@NatProdExpo #ExpoEast: A Food Show Unlike the Others
It takes a great deal of innovation to develop and market food products the old fashioned way. This is a fact there is no getting around as you walk the tradeshow floors at the Natural Products Expo East, which is taking place in Baltimore this week.
This show, which boasts more than 12,000 attendees, simultaneously reinforces and shatters the stereotypes often associated with the organic food industry. Sure, there is a medical marijuana brand raising awareness on the way into the building (without samples, of course). A few of the booths smell like patchouli oil, and there are the scattered hippies donning dirty hemp Baja pullovers walking the isles in their sandals, but this is the exception, not the rule.
There is certainly passion. As an example, one gentleman stopped at a neighboring booth yesterday seemingly determined to pick a fight over the notion that raw honey could ever be considered vegan. Folks this impassioned about the deepest of ethical convictions are certainly present, and while they don’t necessarily set the tone, they keep everyone here honest.
If you haven’t noticed, “Organic” is legit!
By and large, Natural Products Expo East is attended by serious businesses with viable models and easy-to-like (and market) products. And the brands that have found a formula for making a marketable product that is both organic and delicious are rewarded with enthusiastic buzz around the show, and deep crowds of sample-seekers at their booth.
Blount’s presence has been the beneficiary of such buzz and traffic, as the Blount Organics line of soups and side dishes has done very well. In a tweet yesterday, we shared the news that Blount Organic Vegetarian Chili took an early lead in terms of demand for samples. We intended to update that statistic a few more times, especially since Chick Pea & Lentil Soup as well as the Organic Creamed Kale & Spinach and Organic Butternut Squash each took turns leading different hours of the day.
That first tweet, which ended up the last one of the day, didn’t reflect the volume of traffic stopping at the booth. That is because this blogger took off the blogging hat and jumped in to support the sales team in the booth as traffic saw us serving up more than 200 samples an hour at multiple points yesterday.
The sales folks need to dedicate their time to real retail buyers, especially those eager to bring Blount products to their stores. The chef in the booth is there to provide insight into culinary and other technical questions, which leaves yours truly as the guy who got the pleasure of chatting with everyone else who stopped by for a small cup of restaurant-quality soups and sides. And stop by they did, as booth 417 became a bit of a destination, not only for buyers attending, but also for other exhibitors.
You meet the most interesting people at these things
Interesting is an understatement. Both days of the show have been filled with fascinating conversations with amazing people, like the parents of a 16-year-old who founded Henry’s Humdingers, a deliciously spiced raw honey product that immediately gets you thinking about the hundreds of ways this product can be used in a kitchen – as a dip, a sauce, a glaze, and a “secret ingredient” in everything from stir fry to cocktails. Henry, who was featured on NBC’s smash business reality show “Shark Tank” is joined at #ExpoEast by his parents and his aunt, making his labor of love truly a family affair.
We were also visited by a kind-faced young tycoon who runs an investment fund that exists to provide financing to manufacturers that can be convinced to source organic ingredients from tiny farms abroad, for whom a recurring order from a U.S. manufacturer can positively impact not only the farmer and his or her family, but indeed an entire village. The notion of doing well, while also doing good is on display everywhere you look in the Baltimore Convention center this week. It is very inspiring.
You also see some really odd things along the way
As a closing thought, it was funny to see a young man stationed sitting at the wastebaskets in a corner of the show floor. When asked what his job was, the answer, “I’ve been asked to make sure people understand what to recycle, what to compost and what to throw away.
This has not been a typical tradeshow. That is for sure. But it has been a great one.