I’ve been writing for the specialty foods industry for a little over a year, and in that scant amount of time my eyes have been opened to an abundance of knowledge, talent, and genius. While I attended this year’s IDDBA in Orlando, Florida, I was lucky enough to see these three traits represented across the show floor.
Our industry is an innovative one, and it makes sense that our shows would follow within this tradition. IDDBA featured not only an invaluable show experience—more on that later, faithful readers—but its New Product Showcase, What’s In Store Live, an Expert Neighborhood where attendees met industry experts, and a series of General Sessions that included the likes of Laila Ali, Christina Tosi, Michael J. Fox, and Rob Lowe.
As a press release noted, IDDBA 19 had a record-breaking attendance consisting of companies, qualified buyers, merchandisers, executives, manufacturers, brokers, distributors, and other industry professionals who gathered to connect and learn. The show floor experience was a hustle and bustle of networking, eye-catching displays, and exemplary products. Attendees were given the chance to learn about a variety of topics due to the updated What’s In Store Live format, where they learned everything from cheese pairings to omnichannel marketing.
“It’s our biggest floor ever. Not only are there more exhibitors, but they’re all upping their game,” Mike Eardly, IDDBA President, shared with me. “Our exhibitors are really interested in telling a story to their customers. I mean, when you go out to the show floor, it’s a wonderland. We believe that people should come to IDDBA not to only buy a product, but to understand a solution that they can bring back to their customers. We don’t want to be just a trade show where people just come for food. We really feel that the connection, that the community aspect of learning and growing together is more important than the selling of product. Pretty much everything is growing. Charcuterie is becoming huge for us right now; plant-based is growing, and bakery is taking up more and more square footage. I think there’s an investment to reinvent that whole category.”
Knowledge, talent, and genius were also front and center at the 24th Annual Cake Decorating Challenge, with contestants tasked this year to fill an eight-foot bakery case with cakes, as well as create two custom Toy Story 4 themed cakes and a special event cake. This year, Joni Graham of Carmen’s Independent CityMarket took the cake—I mean, first place—while Publix's Jess Tatham and Hy-Vee's Dana Nygaard placed second and third, respectively. Nygaard was also the People's Choice Award winner for all three days of the event.
Inside of the New Product Showcase, there were multiple new products that caught the eye, including Dietz & Watson’s Dietz & Dats, a brand-new snack pack; Old Croc’s Croc Bites, a delightful snacking cheese with, in my humble opinion, the greatest name; and di Stefano’s 2 oz Burrata cup. Can you sense the snacking theme?
I spoke to several people out on the show floor about the value they see in exhibiting at IDDBA, and what makes the show a must-attend for them every year.
“We find value because we make over 100 products and this gives us a platform to show a wide variety of what we do to some big players from these companies that may have heard of us but haven’t had a chance to actually speak with us and try some of our newest products,” said Elle Fearing, National Sales Representative, Carr Valley Cheese.
Ashley Procopio, Retail Marketing Manager, Dietz & Watson, added that the show offers a chance to show their customers what they do best.
“It’s really important for us to be here. We strive to be deli leaders, and we strive to be pioneers in innovation within the deli department,” she told me. “We live it, we eat it, we breathe it. We are here to show our products and engage with our customers and be able to walk them through what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, and how we can be most successful with them and help them grow their business is our absolute number one priority.”
Marissa DeMaio, Director of Marketing, Atalanta, echoed these sentiments.
"For the Atalanta Team, we love the IDDBA. This particular show is where we get to showcase our vast product portfolio not only in our booth but in the beautiful What’s In Store section of the show. Our suppliers and our sale team also get the opportunity to have quality time with new and existing customers to speak in depth about trends, growth opportunities and sales strategy. The keynote speakers and events are additional engagements that also make IDDBA a unique experience," she said.
Luke Bulhozer, Vice President of Sales, Klondike Cheese Company, added, “One of the best things about IDDBA is the quality of the attendees. Every attendee has the ability to make something happen when you’re talking to them. Between that and networking, it’s one of the most important shows that we do during the year.”
As I walked away from the show floor, it was crystal clear to me that every person in the industry is working together to make as much wonder as possible happen. Till next year IDDBA!