We recently had the good fortune to be invited to FoodPro West 2019.  If you’re wondering what that is; well this particular event was a food show that was hosted by BC Food Processors Association in Vancouver.

What was unique about this particular event was that the organization sponsored us by paying for our flights and hotels. That’s NOT how these things usually work.

While there’s no great mystery to what happens at a food show, we thought you might be interested in hearing about our perspective; why go and what we get out of attending.

 First of all, its good to understand why we attend food trade shows. It may be obvious that it’s the best way for us to keep our fingers on the pulse of what’s new and exciting in the grocery business; this is especially important when it comes to new products. If we find a product that we think you’ll find new and exciting; we can often introduce it to the store and be first to market in our area. This is one major advantage that an independent grocer like us has over the big box competitors. We can turn these things around pretty quickly.

Not only do we have the opportunity to see what’s new and exciting in terms of food. There are often seminars to attend with such diverse topics as “How to Effectively Use Social Media”, “What the Future of the Grocery Industry Will Look Like” and “Meal Kits; Should You or Shouldn’t You” (hint, you probably should).

Regardless of the subject matter; getting away from the store and hearing about what’s up and coming is very inspirational. We always return to the store with new ideas, renewed motivation and excitement to implement what we’ve learned.

A Food show will typically run anywhere from one to three days, depending on the size. FoodPro West was a relatively small event and we were able to do a couple of laps of the trade show floor in a single day. We’ll typically start with registration, do a cursory lap of the floor to get the lay of the land, and finally we’ll settle in to visit with vendor after vendor and eat sample after sample.

Yes, that’s a unique aspect of the food trade show. You eat all day long (the things we do for our customers!).  The shows provide us with an opportunity to try everything out before we buy it for you. 

You wouldn’t think so, but selecting the products to purchase can be a challenge … for example, I hate watermelon (sorry watermelon lovers). If I just went by what I like, there’d be no watermelon in the store. But I know you wouldn’t enjoy a store without watermelon … so I must put my personal prejudices aside to taste the fizzy watermelon drink, for example and try to decide if someone who actually likes watermelon would enjoy this beverage. 

There’s also the challenge of figuring out whether we can get a product that we like delivered to our store. We buy both from individual suppliers and large distributors; who sell products from multiple suppliers. At the shows we need to figure out whether a product we like is available through one of our distributors; this is usually easiest, or whether it would be cost effective for the supplier to ship to us directly. Suppliers will usually want us to order a minimum quantity in order to be able to absorb the shipping cost. Sometimes those minimums are so high, that it’s just not practical to bring in a product.

As you may have already guessed, you want to wear your fat pants when you’re doing the trade show. And be sure to skip breakfast (I learned that one the hard way). By the end of the day, the constant grazing feels much more like work that like pleasure (really!).

I’m sure there’s a lot more to share … but it would probably only be of interest to other grocery geeks. Stay tuned … I’m sure we’ll have more to share about the UNFI Tabletop show that we’re attending this week.