BakeryandSnack Chat Roundtable Podcast
PODCAST ‘I think we’re going to see consumers absolutely remain embedded in the idea of buying online’: Alibaba fashions trade shows to capitalise on heightened demand
According to Consumer Eyes, a New York-based brand strategy and insight innovation consultancy, the growth of ecommerce – which has reached dizzying heights thanks to coronavirus – will continue long after lockdown has ended.
Consumer Eyes founder and president Ron Rentel told BakeryandSnacks that since COVID-19, it’s been fascinating is to see the opening white spaces for small businesses. On the other hand, the outbreak has also resulted in a significant shift to the direct to consumer model with large clients scrambling to understand how they can become an omni-channel provider.
According to Alibaba’s research, in person trade shows have historically been an important avenue for sellers to meet and acquire new customers and for buyers to seek out suppliers and see what else there is on the marketplace. Unfortunately, the pandemic has drastically limited this critical channel for trade, so Alibaba has launched a series of live streaming experiences designed to bring buyers and sellers safely together to meet in real time.
Next week – from August 18 to 21 – the e-tailing giant will be hosting its inaugural US Food and Beverage Online Trade Show, featuring around 40 of Alibaba’s top US suppliers – such as Kellogg’s-owned RXBar, allergen free cookie startup U-LOV Foods and gluten free brand That’s It, among others – along with curated interaction, brand discovery, insight into the sector by expert speakers and one-to-one conversations between relevant parties.
According to Katerina Petraki, director of Business Development at Alibaba.com, the event has already attracted buyers from Target, Sysco, 7-Eleven, Impossible Foods, Kroger and Sodexo, all of which have a keen eye in discovering disruptive motivators.
“The F&B trade show is the second US focused event in the series of trade shows that we’re doing,” she told us.
“The first one was in July on supplements & nutrition and featured over 50 US exhibitors showcasing their capabilities and products to 1,000 registered attendees. We also had an average of more than 50,000 viewers on social media each day.”
Right point of contact
JJ Tartarini, VP of sales at U-LUV Foods, has signed on as an exhibitor to further market his ‘cookies with compassion’ startup as the platform gets the brand in front of the right person to take its footstep further. He also noted that strangely enough, COVID-19 has sped up the opportunity for the brand in bricks-and-mortar outlets, too, as retailers have had time to re-evaluate where the market is going and assess what they need on shelves.
“Anyone who is in food sales will know that 90% of this battle is getting to talk to the right point of contact. Oftentimes, you will run around; sending samples; talking to the front desk person all day … but [nothing essentially happens] until I’m able to have facetime with the right person and the champion who can actually see the process,” said Tartarini.
“Having Alibaba put emphasis on this is a great opportunity for a small brand like ourselves.”
Snacking landscape is deepening
Rentel is one of the show’s speakers and will touch on just how much snacking is going on in the US. So often snacking not just an indulgence but actually a de facto way of getting in nutrition. COVID-19, in particular, has heightened the demand for functional snacks, along with other movements, like fresh and refrigerated snacks. Other notable speakers include Jason Hurley, VP and director of Sales, Food Ingredient Sales, North America, Cargill; Laurie Demeritt, CEO of the Hartman Group and Jim Ellis, VP, Food & Health, Fona International, among others.
“What we have seen … bizarrely a positive outgrowth of COVID … is the re-emergence of mealtime,” said Rental, which has had an impact on the ‘snackification’ trend.
“But this snacking landscape is only deepening. It's not going to go away. In fact, I think it's going to increase because consumers are looking for ways to punctuate that part of the day that satisfies their need for nutrition as they kind of walk through a COVID week.
“The emotional uncertainty of the world has given people pause to stop … and let food be their spiritual medicine as well: A moment to myself that allows me to recentre my day and move forward.”
Bakery and Snacks has a lively and detailed discussion with Rentel, Tartarini and Petraki about what to expect from the online platform, and the interesting things happening in the snacking sphere. Listen in.
US buyers and sellers can register their interest for the US F&B trade event here.