Highs and lows? Industry players weigh up virtual SHIFT20
While companies are missing real life interaction, longer windows for follow-up is a bonus
15 Jul 2020 --- With global disruptions that would have been unimaginable last year, industry has had to adapt rapidly, including with managing trade shows. Instead of pacing exhibition halls in Chicago, US, this year’s attendees of The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT)’s IFT20 Annual Meeting & Food Expo (SHIFT20) are making connections from behind a screen. This has not stopped key players from participating, as told to NutritionInsight by companies including Rousselot, Faravelli and Kemin, which weigh up how close SHIFT20 comes to traditional industry gatherings.
“Although preparing for the virtual event was a learning experience for us, we are grateful for the opportunity to network with our current and potential customers on this platform safely. The IFT personnel have been very receptive to ideas and communicative with guidance to help make the transition as smooth as possible,” says Brandon Beadle, Sales & Marketing Specialist at Rousselot.
Meanwhile, Lu Ann Williams, Director of Innovation at Innova Market Insights, shares that the show has even managed to recreate a sociable bus experience. “In a normal year, you take shuttles back to your hotel at the end of each day. You sit next to a stranger and discuss what you have seen. This year, they created a virtual version with one or two people moderating it each day.”
Williams was the first special guest and had fifteen minutes to talk about the sessions she had attended online. “It worked really well. Over 100 people came to my bus ride, and I saw so many people that I know in the comments. I will be interested to see what happens with virtual trade shows in general. The big question will be if people can make money from them.”
Compensating for lack of face time
Silivia Di Tommaso, PR & Corporate Communication Manager at Faravelli, shares that SHIFT20 provides an opportunity to meet with suppliers and customers, albeit at a greatly reduced capacity. “We are always grateful to get in front of customers regardless of the medium used, so we are very thankful that IFT is moving forward with this opportunity. However, we would prefer to be in Chicago, where we could meet customers face-to-face and entertain after the show.
“We think the most challenging aspect of a virtual tradeshow is the lack of face-to-face interaction with attendees. We use tradeshows as a time to meet up in person with customers and prospects to discuss projects and bring in members from many different functional groups of our team together in person,” adds Courtney Schwartz, Marketing Director at Kemin.
She adds that during a live event, the company often gets attendees who have never heard of Kemin to stop by the booth to learn more. In contrast, the virtual space means they have to seek out companies already on their radar. While the search functionality and tagging in the virtual space does help this, it can still be a challenge, explains Schwartz.
However, a notable perk she spots is that attendees have a space to learn about companies beyond the three-day trade show since they have access to the platform for a while afterward. “In a live environment, if you miss the three days, you are out of luck. Now you can view all the presentations at your leisure. This allows for attendees to get more education and presenters to have continuous follow-up,” Schwartz notes.
Collagen gains popularity
At the show, Faravelli is turning the spotlight on a range of offerings, including Noomato by Naturalea, which is touted as aiding cognitive health during these stressful times. Also on offer are bovine and fish collagens, natural fruit juice powders with natural vitamin C, and inulin from non-chicory shortages. Additionally, the company is offering MCT oil powders from coconut. During a presentation about keto foods, MCT fats were dubbed a “hero” ingredient.
Meanwhile, Rousselot is highlighting its latest bioavailability study and accompanying 3D illustrative video. “This study supports the fundamental science behind how Peptan is made available to the body, and proves validity to Peptan’s bioavailability. The 3D video helps to visualize the physiological and chemical processes involved with collagen digestion and bioavailability,” explains Richard Schell, Rousselot’s Nutritional Sales Manager.
He continues that collagen and multi-collagen blends have gained tremendous popularity in the US over the last two years, driven by a move toward a natural and holistic approach in nutrition and clean label products. Also, busy lifestyles and general healthy living (as opposed to high volume athletic training) are making Peptan collagen a popular supplement choice, Schell details.
As IFT’s shows are traditionally held in Chicago, the audience naturally skews toward the US. Addressing regional differences, Schell notes that US consumers have created a very focused culture and practices around creating healthy lifestyle trends through social media. This includes recipes, food choices, lifestyle choices, exercise regimes.
Other industry offerings on show include Beneo’s Palatinose, which is touted as meeting consumer demands for alternative carbohydrates. In contrast to more commonly known sugars like sucrose, Palatinose is metabolized in a more gradual way. At ISM in February, the company also presented its naturally-sourced sugar replacer, Isomalt.
PLT Health Solutions is also in attendance and is celebrating the approval of a Food Additive Petition for Earthlight Whole Food Vitamin D from the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA). The approval covers Earthlight’s use in a broad range of traditionally fortified food and beverage products, such as breakfast cereals and meal replacements, as well as new categories, such as vegetable snacks and fruit smoothies.
Companies including Cargill, Edlong and CP Kelco have also weighed in on this year’s IFT show. Other highlights include a spotlight on plant-based proteins and the nutritional properties of cranberry seeds. Meanwhile, artificial intelligence can be used to provide direction for NPD and go-to-market strategies for product launches.
By Katherine Durrell
To contact our editorial team please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Subscribe now to receive the latest news directly into your inbox.