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Tips for Attending a Food Trade Show

Be smart! Pound the trade show pavement with these money making questions


The Summer Fancy Food Show

The Summer Fancy Food Show


Do you have a plan when you are attending a tradeshow? You probably have plans when you are exhibiting since you want to develop new business and trade shows are expensive. When you consider the cost of your booth, extras at the show, meals, lodging, travel expenses… you are over $5000 at the minimum. It is just as important to have a plan for trade show attendance.

Trade shows such as Fancy Food or Expo East and West are overwhelming. Without a tradeshow plan, you will wasted a lot of time and come back feeling unfilled. So you need to establish some reasonable objectives ahead of time, write them down and bring them along so you can track your progress.

Advising a Foodpreneur Client

Patty Hayes, founder of Wine Duets, a brand of cookies that can be paired with wine, wanted advice on making her future trade shows super effective. So here are trade show tips from our meeting.

Different Categories of Trade Show Exhibitors

The overall goal for her was to gather as much information about the specialty food business at the trade shows on her schedule. Uou want to think about the various constituencies you may be speaking with.  Each group is slightly different. Some will use different terms for the same concept… sales velocity could be referred to many different ways. Also get questions you won’t anticipate… it’s OK to say you don’t know the answer but will get back to them ASAP. Bear in mind that you may not be able to get answers to every question.

Make sure your product is what I call “retail ready”. If it is not, no UPC code, Nutritional Facts Label, etc… you want to stress that you are expecting “retail ready” product and can send them samples soon.

Trade Show Exhibitor Categories

Brands that are exhibitors are super busy so you might want to get to them first thing in the morning.

Retailers are wandering the aisles looking for new items so you may only get a few minutes with them and of course the best is to have them commit to speaking with you after the show.

Many Distributors have booths that contain numerous products they carry. If they ask you to sit with them at one of the meeting tables in their booth, you will be able to obtain comprehensive data.

Brokers – Most food brokers do not have booths, so pay attention to name tags of people walking the show.

Remember that buyers and distributors are focused on where they can make money. They all have an opinion and far too many come off negative and make a food entrepreneur feel bad! You know your category better than any retailer, distributor and broker. You have found the “market problem” and created a solution… AND if you have great sales velocity all the better for your credibility. So take what they say with a pound of salt!

Speaking with other Brands

  • In order to avoid being seen as competition.
  • If their packaging looks appropriate for your brand, find out some of their key vendors.
  • What specialty retailers carry their line? Which ones do they do best in?
  • What distributors are they using?
  • Do they perform any direct ship to retailers? If so is UPS or Less than Truck Load (LTL) acceptable?  Oh, you don’t know LTL? The definition from, Access America Transport web site, “LTL is an acronym for Less Than Truckload. This means a shipment that does not require a full 48 or 53 foot trailer. There are many carriers that specialize or offer this service and like full truck load carriers the LTL carriers themselves specialize in different services such as lift gate and residential pick ups and deliveries, guaranteed services, protect from freeze, transit, and bottom line cost to name a few.”

For more money making questions, read How to Handle Distributors, Retailers and Food Brokers at trade shows.

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