How to Make the Most of Your Time at Expo East 2018

An Interview with SPINS’ Senior Vice President of Brand Growth Solutions, Andrew Henkel

SPINS’ Andrew Henkel has been attending Natural Products Expo for almost 10 years. In this time span, the trade show has changed a lot, but the best practices for exhibiting and attending brands remain the same. If anything, these best practices have become more important as the show and the competition have expanded. Here are some of Andrew’s tips for making the most of your time at this year’s Expo East.

How should brands think about preparing their sell story for a trade show?

You have limited time to make an impression on a trade-show floor, while brands are side by side with their competition vying for buyers’ attention. To focus your efforts, I recommend you follow these three key principles for success:

  1. Do your homework (on your brand, retailer, competitor, & consumer)
  2. Have a 30-second sales pitch
  3. Have a one-line takeaway


What kind of data exploration can support this?

By doing your homework in advance, you can deliver a more compelling, fact-based narrative. You’ll be more credible and impactful by building knowledge in these areas:

  • Know your brand performance – Highlight your sales, share, velocity performance, and growth. Showing momentum in the past 52 or even 12 weeks can underscore your brand’s earning potential.
  • Know your retailer – Understand the assortment at every retailer you’re going to meet with. Review their mix of natural versus conventional products and how they’re positioned compared to their competitors.
  • Know your competitor – Which brands are hot within your competitive set, and which unique features may be contributing to their growth? How do your brand attributes stack up?
  • Know your consumer – Who are your brands’ core consumers? How are they desirable to retailers? Use demographics and purchase-behavior data in support.


What kind of talking points should brands share with buyers on the show floor?

Buyers meet with lots of brands when they’re at Expo, and it’s not always the best environment for an in-depth conversation. You must be opportunistic and have your 30-second sales pitch prepared in advance, hitting on these critical points:

  • Showcase wins – Identify the key selling points for your brand by highlighting success stories to date. This doesn’t mean you have to be the best-selling brand ever. Maybe you’re the top-selling brand in the Southwest region, or you have the highest change in velocity among natural wellness bars, or you’re the fastest-growing Paleo-Certified pizza dough. Find a proof point in the data that sets you apart and anchors a compelling pitch.
  • Differentiate – Be clear about how your product is different from other competitive offerings. This could be a dietary trend, such as plant-based or Paleo; it could be product transparency or sourcing credentials; or your corporate responsibility platform, such as fair-trade or B Corp standards.
  • Underscore the opportunity – Spell out what role your product will play in the retailer’s assortment and the opportunity it represents. For example, if you’re a fresh snacking brand and you know that the retailer is underweighted in fresh compared to its channel, use this data to support your sell story. Call out how fresh snacking is a growth engine, and show the retailer how to tip the scales by buying your product.


Do you have any other tips to help brands stand out at Expo East?

There’s lots of noise at the show, both literal and figurative. Leave retailers with a simple one-line takeaway that relates back to your sell story. For example, “we’re a better version of [huge conventional brand], and we’re capitalizing on grain-free, dairy-free, and on-the-go snacking trends.” If you can’t sum it up into one sentence, it’s too complicated. If you can get people to remember just this one line of your pitch, chances are you’re going to win.


Need help building a compelling sell story to win at Expo?

SPINS can arm you with the right facts and insights to have successful discussions with retailers, offering two kits to meet your needs:

SPINS’ Product Launch Kit equips you with relevant consumer trends, competitive differentiation points, and distribution opportunities.

 SPINS’ Retail Success Kit equips you with insights on retailer category composition, performance drivers, optimized assortment analyses, and a clear view to the value you bring to the category.

CLICK HERE to connect with us to learn more.


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