How to Prepare Your Brand to Get the Most Out of Expo West

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

Every year in March, the doors to Expo West open and 80,000+ attendees flood in to see the latest in natural products innovation and place bets on who will be the next to shake up the industry. Watching Expo grow over the last 10 years as a partner in brand growth strategy, SPINS’ Andrew Henkel has observed a thing or two about how to stand out among the 3,000+ brands vying for attention on the big stage. While much has changed, the best practices for brands remain the same, and as the show grows, are now more important than ever to stand out.

Check out Andrew’s tips to prepare your brand for success and get the most out of Expo West. 

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

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

  • Do your homework (on your brand’s competitors, consumers, and key target retailers)
  • Build a tight 30-second sales pitch
  • Have a one-line take away

What kind of data exploration can support this?

Do your homework in advance to build a compelling fact-based narrative on your brand’s advantages. Be prepared to speak to each of these fundamental aspects of your business with data points to back it up:

  • 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 position themselves compared to their competitors.
  • Know your competitor – Which brands are hot within your competitive set, and what unique features may be contributing to their growth? How do your brand’s attributes stack up?
  • Know your consumers – Who are your brand’s core consumers? How are they desirable to retailers? Use demographics and purchase behavior data to support this.

What kinds of talking points will resonate most 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 will give them a good quick representation of your brand and why they should want to learn more:

  • Showcase your wins – Identify the key selling points for your brand by highlighting your 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 of 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 social 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 competitive set, 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 leveraging your product. 

Lastly, leave retailers with a simple one-line takeaway that relates back to your sell story. For example, “we’re a better-for-you version of [nostalgic, conventional snack 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. 

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

There’s lots of noise at the show, both literal and figurative, and what’s new is not always unique. What I mean is that when a trend is hot, we tend to see a lot iterations of it. Underlining how you’re different and cutting through the noise in a very simple way is crucial.

One way to achieve this is by making your booth a destination. When Beyond Meat came out, it was grilling up full burgers at its booth and saw heavy foot traffic as a result: buyers and investors noticed. Be creative about the experience you bring to a show; you don’t have to bring in a circus, but one memorable prop could help.


Are you armed with the insights you need to win at Expo West?

SPINS can help ensure you have a solid, fact-based story ready to impress at Expo and beyond with flexible options to support your needs:

  1. Download SPINS Scorecards – Easy and accessible performance snapshots by retailer
  2. Leverage Dynamic Data – Customized insights at a Market, Account, and Store level delivered through the SATORI® business-intelligence tool
  3. Consult an Expert – Let our brand growth experts craft a compelling, data-driven sell story with you

Catch SPINS at Expo West

Stop by the SPINS booth #1013, join us for happy hour, or catch one of our presentations: CLICK HERE to see where to find SPINS at Expo!