Thinking about being a vendor at a trade show?

Understanding how to use a trade show can mean the difference between success and failure.

In the food business, trade shows are one way for the manufacturer and the buyer to meet and learn about new products and markets. Across the country, food trade shows attract thousands of participants, both those who create food products and those who market products, through a variety of channels. As the fall and winter seasons approach, food companies will have a chance to attend trade shows to introduce and promote their specialty food products.

When deciding to attend a trade show, the food entrepreneur should consider why they are attending. Food companies should avoid attending the show if they do not have a good reason to attend, and clear goals as a benchmark for determining if the show was a success.  And finally, the negative unintended consequences from attendance should be limited or mitigated, for instance, if you are asked for orders that you cannot reasonably fulfill.

What are the needs of your business, and how will you make progress toward meeting those needs at the trade show? If you can answer these questions, then you may have a good reason to attend the trade show. Some of the answers may be to introduce a new food product, or a new line of food products. You may need to meet with suppliers or someone else in the distribution channel who can help you become more efficient. You may find other opportunities such as a buyer for your business, or perhaps a strategic alliance that makes your company more valuable.

Review your business plan, and answer the aforementioned questions and then decide on trade show participation. All trade shows are a little different, so take a good look at the show and make sure it is a good fit for your company. If it is not a good fit for your company, then do not be afraid to pass on the opportunity.

Educators at Michigan State University Extension and Innovation Counselors at the MSU Product Center assist food business operators in the establishment of food related businesses. MSU Extension can assist a community with facilitated conversations through our Extension educator network. For further information and assistance with employee communications please contact your local MSU Extension office. 

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