Exhibitors: The Heart & Soul of SCAA’s Annual Exposition

expo-042514-lr-164By Lisa Pacini

For nearly 27 years now, people have come to the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s Annual Exposition, The Event, looking for new and innovative ideas. The best place to encounter these products and services on the cutting edge of specialty coffee is the show floor. New coffee brewing equipment, preparation techniques, packaging, marketing philosophies, and financial management plans – it’s all there. And exhibitors are waiting to share their offerings. They are the heart and soul of this show.

My first Expo was in 1997 in New Orleans. I was in awe of the Exhibit Hall. The smell. The sounds. The people. Big, colorful booths. Small, simple ones. Roasters, espresso machines, sweets, cups, packaging – my head was spinning. So much to see, so much to take in, so much to learn! And samples? I had six cappuccinos in the first aisle alone! I quickly learned how to “taste.”

expo-042514-lr-241The show floor is as impressive now as it was then. You can experience all of this at The Event. The excitement is still in the air. The rich smell of coffee, the steam from the espresso machines, the whirring of the blenders. Espresso machines so pristine that I can check my lipstick in the reflection. Shiny packaging options, stacks of cups, displays of chocolate, syrup bottles all lined up in a row. This is what awaits you on the show floor.

In their booths, exhibitors create their own world. Some set up a cafe-style environment with places to sit and enjoy a taste. Others design cupping stations or demonstration areas. Many just have a table with samples galore. All are happy to teach, share, and entertain. You’ll never leave empty-handed (or hungry)!

expo-042514-lr-148A ton of effort goes into the preparation of exhibiting. It’s not just ordering electricity and making shipping arrangements. Exhibitors must also consider booth design and presentation, merchandising, launching a new product, and ensuring staff members are educated and prepared. Ultimately it is about providing the resources that businesses need to take specialty coffee to the next level. This industry continues to succeed in part because these exhibiting companies are determined to provide the latest and greatest – people, products, and knowledge.

Long-time exhibitors like the Colombian Coffee Federation, Torani, Espresso Supply, Diedrich, Pacific Bag, FETCO, BUNN and Anacafe bring a rich history and expertise to the show floor. Industry experts present tried-and-true products and processes, as well as new and innovative ones. The knowledge base is immense and these companies are happy to share their know-how with all who ask.

expo-042514-lr-213There is no less expertise in our newer exhibitors! Established companies like Starbucks were first-time exhibitors in 2014, as were Joco and Viora Lid. Sowden SoftBrew has only been exhibiting for a few years. These companies bring a fresh perspective to the show floor, and the depth of their knowledge and expertise just increases the flavor and body of what The Event has to offer.

The official Portrait Country also brings a certain flair to the floor. By showcasing some of its local customs through music and costumes, the featured country enhances its offerings and provides attendees with deeper insights into what makes their coffee unique.

expo-choiceawards-042714-lr-44To make the most of your experience at The Event, be sure to download the official Expo app so that you can reference the most current list of exhibitors. And hit every aisle! Up and down, take it all in. Don’t be afraid to approach representatives and ask questions. Try the coffee, sample the smoothie, nibble on that biscotti. Listen to the in-booth presentations, to the questions your fellow attendees are asking. Take notes. Pick up literature and business cards.

It is also important to provide feedback. Exhibitors want to know what you want and need. What’s working; what’s not? How can they help you grow your business? It’s a partnership, and one that they do not take lightly.

Companies represent many different industry segments, such as Allied Beverages, Green Coffee, Roasters, Water, Tea, Packing, Non-profits, Publications, and Allied Foods. Some encompass more than one category, and each one has something special to offer. Above all, they are excited to meet you.

expo-042714-lr-42While you’re at the show, don’t miss the Innovation Showcase (located at the top of the fourth floor escalators). Get a first look at new products that are hitting the market, and then make sure to visit those companies on the show floor.

Another key activity for many exhibitors, the Best New Product Competition, is for companies that have introduced something new to the marketplace within the last year. With eight categories, this competition puts a spotlight on cutting-edge products vying for top distinction. You can find them on the app, and take a moment to vote for the People’s Choice Award on Friday and Saturday.

Our exhibitors work hard and serve a crucial role in providing attendees with a valuable experience at Expo. Their energy and dedication is what gives the Exhibit Hall its heart and soul. Don’t miss it!

lisa

Lisa Pacini is responsible for exhibit sales for the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s annual Exposition and the primary contact for exhibitor services The Event. She works with the Exhibitor Advisory Council, who are charged with identifying what’s working, where there are areas of opportunity and aspects that require improvement, as well as taking a look at ways to increase attendance at the show each year.