Food In Canada

How to Make a Splash at Virtual Trade Shows

Birgit Blain   

Business Operations Technology Grocery Innovations SIAL

GIC virtual trade shows

GIC virtual trade show

Like it or not, virtual food trade shows are the way of the future.

Having spent countless hours trolling simulated booths, sifting through irrelevant information, virtual trade show fatigue has set in. Based on that experience, here are some tips for exhibitors to optimize the financial investment.

Take a test drive.

Understand how the platform works. What options do exhibit booths offer to make an impactful statement? How will visitors navigate and interact with your booth?

Set objectives.

Why are you there? To gauge interest in new products; find distributors; make appointments with retail buyers; get export opportunities?

Who are your target customers? In addition to retailers, consider distributors, wholesalers, importers, food service and manufacturers.

It’s worth paying to stand out in the crowd.

Explore features that put your brand front and centre. Leverage every opportunity to get your message across. And be sure to enter competitions that can shine a spotlight on your brand.

Keep it simple.

Take time to think through your key message and how to effectively communicate in virtual reality. Resist throwing up all your existing marketing materials. Make a strong visual statement with fewer words.

Ensure everything is designed for digital viewing. Images and documents must be easy to read even on mobile phone screens. Use high-res images that are large enough to show detail, but not too big to download. Finally, do a test run, verifying that documents are properly loaded.

Don’t play hide and seek.

Make it easy to access information with one click. Don’t expect visitors to sift through multiple folders or search for your website and browse through it.

Make. Every. Word. Count.

Skip the marketing speak and the rambling company history. Company descriptions for directory listings should clearly summarize your product offering and category.

For example, can you instantly identify what these companies sell?

Brand A generalizes “We create high quality wellness products to help you live your healthy best.”

Brand B spells out “Italy’s most loved fresh pasta is now available in Canada! Find us in the refrigerated section.”

Brand B nailed it!

Think like the busy buyers quickly scanning the show. Don’t waste their time. What key information do they need? Buyers are looking for new products, not same old same old. Grab their interest with concise sell sheets that include packaging images, the point of difference, top features/benefits, ingredients, nutrition facts, data to support why consumers will buy it, and sales contact info. Also present marketing materials in French to include Francophone customers.

A taste can make the sale.

A big drawback of virtual shows is the absence of food sampling. Find a way to provide samples in retail packaging, accompanied by a note “thanks for visiting our booth at [XYZ] trade show”, sell sheet and business card.

Follow up!

You won’t believe how often this critical step is ignored. Connect with visitors to your booth as well as target customers who missed it. Simplify the message and don’t send a 5 MB 10-page email attachment.

Between juggling innumerable priorities and a never-ending to-do list, it’s worth taking time to plan how your brand is presented, and communicate effectively.

I hope to see your optimized booth at the next virtual show.

As a CPG food consultant, Birgit Blain gets brands ready for retail. Her experience includes 17 years with Loblaw Brands and President’s Choice®. Contact her at or learn more at

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