Why You Should be Attending Food Shows & Expos
So far in our short careers, we’ve each had a chance to attend various food industry exhibitions and events. When Meg worked in sales, she used to go to food trade shows in the greater Toronto area to meet people and prospect new business clients.
Cat recently attended Spoon University’s Brainfood conference in Brooklyn, NY to network and learn from some of the country’s most innovative food entrepreneurs.
Recently, we both volunteered at the Western New York IFT (WNYIFT) Food Industry Expo in Rochester, NY and had a really great experience!
In general, here are some of the things we love about these shows:
- Networking – This is by far the best part of attending these events whether you are job hunting or not! A lot of tradeshows and expos are set up with booths for ingredient companies or manufacturers to exhibit their products. Attendees can range from company representatives seeking ingredient sources to students or salespeople. Needless to say, there is usually a large and diverse group of food industry professionals for you to chat with.
- Free Samples & Food – If you’re a foodie and love to try new things, this might be your favourite part. Point blank…these are food shows. There is definitely going to be food. Some of the notable treats we tried at WNYIFT were: cinnamon roll flavored whip cream, natural creamsicle marshmallows, and artisanal cheeses. We also both went home with a bag full of free samples like chocolate bars, real vanilla extract, and spices!
- Food & Beverage Trends – If you’re a student or a professional, these shows are a great way to learn about up and coming ingredients and innovations. Speaking to vendors about their products reveals a lot about the types of trends companies are focusing on. We would also recommend checking out any of the seminars that are scattered throughout the day. Mintel, a leader in global market research for Food & Beverage, held a seminar at WNYIFT to talk about their predicted trends for 2018. According to them – lab-cultured meat is going to be a big thing! What a time to be alive!
Here are some tips to consider before you go:
- Look into companies and identify the ones you want to talk to before you go!
- Prep a professional outfit. First impressions DO matter.
- Identify why you are going. It will help you to make the most out of the experience.
- Practice your introduction so when you walk up to a booth you know what to say.
- Pack business cards (Yes, people are still using them!). It’s always nice to be able to reciprocate when someone gives you their card.
- Get ready to chat! The booths are often run by salespeople who are eager to talk to you, the attendee.
- Lastly, go on an empty stomach – you will NOT be disappointed!
Though there are hundreds of food shows ranging in size and specificity, here are just a few that we’ve heard great things about!
Summer Fancy Food Show – June 30-July 2nd 2018, New York, NY
IFT Food Expo – July 16-18th 2018, Chicago, IL
Esca Bona – October 22-23rd 2018, Austin, TX
Natural Products Expo West – March 5-9th 2019, Anaheim, CA
CIFST – Healthy Food Revolution: Innovations, Challenges & Future Directions. – May 28, 2018, Niagara On The Lake
SIAL – Inspire Food Business Conference – May 2nd to 4th, 2018 – Montreal
Bakery Showcase Trade Show & Conference – April 29-30, 2018 – Toronto
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Also, we forgot to mention that attending these shows can get pretty expensive. Ask your company if they will sponsor you to go! If you are a student, try contacting the organizers to see if there is a student rate or some volunteer/scholarship opportunities – you won’t regret it!
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