Getting Clients at Trade Shows

NASFT09Thus far, it’s been a month of trade shows. First as attendee, at the Fancy Food Show in NYC and then as an exhibitor at the Atlanta Gift Mart. I’ve met great people, created opportunities and seen some interesting behavior. I’ll post first on some observations from my perspective as a show attendee and write later about the view from the other side.

Exhibitors at the Fancy Food Show are companies with all kinds of food and beverage, as well as suppliers to the food industry. They’re selling to restaurants, caterers, gourmet markets, gift basket companies, catalogs, manufacturers, pretty much anyone with a connection to the food industry. (# of vendors) take up two full floors at the Javits Center for three days.

There were swarms of people walking the aisles, tasting samples at each booth. It’s pretty costly to exhibit, so you’d think that the people working the booths would be proactive in talking to potential customers and collecting contact information so they can follow up. Unfortunately, some of those companies are going to conclude that the show wasn’t worthwhile because their people committed the most deadly trade show sins.

At some booths, the rep was sitting in the corner reading or standing around talking to a co-worker. C’mon now, at the very least, you need to acknowledge people passing by, engage them in conversation, get them to stop. (I didn’t say accost, I said engage!) More than once, I approached a booth, looking to talk with someone and was totally ignored. One woman was clearly on the phone with a friend and handed me a business card and waved me away, perhaps so I would call her later? I threw it out.

Some of the people I did talk with never asked to scan my badge, which would give them all my contact info, or requested a business card. Follow up is key for trade show success. What are they thinking? I hope they’re not counting on attendees to contact them, even if they did hand out a pound of promotional material.

What kind of experience have you had recently as a trade show attendee?

Rachael Ray’s Snack is Zen Crunch

On Tuesday, March 24th, Rachael Ray’s Snack of the Day is Zen Crunch! Set your TIVO to record. Not sure what station and time the show’s on in your market? Click here to find out.

Rachael Ray

Rachael Ray

And in case you haven’t yet heard about the newly famous Zen Crunch, it’s kind of mix of granola and nut brittle.  It starts with a base mix of coconut, oats, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and a sweet caramel-type nectar that binds it all together.

Then one version includes dried cranberries, cashew pieces and white chocolate chips. A second version includes dried cherries, almond slices & semi sweet chocolate chips.

Rachael Ray audience members each received an eight-ounce bag of the treat. To get yours, simply go to

Zen Crunch

Zen Crunch

Zen Crunch on National TV

Last Friday I was asked to overnight 160 bags of the most yummy Zen Crunch to a TV studio for the Tuesday morning taping of a national show named after its celebrity host.

Once we have an air date, which I expect will be within the next two weeks, I will certainly let you know what show, what day and what time to watch. And you can be sure my TIVO will be set to record.

In the meantime, may I suggest that if you are a Zen Crunch fan, or you want to taste what everyone is talking about, you order now before the big rush.

Beware of How you Treat Small Companies

Debbi Fields wrote a book several years ago about her journey through the start up and development of Mrs. Fields Cookies. In it she recalls her challenges in finding a chocolate supplier. The sales rep of one large, well known chocolate company doesn’t want to give her the time of day when she calls him to ask for 25 pounds of chocolate because the order size is too small. He tells her to give him a call when she wants to buy 10,000 pounds.

So she opens the phone book and calls another company. That sales rep tells her the order is too small for his company’s trucks to deliver, but he could put it in the trunk of his car and bring it right over. And at the time she was writing this story, that sales rep Bob, was selling Mrs. Fields in excess of 25 million pounds of chocolate a year. She never reveals the name of either company. But she does finish the story by saying that the first gentleman would end up calling her continuously to ask for her business and she refused to work with him because of how he treated her that day.

There are many days when I think of this story because of the business people who disregard me, and I’m sure lots of others, with the thought that my business is too small to matter. This month I’m working on finding retail packaging for gourmet food stores. There is a list of who has been supportive and who has not. And when Zen Rabbit is the multi-million dollar company that it is destined to be, we’ll see who’s benefiting from believing in a small company.

What is “Natural”?

There was an article in the business section of the Palm Beach Post on Monday about the use of the word “natural” in the food industry. Apparently the Food and Drug Administration does not have a formal definition for the word, nor does it plan to create one in the near future. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a definition that applies to meat and poultry products which states a product is “natural” if it doesn’t contain any artificial ingredients and is only minimally processed.

The problem with not having a clear definition is that food and beverage manufacturers can make their own rules in regards to labeling. Deceptive labeling leads to confused consumers. Of course many consumers, who can’t be bothered to learn about nutrition or read labels, see the term “natural” and think, “oh, this must better for me than the product that doesn’t say that.”

So you end up seeing products containing high-fructose corn syrup labeled as “all-natural” when, in my book, high-fructose corn syrup is not at all natural. All-natural to me means no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. If it requires a chemical process to make it, it’s not natural. Bottom line – pay attention to what you’re eating!