How to decide which shows to attend - SKUFood
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How to decide which shows to attend

We appreciate the insights we have received from people about trade shows. I think there are a lot of people attending them right now. We received two great ideas to add to our conversation last week about walking a trade show. The first was to look for name badges that are flipped around so you can’t see who it is. Chances are it is a retailer who would prefer people do not stop them when they see “Loblaws” or “Sobeys” on the badge. Great tip, keep an eye out for those badges where you can’t see the name or company. The second was to remind people in all of your communication prior to the show to visit your booth during the show. Hopefully this will drive traffic to your booth or at least remind people you will be there. Here is an example:

To continue with the trade show theme, we are going to discuss How to decide which shows to attend. Now that people are moving around again there are a lot of opportunities. You also have to ensure you are getting a return on your investment of time, money and other resources.

Overall considerations

The first thing you need to consider is:

Why are you going?

There are many answers to this question. We can jump to execution sometimes or perhaps, do what we have always done but it is important to ask the question why are we attending?

The answer should help you decide which shows are right for you. Here are some possible answers:

1. Generate sales

2. Reinforce relationships with existing customers or channel partners

3. You are known in this category or department and your absence would be noticed

4. Find new customers

5. Find channel partners like brokers, distributors, logistics or retail coverage partners

6. Look at options for packaging, equipment or ingredients

7. Learn from the education sessions (you know those people who speak at conferences…)

8. See what your competition is up to

9. Look for trends (sustainability, plant-based foods, flavours) and how companies are addressing them

10. Get exposure or recognition in a market

11. Enter contests to generate awareness or exposure for your products

You might have more than one answer but you probably need to prioritize them if you have more than five. Once you answer why you are attending you can begin to assess your options.

What is your budget?

I am sure in some categories you could spend many weeks and many thousands of dollars on trade shows. You need to be realistic. You should budget the dollars, time and resources you want to commit to this part of your business. It is a lot of work and money to get ready for some of these shows. We would always suggest do a great job at fewer shows then spread yourself too thin and under represent your brand.

To budget the dollars you can use a percentage of sales or a percentage of your sales and marketing budget. There is no right answer to this question. It depends on where your brand and products are in their evolution. If you are well established and nothing really new or splashy to talk about then you might be able to spend less. You have established relationships with customers and you are confident you will see them at the show. If you are new and trying to build a brand and product sales you might need to over invest to create awareness and attract the right people.

Your budget needs to include:

Entrance fees

Booth creation, set up and tear down

Sampling costs

Travel, meals and lodging (very expensive right now)

Salary (you have this regardless but consider the cost so you have a true understanding of your investment)

Brochures or other sales collateral

Entertainment if you plan to take a customer out

Budgeting dollars is important, but you also want to consider the time required. How many days do you or people who work with you need to be in trade shows? If people work 48 weeks in the year and they attend two trade shows, that require travel, that is 5% of their total time working. Is this the right amount? Travel is not as enjoyable as it used to be and there are fewer flights. A 2-3 day trade show that involves travel and set up/tear down is likely 5 working days.

You also need resources to make the most of your trade show investments. These include people to coordinate all the details, sales collateral, promotion, sampling etc.

Other considerations

To get the best return on your investment there are some other parameters to consider. You should weight these against the “why” you are making the investment. For example, if your primary reason for going is to find new channel partners, the shows you attend need to match the geography where they are likely to be. If you are looking to expand into the U.S. north east the Expo East show would be more valuable than Expo West.

You should also think about which shows your customers are most likely to attend. If you are in the Canadian produce industry the Canadian Produce Marketing Association convention is next week. Almost all of the merchandising and procurement people from all retailers will be there. If you are in produce you probably need to be there.

A booth vs walking the show is another consideration. If you want exposure, you probably need a booth. If you are there to reinforce existing relationships and do some research, you might have better results walking the show and setting up meetings in advance.

We often think of trade shows where we go to sell and get exposure. There are also shows where you are the buyer. Examples would be packaging, equipment, ingredients and other inputs. It is great to sell but it is also important to be a buyer. You might find more opportunities at these shows walking.

Assessing the options

When you are clear on your why and how much you want to invest compare the choices you have. Some shows you just have to attend or your absence would be conspicuous. Once these are on the list and accounted for, decide what else is realistic.

If you want to get more scientific you can use a weighted average to assign a weight to each question and then rank the opportunities you have. This is a great decision-making tool. If you want more information about how to do this let me know.

Be strategic about the investments you make in trade shows. They can pay dividends, but they are also expensive and they can take a lot of time. For some employees they are a reward and for others a huge challenge. Coordinating the time away can be difficult and some people travel better than others. In a future week we will discuss the return on the investments.

As we said in previous weeks if you are at CPMA next week or SIAL in a few weeks I will be there and it would be great to catch up. I have already been able to set up some conversations which is awesome! Look forward to seeing you on the trade show floor.

If you have any questions about determining which trade shows are right for you, you can always send me an email or call me at (902) 489-2900.


Gluten free Oreos

Claims help sell products and I am sure there are Oreo cookie lovers who need them to be gluten free. According to Celiac Canada 10,000,000 Canadians are looking for gluten free products. That is a sizeable piece of the market. When you consider when one person is either forced or choosing to eat gluten free the entire household will purchase and consume these products. In our house one of our daughters is lactose intolerant so we use lactose free butter (at double the price!) for most things so we don’t have to double the work.

When I was looking at I also found this drop down menu where you can have Oreos at your wedding! I am not sure.

Galen Weston’s salary in the news

This week, most calls seemed to include some conversation about Galen Weston’s salary and the new person coming in to run Loblaw. No doubt, these people make a lot of money and I am not sure how you begin to justify it to the people working 52 weeks per year in the food industry.

When you consider the challenges of running a business the size of Loblaw, it is a daunting task. The salary is big but there are also a lot of issues when you run a business doing over $40B per year and employ over 200,000 Canadians.

To put it in some perspective I did look up Toronto Blue Jays base salaries. According to, there are 9 players making more than Galen Weston.

George Springer $22,500,000

Kevin Gausman $21,000,000

Chris Bassitt $18,000,000

Jose Berrios $15,000,000

Vladamir Guerrero Jr. $14,500,000

Matt Chapman $12,000,000 (no relation!)

Yusei Kikuchi $10,000,000

Brandon Belt $ 9,300,000

Kevin Kiermaier $ 9,000,000

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

Where is Peter Speaking?

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