I am not quite sure why but many of the food shows for the whole year are crammed into a few weeks before Easter. Personally, I have been to 4 in the last 4 weeks and have had one whole weekend off in that time, so I, for one, will be pleased to see Easter arriving next weekend with a holiday in the Caribbean following it before we start our own Christmas launch shows! (No rest of the wicked!) However, don’t feel too sorry for me, travelling around sampling great food products is what some people do for pleasure and many of us are lucky enough to call it work!

So, what have I gleaned from the past few weeks? Firstly, there has been more complaints than ever from exhibitors of spending too much time being ‘sold to’ and not enough time selling. Generally, it is harder to get retailers out to food shows, partly because there are too many events, but also buyers are finding more pressure from their superiors to grind out spreadsheets in their offices. One retailer told us recently that they had been banned from attending food shows this year by their directors, hardly conducive, in my opinion, to selecting the best food products for their stores.

As important as ever at shows is the need to have sales people on your stand. Far too many exhibitors view the shows as a marketing exercise and do not actively sell on their stand. Even worse the contact details taken are not comprehensive enough which contributes to the worse crime of not following up their prospects well enough. Trade shows only benefit the exhibitor with proper follow up and far too many do not do this. I know because I express interest in certain brands at shows and never hear from them again! If they are like that before you are a customer, what are they going to be like afterwards?! If you do not have time or a sales team to follow up interest, then please stop wasting your money by attending shows! 

Contributing to the buyer’s workloads though are the many small suppliers who increasingly seem to be pushing retailers to buy direct from them rather than through a wholesaler. Within the speciality food sector there seems to be less consolidation than ever with other wholesalers reporting that producers are creaming off the best business for direct sales and leaving wholesalers to pick up either the bits or pieces or the commercial retailers who insist on using wholesalers for their entire supply. This is particularly noticeable at the Farm Shop and Deli Show when the convenience retailers join the show after the ACS conference. These buyers are delighted to find large ranges of speciality food products available under one roof from the many wholesalers in the sector. 

One more encouraging trend I have noticed over the past few weeks is the much larger moves to compostable and fully recyclable packaging. Environmental issues are much higher up producer’s agendas than they were only a year ago and it is very pleasing to see. I look forward to an accelerated move towards fully compostable packaging by many other producers over the coming year. The largest challenge seems to be within the chilled area, where many retailers do not want glass, but ‘wet’ products do not suit the compostable alternatives to plastic. More work required here, and something that will be covered in our environmental conference on May 10th – we still have places left so feel free to book here whether or not you are a Cotswold Fayre supplier http://bit.ly/2H8ALIZ