9 Food Trade Shows Your Brand Should Exhibit At

Jeff Reekers
August 20, 2015

Whether you are new to the Food & Beverage industry or you’re a seasoned veteran, attending trade shows is a fantastic way to build awareness around your brand, gain feedback on your product and check out the competition. When selecting a food trade shows, be sure to do the research before you jump into the ring. Look at other exhibitors as well as attendees. Will you hit your target audience? While trade shows can help your business grow in strides, they require a lot of time and energy (and funds!) so make sure you create a strategic plan for each show: set goals, create a budget and make sure your team is prepared. To make this process a little easier, we compiled a list of 10 of the biggest food trade shows around the U.S. If you’re a food brand or food distributor, a couple of these should already be on your calendar.

9 Food Trade Shows You Should Be Exhibiting At

1. The Fancy Food Show 

The Fancy Food Show is the largest specialty food & beverage trade show on the West Coast. The annual event is put on by the Specialty Food Association in January. As you could have guessed by its name, the event focuses on specialty, high quality gourmet and organic products. You can expect 1,400 exhibitors from 35 countries and 19,000 industry professionals. If you are new to the business, don’t be intimidated, there is a special pavilion dedicated to entrepreneurs as well as educational training seminars (like “Start-up Sunday”). If you aren’t a newbie to the food and beverage business, you may be interested in the, “What’s New, What’s Hot! Showcases,” which feature new and organic products and gift ideas.

2. Natural Products Expo (East & West)

Think of this expo as the farm-to-table of expos. It showcases organic, naturally derived products. The expo takes place on both sides of the country, the Eastern Expo is held annually in the fall at the Baltimore Convention Center in Baltimore, MD and the Western Expo takes place in the spring at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, CA. This event attracts 22,000 industry professionals and 1,400 exhibitors, so you can be sure to check out the competition in your field, and gain valuable connections from all over the nation. They also boast celebrity chef names like Sam Kass, former personal chef to President Obama. Exhibitors at these expos are people with a passion for natural, GMO-free, organic products. Brands you would typically find at these expos are: Annie’s, KIND, Smart Pop and Bob’s Red Mill. There are also a variety of educational opportunities to suit experienced as well as new exhibitors. For example, the “Natural Products Business School” series,  features ideas and tips on how to grow your business. Even if you’re established in the field, it’s always a great way to expand your network.

3. Sweets & Snacks Expo

As you could guess by its name, the Sweets & Snacks Expo is confectionary heaven. With more than 3,000 products introduced each year, it’s the ideal place to showcase a new product, or brush up on what’s up and coming in the industry. The Expo is held annually in the spring in Chicago, IL. The event attracts 650 exhibitors for all ends of the confectionary spectrum, from small brands featuring specialty sweets to large brands like Dylan’s Candy Bar. Along with Keynote sessions from industry experts there is also the “Sweet Insights Theater” that offers inspiring and dynamic merchandising ideas and case study success stories.

4. Food Expo: Institute of Food Technologies

This Expo takes a slightly different approach and focuses on food ingredients, equipment, processing and packaging suppliers.  The annual Expo held each July in Chicago, IL is a great place to check out the latest product packaging trends and get innovative ideas for packaging your products. With 23,000 attendees and more than 1,000 exhibitors, you will be sure to leave with lots of new connections and a peek inside food distribution trends from across the nation. The onsite Career Center offers networking opportunities as well as professional development sessions and scheduled onsite interviews with employers.

5. Snaxpo

Kick up your heels and get your snack on at this annual event held each spring in Houston, TX. Generate leads and promote your brand to more than 1,500 professionals from the food and snack industry around the globe. 150+ exhibitors represent more than 400 snack manufacturers and suppliers. You will find big brands like Land O’Lakes Global Dairy Ingredients and SK Food International. One of the best features of the Snaxpo website is that it allows you to check out who is exhibiting and set a meeting with them (great if you are new to the industry!). There is also a range of education keynotes and workshops to help you stay on top of your industry.

6. United Fresh

The United Fresh Expo features merchandisers of fresh produce and floral products. If you are looking to expand your business in the fresh produce and floral market this is the Expo for you. With more 30,000 attendees from around the globe, 82% of them have buying authority. The United Fresh Expo is held in the spring in Chicago, IL and put on by the United Fresh Produce Association. This Expo prides itself on creating a business-first environment. Amongst the 300 exhibitors, you will find large names like Chiquita, Fresh Express, and Heinz Manufacturing. The Expo also holds sessions to discuss issues facing each segment of the produce supply chain, and interactive sessions to spark creativity. There are also receptions and networking dinners for each industry to provide plenty of networking opportunities.

7. US Food Showcase

This particular showcase features a wide variety of products from fresh & frozen goods, to retail technology and packaged grocery. This event offers all the great features of other expos: an audience of active buyers, exposure to industry professionals and educational opportunities, but given the variety of exhibitors and attendees (105 countries) this event is particularly helpful if you are looking to expand your business to pursue a global market. This event is held annually in the spring at the McCormick Place in Chicago, IL in conjunction with FMI, a nonprofit association that conducts programs in research, education, industry relations and public affairs.

8. SupplySide West

This event takes a slightly different approach. Supplyside West has two parts: an expo hall where you can showcase your product and network with buyers as well as a conference to help you workshop your brand. The conference features keynote speakers, workshops, and interactive panel discussions. The main objective of the event is to explore the strategy around the development of finished consumer goods. This year’s event, which has more than 15,000 participants, will be held in October in Las Vegas, NV. The exhibit hall is filled with 2,000 professionals in a range of product markets including sports nutrition, animal nutrition, and pharmaceutical.

9. America’s Food & Beverage Show

This food expo is geared toward wholesalers looking for largescale buyers. Buyers who typically attend this show are from Cruise Lines, Hotels, Resorts, and Fast Food chains. If you are looking to get your product into a mainstream market or interested in breaking into the restaurant industry, this is the show for you. America’s Food & Beverage Show is held each fall in Miami Beach, and attracts more than 10,000 attendees and 420 exhibitors. There are also several educational seminars to attend. This year’s focus is the restaurant business. These seminars will cover the basics of opening and maintaining a successful restaurant.

Prepare Your Team

There is a bit of a learning curve when it comes to pulling off a successful trade show. You might not hit it out of the park on your first show, but don’t get discouraged.  If you are preparing for your first show or looking for fresh ideas, check out our posts on trade show preparation and marketing. After each show, hold a meeting with your team talk about what worked, and brainstorm ideas on how you can improve and stand out on the next one. For more top trade shows across 16 different industries, as well as dates, locations, and attendee/exhibitor stats, download our Trade Show Directory here.