Natural Foods Merchandiser

Learn as You Sample at Taste of Expo

If you?re searching for one more reason to attend this fall?s Natural Products Expo East in Washington, D.C., look no further. Besides featuring exciting new products and informative speakers, Expo East will also host Taste of Expo, which this year promises to be educational as well as delicious.

The event, which is scheduled to take place at booth 4337 from 2 to 5 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 15 and Saturday, Oct. 16, and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 17, will focus on three different foods: cheese, chocolate and coffee. In the past, Taste of Expo has consisted exclusively of taste-test competitions in which exhibitors competed and retailers voted for the best-tasting product. Amy Dageenakis, exhibit sales coordinator for New Hope Natural Media, says this year?s Taste of Expo event will also offer more in the way of education and demonstrations. ?The competition will be different this year. It?s going from a passive tasting to an active learning experience. But retailers will still vote for their favorite product in each category, and the winners will receive a trophy and 500 marketing dollars to use at Expo East,? Dageenakis says.

By adding an educational element to the Taste of Expo event, Dageenakis says, organizers are hoping retailers and exhibitors will gain new ideas about how to create effective and profitable tasting demos in their stores. ?An expert for each category will give a 15-minute presentation about how to taste the product and experience the nuances of the food being tasted and then will discuss the best ways to demo the product in a store,? says Dageenakis. By tasting and learning about a product in the same venue, retailers and exhibitors will leave the Taste of Expo event with the tools they need to improve their own product demonstrations.

Sheana Davis, who created the Epicurean Connection, a specialty food marketing and education company based in Sonoma, Calif., will educate retailers and exhibitors about cheese at the Taste of Expo event. Davis? presentation has two elements: ?A crash course in cheese I call ?Cheese 101,? followed by information and ideas about how to create an effective demo,? she says. Davis intends to emphasize the importance of ?making a demonstration fun, so it?s exciting to customers, not boring. Participants in Taste of Expo should remember that your first impression is your opportunity to create a memorable experience for the retailer or customer.?

Dageenakis agrees that customers need to be excited by a product demo. ?An example of an effective demonstration technique is pairing. If you pair cheese with wine, or coffee with cookies, people are more likely to get excited about the product and are more likely to be interested in buying it,? she says.

Sandy Voss, New Hope Natural Media?s trade show director, says the Taste of Expo event will be appealing because it ?will allow for even more opportunities to learn about new products.? The shift of focus from the tasting competition to education is ?indicative of our attempt to bring more resources to retailers on the show floor,? she says.

Christine Spehar is a free-lance writer in Boulder, Colo.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXV/number 9/p. 20, 22

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