Making a Difference in the World Through Industry Connections
After returning home to New York City from the Good Food Institute Conference “The Future of Meat” in San Francisco, I thought about how fortunate I am to attend and participate in some of the most influential food conferences in the country. At PlantBased Solutions we have attended over 16 events and conferences this past year and have been invited as industry expert speakers to over half of them. So why do we go and why should you?
Conferences can help launch a brand
When heading off to Baltimore for the Natural Products Expo East Conference recently, I was reminded of my first time attending Expo East in 2012. At the time I was President & COO of Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Co, presently Chloe’s, and unlike the national CPG brand Chloe’s is today, in 2012 we were a small retail and food service vegan alternative to ice cream. Although we had not yet contemplated launching into retail I thought it was important to better understand the state of affairs in natural & plant-based foods and understood that Expo East was the place to be. My prior career had been focused on restaurants and hotels and all my conferences were related to restaurant/hotel trends and related technology so seeing a conference with thousands of packaged retail products focused on natural foods was a delight. I also recall attending many educational sessions including topics such as flavor trends, packaging design, how to communicate to your target market. Suffice it to say, the conference was great and we launched into retail at Natural Products Expo West two years later. Since then, I have helped companies develop and launch their brands at Expo East & West, two of which have won NEXTY Awards for best product in their category.
Select the Right Conference
Conferences tend to fall into three types, one type where brands are showcasing their products, one type that is focused on education and networking and one type that combine the prior two, such as Natural Products Expo East & West and the new Plant-based World Expo. They are all typically B2B where they are focused on industry insiders, founders, buyers, educators, suppliers, and industry service providers. If you are new to the industry, this where you can really get an education and understand the landscape you are about to enter.
Industry Connections can Make a Difference
What makes these events exciting for me in particular, is that it is a time to step outside of the day-to-day work and look outwards to what is happening in the industry. Over the past years, trends around gluten-free, paleo, and keto have been explored and promoted and now and thankfully plant-based as well as CBD are getting much attention, special educational break-out sessions, and even their own sections! What also makes these events so special at the end of the day are the people. Seeing old friends and making new ones is truly the best part of the conferences and truly the best part of the natural-foods / plant-based world. Where else can you find a group of like-minded people trying to make a difference in the world by finding new ways to develop foods that are good for us and good for the planet? This is an industry of learning, sharing and being part of something bigger than ourselves.
My recommendation is to research conferences that are most relevant to you and your business and balance that out with your educational & marketing budget and try attending a few local and national conferences and see what you can learn. Each conference may not have everything you are looking for, but many have just enough and at least a few good takeaways and hopefully a few new friends and one or two industry connections. I’ll leave you with a favorite quote….“It is impossible for one to learn what one thinks one already knows.” Epictetus
Couldn’t make it to Natural Products Expo West this year? Check out my presentation there!
If you are attending a conference, reach out- I may be there as well and would be happy to say hello. Connect with me on Social Media and keep in touch.