How to Impress an Expo West Virgin

I don’t care what type of Expo I walk into – because seeing the trends in a variety of booths will make my day! I love seeing what companies are willing to invest in – whether it’s going off the rails with a huge build out and footprint, or, putting their dollars to use through a smaller presence but with simply great design and packaging. Both make quite an impact. I do get a bit sad when I see some new brands that possibly can’t afford either, as their even being there seems like a waste because everyone is walking right on by – and you see the defeat in their eyes.

The Natural Products Expo West Show® blew me away. I knew how coveted tickets are and was just grateful to attend just for a day. I was like a kid in a candy store, or maybe better to say a vegan in a tofu igloo? It was a designer’s paradise.

Here is a rundown of a few of my faves, broken down:

1_Litho.jpg

Print & Packaging Companies

Not super impressed with the variety of packaging companies that were on-site, one did impress me though with a cute sign that only a print nerd like me would love. The sales rep was cool, easy to talk to and let me geek out over the print methods and practically knock over the display touching the papers like I was running out of time. So, shout out to Jeremy Howard at Trojan Litho™.

2_Meyers.jpg

Favorite Booth with Sustainability Effort Interaction

Meyer’s Clean Day® was so impressive, from the brand ambassadors, the booth and packaging. The booth design drew you in but then you see a big wall promoting “leave your mark to help plants grow”. For every fingerprint attendees made on the wall they would donate $1 to the Center for Plant Preservation. Then (genius minds), you obviously need to wash the ink from your hands so they lead you to an adorable pop up bathroom with a full line of their products to wash and moisturize your hands. Your take away was a branded pencil which normally would not sound groundbreaking - but when you are done using it, the tip has basil seeds that you then plant. I loved the whole experience. Plus ups: As you walk through the expo they have pop-up displays of hand sanitizer. Also, they’re social efforts are super-on point right now - them out.

3_PopandBottle.jpg

Trends

Fonts, modern retro vibe, neon lights, CBD, Bone Broths, Jerky…Walking through the show you really pick up on the trends of what is hot in natural products, and design right now – and the forward thinking associated with both. Old school upgraded neon lights were some of my favorites to see. Clean simple wall with that pop! A great booth example is Pop & Bottle. I LOVED this booth and packaging design. These clean, super food almond lattes are yummy and you feel good about drinking them – or just having the cute bottles on your desk at work.

4_copywriting.jpg

Copywriting & Branding

Props to puns and wordplay with Sir Kensington’s booth and the The HoneyPot Co.® brand.

“SK” is an old brand with a new look – and it works! Samples were out by the time I visited, but you can guess that I judge books by the cover art – so I will be trying all of these products simply based on that, and because they made me giggle by “herbing my enthusiasm”.

HoneyPot had me at hello when I started following them, on Instagram but their small but mighty booth got me when I saw this on the banner: “Made by humans with vaginas for humans with vaginas. Because it takes one to know one™.” Hell yeah, you’re right. Clean feminine products from the women like me – I’ll try your products.

5_food.jpg

The Food!

OMG. We went downstairs and it was all over. Food, food, food! My colleague had warned me to take my time because you’ll need a food coma nap after 10 minutes – she was right, but I am stubborn, and everything looked SO good! I tried more Vegan “meat” products than I’d care to share. Some were, eh, I’ll check back at next year’s expo – but others, got even the consistency down!

Favorite Snacks (that will become my staples)

Tillamook® Cheeseboard snack packs. Crackers, cheese and a fun sweet/spicy jam. Like, I literally texted all my wine-drinking, working mom friends while I was at the booth – we have to be their demographic. These products are heavenly. Unfortunately, they just launched so they are in a limited market. I cannot wait to see them at my local grocer. The ONLY downside I mentioned to the rep was the packaging was way too big for the amount you get – the portion was probably right, but everyone at the show is asking for “less plastic” and eco-friendly packaging etc…I’m sure they’ll figure that out at the National roll-out.

Next up, I Heart Keenwah®. They seem to be available everywhere like Amazon & Target and the flavors are so yummy. I tell myself this is the guilt-free, adult version of Cheese Puffs.

