time is worth.

Your purpose can be to find new retailers, new distributors, new brokers or to reinforce relationships with existing customers and suppliers. You might be looking for equipment or packaging that will improve your business. Another reason to attend a trade show is to check out your competition and see what is happening with similar items.

Perhaps you have a few of these reasons on your list. Consider the purpose and then build your plan.

I like to review the list of exhibitors in advance and select a few booths that are on my ‘must see’ list. Make sure you take the time during the trade show to get to these booths. It can also be beneficial to create a list of people you want to meet. These might not be exhibitors so you will have to find them at the show or set up meetings in advance. Advance planning will allow you to build a schedule and make the best use of your time. It will also prevent the agonizing experience of your top two customers arriving at the same time. In a big trade show, you might not run into them again if you miss that opportunity.

Find as many opportunities as possible in advance of the trade show to let people know you will be there. Include it in your email signature, post about it on LinkedIn and mention it in communication to your key customers and suppliers. You will be surprised how much your schedule can fill up with meaningful events in your calendar.

Trade shows are expensive. You need to generate a return on your investment. A purpose and a plan will help you make the most of the opportunity. Remember the word trade. These are not consumer shows. Reinforce your ability to get your product on the shelf and your commitment to get your product off the shelf.

We will be back in Montreal April 20-22 to attend SIAL. Looking forward to seeing a different group of people in the food industry. If you plan to be there let me know and it would be great to see you. You see I am doing some of my planning for this trade show!

My covid test was negative when I got home.

If you have any questions or require help with making the most of trade shows, you can always send me an email or call me at (902) 489-2900.


Grocery delivery takes another step in the U.S.

BJ’s Wholesale club has announced an agreement with Doordash to deliver products from their warehouses. We know the pandemic pushed more consumers than ever to shop online. In Canada we see more click and collect offerings where consumers order online and pick up at the store. With more population density in the U.S. delivery is a very realistic expectation for consumers.

A Walmart with a focus on sustainability coming to Montreal

It can be a challenge to understand where the industry is going. Online ordering and delivery in the U.S. in our previous article and Walmart investing $20M in a bricks and mortar store in Montreal. Obviously Walmart still believes consumers want the in-store experience and that sustainable characteristics will make the store more appealing.

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