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Customer Engagement at IFT16

Food ingredient marketers know what it takes to have a successful trade show exhibit. Strong branding, the right messaging, customer engagement tactics, a well-designed booth space and a knowledgeable team are all essential to make a company’s trade show presence a successful one. And the best gauge of how well all these pieces are working together is by witnessing them “in action” at a trade show; seeing how engaged attendees are with a company’s booth space and team.

At the IFT16 Expo in Chicago, I walked the floor and observed the world’s top food ingredient companies and their trade show teams in action. I saw how industry trends are affecting the design of the booths and their graphics, as companies strive to show how their products align with the demands of a new generation of consumers. I also saw some very effective strategies to help exhibitors increase engagement with customers and attendees.

White Space, Bright Colors
The combination of vibrant colors and simple imagery on clean, white backgrounds was something I saw everywhere. This graphic style was clearly influenced by the clean-label movement as companies continue to move toward simpler and better-for-you ingredients. It gave many of the booth designs a clean, modern look and was the perfect graphic solution to convey the purity and transparency consumers are seeking. These shots show just how much this look permeated through many of the designs this year.

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Natural Colors
Likewise, the ongoing movement toward more natural color sources had an impact on the messaging and tactics of several of the booths this year. Land O’Lakes Ingredients sampled cheese powders made without FD&C colors and featured a daily presentation about the history of coloring foods. I also saw several color houses creatively communicating the natural sources of their products through their messaging and graphics. GNT and DDW both had great examples of this with creative expressions that made me take a second look.

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Open Spaces
The last few years, there’s been a substantial move toward more open trade show spaces and floor plans, with companies utilizing all sides of their area for customer engagement. Without “big walls” blocking off entire sides of a booth, a trade show team can have its people on all sides to initiate customer engagement or offer product samples. Corbion did a great job of this with an open floor plan that clearly defined their area and allowed attendees to easily scan across it to absorb everything that was going on. Its team was positioned throughout the space to engage with customers from all sides, and it generated a lot of attention.

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Going Outside the Box for Engagement
Something that made an impression on me was how aggressively some companies went to initiate customer engagement. Kerry and Mintel were among the exhibitors that not only had several team members working within their booths, but also had additional members stationed in the aisles nearby to approach curious attendees and make the first move. It was an effective way of removing those invisible boundaries that always seem to separate the attendees from the exhibitors and help start the conversation with customers.

Hats off to IFT for another impressive expo and to all the volunteers who, year after year, make this event so successful and so beneficial to professionals and students throughout the food ingredient industry.

What kind of overall impressions did you get from IFT16?

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