Last, Simply Organic® Simmer Sauces. Who knew? Myself and everyone around me at the booth had the same response “You make sauces??” I buy this brand of herbs and seasonings but apparently, they rolled out a diverse selection of sauces last year. They showcased this specific Green Enchilada two ways, over a baguette, and over tortilla chips. As someone who entertains often, this seems like a quick, easy way to have a dip that doesn’t look like it was straight out of the jar! Yes, with the creaminess – it is an indulgence, but worth it! Upon a deeper dive, they have quite a few new products you can check out HERE.

Some other honorable mentions of my favorite booths

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, Pop Art Gourmet Popcorn, Bonafide Provisions®, Delallo®, Olivina Men®, Pacha Soap Co.™, Seaweed Bath Co.® 

6_boothlove.jpg

To sum it up, I’d have to say my first time definitely lived up to the hype and I hope to experience it again and again. I will continue to visit other expos and events to keep up on the trends and get my creative juices inspired, but so far – this shot straight to the top of my list.

The Direct-to-Consumer Paradox; What Should CPGs Do?

banking-buy-computer-34577.jpg

Ecommerce has settled in for the long haul, which is great news for consumers.

But what about big brands?

With the luxury of near endless choice now available at the touch of a button (or even a voice command), there is less need for people to go to physical stores or to buy known brands.  Along with the explosion of drop shipping, the face of commerce has changed dramatically.

CPG companies are not immune from this shift. After having avoided selling direct-to-consumers (DTC) so as not to compete with their retail partners, many are rethinking their strategies.

For many CPG companies to survive – much less prosper – adding a DTC approach may be their only viable option.

Is DTC Right for All CPG Companies?

Before we describe how your CPG company could wade into the DTC waters, it’s best to first establish whether or not it’s a good idea.

As we’ll touch on below, taking a DTC approach doesn’t necessarily mean competing head-to-head with retailers.

The key to deciding how far to go is by first establishing what role a DTC channel must play. In short, does your company want this channel to help with:

  • Discovering Greater Insights and Innovation

  • Controlling the User Experience

  • Leveraging an Omnichannel Approach

  • Overtaking the Retailer

In the case of that fourth approach, it would mean competing directly with current retail partners.

Once you’ve established what your goal is for DTC, you can begin considering which strategy to adopt.

4 Ways CPG Companies Can Take a DTC Approach

The most obvious problem that a CPG manufacturer will run into when they go DTC is the conflict with their retail partners.

To succeed, these companies need to adopt certain strategies that have already proven to be effective in the world of DTC.

Fortunately, there are four direct-to-consumer approaches that many CPG companies have already adopted and found effective for their transition.

1. Discovering Greater Insights and Innovation

Arguably, one of the greatest opportunities for CPG companies looking to transition into DTC is to learn more about their end-users. This will allow them to create better products and nurture greater trust in their companies.

2. Controlling the User Experience

Research by Salesforce found that 75% of people expect a consistent experience from brands. If you want more control over your brand story, DTC marketing will allow you to communicate your message directly to customers.

3. Leveraging Omnichannel Marketing

Omnichannel retail may be the future, one in which companies engage with customers online before directing them to a brick-and-mortar environment to make their purchases. Manufacturers don’t necessarily need to go to war with retailers. By taking this approach, they can simply drive greater sales while growing their ecommerce footprint.

4. Overtaking the Retailer

Of course, for many CPG companies that first adopt omnichannel marketing, the natural next step will be overtaking retailers. Unless a product needs to be test-driven, tried on, or otherwise seen in-person, these companies will have very little reason to justify the overhead their retail-partners require.

Standing Still Is Not an Option

CPG manufacturers can no longer rely on retail partners to build up their audiences. Instead, they must look for long-term solutions, which guarantee their longevity and sustained success.

One thing these companies cannot do is simply keep up business as usual.

By engaging the market with a DTC approach, big manufacturers risk upsetting some retailers, but they also stand a lot to gain. Not only will they know more about their customers, but they can focus more on their brand story and engagement.

There are much larger profit margins to look forward to, as well.