Walking the tradeshow - SKUFood
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Walking the tradeshow

When we get feedback from our newsletter subscribers it is always welcomed and appreciated. We put a lot of thought into creating content that is valuable to food producers, processors and others in the industry. This week someone reached out to say the two most recent editions on consumer shows and trade shows were beneficial to them. They also asked if we could provide some insights into walking a trade show. So this week we will discuss Walking a trade show to get the maximum benefits. Whether you are an exhibitor or a visitor to a trade show there are so many things you can learn.

With some planning and time at the show you will definitely maximize the return on your investment of time and perhaps money to be at the show.

Considerations before the trade show

Most trade shows will publish a list of exhibitors on the web site prior to the show. If you are attending SIAL in May here is a link to the exhibitor list. You can sort it and search to find relevant contacts for your business. Whenever possible, review a list of exhibitors in advance to plan your top 5-10 booths you want to visit. It is easy to lose focus and miss some of the booths you really should visit.

Once you create your top 10 list find the trade show map. Many trade shows post this on their website to illustrate how many exhibitors they have. You can create a plan for walking the show to ensure you get to your top 10 booths.

If you are exhibiting, plan a schedule with the people in your booth so you have time to walk the show. If you do not have certain times devoted to everyone ‘getting out of the booth’ it might never happen.

I prefer to walk the show before it opens which is usually possible for exhibitors. You are supposed to be in there setting up or getting ready for the day but I find it is the best time to see many of the booths. Plan to set up early and then take a walk through the aisles to see what is happening.

Exhibitors you might want to visit


If you are a supplier in food and beverage not many of your customers exhibit at trade shows. They prefer to walk the floor and talk to suppliers. If they are exhibiting, you need to make time to visit their booth. These relationships are a marathon so treat this as one more touch point opportunity.


You should always check out your competitors. Understand what they are focused on and how they might be sampling. Think about it from your customer’s perspective; what message would they take away. You might find some learnings you can incorporate into your next show. If I am being honest there are many ideas developed during my time at Loblaw that we might have seen in a Wegmans or Trader Joe’s store.

You can always learn from your competition. You should also check out their booth. There might be some things they are communicating or focusing on that are important considerations for your business. Look for any new packaging and marketing messages. If they have a sign up process for their list add your name, it is always good to know what they are saying to consumers.

Channel partners

Many people attend trade shows to ‘find a distributor’ or ‘find a broker’. That is easier said than done. There are some distributors and brokers that exhibit and you should definitely check them out. You want to really try to determine if there is a good fit with your business. Considerations such as geography, size, retail channels they cover and departments where they have expertise are all important.

Look at the principles (other suppliers) they work with now, most will not take competing brands. You can often learn about where they are positioned in the market by looking at the brands they work with. If your product is in the natural food space then look for other items in that department.


You might find ingredient, packaging and equipment suppliers at trade shows. It can be interesting to see what they have that could benefit your business. This is the area where I would not spend as much time because these people need companies like yours so they will make time for you anytime if you are buying.

My experience has been producers and processors prefer to talk to these people because they are more enjoyable conversations and they want to talk to you. Finding potential customers is harder and more frustrating work.


Name tags are great. Although we want to look at people and make eye contact, you also need to be checking out name tags at trade shows. Some shows give retailers different colour badges so try to understand the colour schemes before you walk the show.

Make a list of names you do want to meet and see if you can ‘run into them’ on the trade show floor. You should be prepared to have a conversation with them and if possible invite them to your booth. Bring a few copies of the exhibit hall map so you can circle your booth and give it to people if you do meet up with them. It is easy to say, “I will drop by the booth” but it doesn’t always happen. If you give them a map with your booth circled it can make a difference. It is also good to ask for a time they might be at the booth so you can plan to be there or not talking to another customer at that time.

Things to take with you on the floor

We are back to giving out business cards in most shows. Put a few in your pocket and every time you collect a card put the new ones in a different pocket. I also see some people who keep cards in the back of their badge if pockets are a challenge.

Take your phone so you can take a few pictures and share contact information with people.

I can be a bit old school, but a pen and paper are good. I remember things better if I write them down so I like to make a few notes while I am walking around.

Take a few copies of the show map you can share with prospective customers or others you want to visit your booth. Circle your booth in advance. You can also circle the top 10 booths you want to visit on one copy to keep yourself on track.

A reusable grocery bag for samples and other things you collect.

Look for the interesting and unexpected

There are always lots of people and things to see when you walk the show. You are trying to read name tags and find that elusive person from a retailer so there is lots happening.

Take the time to stop and look around. I like to think of a few themes to watch for. This year I am interested in artificial intelligence, sustainability, post pandemic marketing ideas and other trends like upcycling and good for you foods. You never know when you will see something that will be a great idea or inspire you with one of your initiatives.

When you do find something worth checking out send the others in your booth over for a look. We all see things a bit differently.

If you have any questions about walking trade shows, you can always send me an email peter@skufood.com or call me at (902) 489-2900.


U.S. food price inflation eases

We know there has been so much conversation about food inflation. IN the U.S. they did report a drop in prices in a few categories. There are similarities to our markets, but also things like supply management which make them different.

In the U.S. eggs have been very high priced due to issues with avian flu which impacted supply. This is one category that is up a lot but lower than last month.

Really excited to work with Norm Purdy and Al Archibald to deliver this new program for Food and Beverage Atlantic. We have created a unique masterclass for food and beverage business owners. This has been developed to help you run your business, not work in the business. We will focus on key metrics you need to measure and how to manage your business for the best results. The combination of virtual and in person will really deliver the tools and strategies you need to take your business to the next level.

Any questions just give me a call at (902) 489-2900 or send me an email peter@skufood.com

Where is Peter Speaking?

Food and Beverage Atlantic

Sobeys Pitch preparation Apr 19th

Food and Beverage Atlantic

Preparing for SIAL Apr 20th

Foodpreneur program

Getting ready for retail May 16th

De Sedulous Women Leaders

Pricing and positioning Jun 23rd

De Sedulous Women Leaders

Finding the perfect distributor Jul 14th