The Industry Circuit
Can you believe 2022 is already more than half over? For many, this is no surprise and perhaps it’s due to the fact that we’re all, for the most part, ‘back at it’. This spring was a true whirlwind of industry events — if you didn’t catch it, we shared a recap of our time at Expo West. Since then, we’ve been on-the-go and we’re here to share some highlights from a few of our experiences at the National Restaurant Association Show and the Sweets and Snacks Expo. And if you’re curious, YES, I have been trying to get more steps in these days to offset the dramatic jump in sampling!
National Restaurant Association Show
This was the first in-person National Restaurant Association Show in three years, and while all industries have been significantly impacted by the pandemic, it is hard to think of one that has seen more change and more challenges than restaurants. From shutdowns to labor shortages, supply chain challenges to inflation, I wasn’t sure what to expect heading to McCormick Place. What I found was over 1300 exhibitors, a lively and bustling showroom floor with products spanning food/beverage > equipment > technology > tableware and more. And of course, just as importantly, very well-attended after-hour culinary and social events. Below are some highlights that stood out and why.
Producer of pasture-raised eggs, ghee and egg bites, this growing brand stood out with its product portfolio in a largely plant-based arena. The booth is on-brand (you recognize it immediately) and their story is compelling: from the way they talk about their hens (“the girls”!) to the traceability back to the farm where the egg was laid, there was a lot to explore! Plus, this represented a segment of the show that appears to be growing: CPG brands making their way into foodservice.
The Championship BBQ & Cookout
A showcase of some of the best chefs in Chicago in partnership with manufacturers and suppliers make this annual event an industry favorite. We’ve got a video to share the vibe with you and snapshots of a few phenomenal menu items.
Sweets and Snacks Expo
Unlike most other shows, the National Confectioners Association did host the Sweets and Snacks Expo last year. It was the first live event I attended post-COVID, but this year was dramatically different. For one, it returned to McCormick Place in Chicago from its hiatus to Indianapolis in 2021, immediately following the National Restaurant Association Show. Whether it was the natural pull from that crowd or an insatiable desire for adult trick-or-treating, this event was packed. The big players were present in a big way, mostly with booths recognizable from years past: Ferrara, Hershey, and Mars. Mondelez has evolved in many ways with its wide range of brands represented under their umbrella — from HU Chocolate to Perfect Bar to the good ol’ Oreo. What really struck me as a shift in 2022 was the wider range of emerging players, both entirely new and revitalized existing brands, that showed up with quite a significant presence.
This booth was SO COOL! The video speaks for itself — an incredibly light-hearted, fun, immersive, on-brand experience that made people want to explore it all and spend time in the many different spaces.
I was first introduced to Tru Fru last year and was impressed by their rocket-ship growth at the time… since then, it has only continued. An agency favorite when it comes to their tasty frozen fruit (and chocolate) treats, they took “Best in Show” this year and no surprise!
Celebrating their 100 year anniversary, Haribo always draws a crowd. The booth was digitally engaging with large screens enticing people to catch virtual gummies floating down — think: Tetris!
Leverage the Energy of 2022
I have a somewhat unique perspective in that I have attended many of these first-since-COVID live events at this point. What do I see? Each time it is the same script — people are so jazzed to be with their community in the industry. Attending more of the seminars and post-events than ever before and engaging with what seems to be broader audiences. People are also so overwhelmed by the newness of it all and for many, their first experiences with such a massive crowd and an “always on” social dynamic. My guess? We are going to see this super energy for the next year or so and then a slowdown as we all reassess as individuals and brands: where do I need to be and how do I want to show up? So… take advantage of this time and consider how you might think about that potential future state!