Forward to Spring 2009 Issue

Endorsing the power of events

The world is in the throes of an obesity epidemic. Projected to be a bigger threat to life than AIDS and malaria combined, obesity is quickly becoming the most severe global health-care crisis.

But it’s not an irreversible situation. Yes, the onus is on the individual to take reasonable control of their diet but a commitment by the industry to produce healthier food is also essential. This means there is huge opportunity for everyone with any link to the sector to get on the innovation train and develop products that meet these requirements.

However, in the current economic climate, both money and time are precious. Things aren’t as they once were when it comes to new product development (NPD). Gone are the days of hopping on plane after plane to visit potential partners across the globe. Every penny spent needs to be justified and each and every result evaluated. Companies therefore need to find the most cost-effective and efficient ways of making inroads into the industry.

But it’s easier said than done. It’s all very well creating an advertisement or doing a bit of sampling here and there, but does this always have the desired effect? This industry is more complex than most and often a more robust approach to communication is required. Victory lies in the correct and balanced application of the marketing mix, and the role that exhibitions play in a business-to-business campaign should not be underestimated, particularly in an industry like this. However, exhibition organisers can’t rest on their laurels. To guarantee a successful event, they need to ensure that added value is delivered at every opportunity.

People are often skeptical of exhibitions, believing them to be rather costly. However, what the critics might not be aware of is that visiting highly-targeted exhibitions with a genuine strategy for success in mind can bring tangible results as well as offering real networking opportunities.

The key to the success of exhibitions like Vitafoods International and Finished Products Expo is simple: potential. With a specialist approach, the exhibitions offer research, communication and face-to-face networking, meaning there is a wealth of opportunity out there for companies to explore.

At the 2008 shows, for example, almost 400 companies exhibited, offering visitors an unparalleled opportunity to learn about the exciting new and innovative ingredients taking the markets by storm. As Kevin Prudence from DSM Nutritional Products put it: ‘I have been coming to Vitafoods for as many years as the exhibition has been running – as either an exhibitor or a visitor – and I am always inspired by how the show evolves. Every year, as the market changes, Vitafoods International expands and moves forward so it is a great place to keep up with industry changes. The networking potential is vast too, so meeting with customers and colleagues as well as forging new relationships is easier than ever before.’

The opportunity to meet with a whole host of key industry players and experts can be found in one of the brand new visitor attractions set to take place at the show. This year, experts from EAS will be running free tailored advisory sessions providing information on the very latest regulatory and strategic advice to assist companies looking to enter the functional foods market, health claims, novel foods and labeling requirements. The communication opportunities that surround exhibitions are also essential for both manufacturers and suppliers looking to ‘do business’. Unlike consumer industries where the messages are simpler and the concepts are easier to comprehend, in the nutraceutical market, complexities abound and it is much simpler for both parties to communicate face-to-face in a neutral environment, where all angles and eventualities can be explored. Speaking directly to technicians to gain an understanding of the product and hearing the benefits from those closely involved in the NPD process saves a significant amount of time and money.

But it’s not just about the research aspect. The sociable nature of exhibitions like Vitafoods International and Finished Products Expo lend themselves well to networking. In this market, competition is fierce, so the more opportunities there are to meet with suppliers and thrash out ideas, the better the chances of creating a product with a significant competitive advantage. Exhibitions play on the five senses and these elements combined are what make events such a powerful tool in the marketing mix.

And that is why events like Vitafoods International and Finished Products Expo are so critical within the business-to-business marketing mix, and this year is no exception. Over 8,000 trade visitors are expected to gather in Geneva to see more than 450 exhibitors from across the world. No doubt there will be some serious negotiating, buying and learning going on.

Chris Lee
Event Director, Vitafoods International and
Finished Products Expo 2009