Vegas Food Expo
A couple weeks ago, we were lucky enough to have a booth at the 2018 Vegas Food Expo (VFX). This two-day event intends to give growing food companies the chance to meet both vendors and potential customers. It's such a new (two years old) event we wanted to shed some light for future attendees.
What is it?
In their own words, VFX is “a new kind of food convention, designed for small innovative companies that need to reach big retailers, distributors, and restaurants.” It’s a small (by Vegas standards) trade show focused on artisanal foods and the industry that supports them. There were somewhere between 150 and 200 companies there this year, and it’s hosted in the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino. Most importantly, it’s an expression of the most prominent food trends in the US, meaning it was a great way to see what’s hot in the food industry now. This year, it seemed like “artisanal” was the word of the moment.
What’s it like?
So first of all, it’s good to have at least one team member at your booth at all times. So if you take shifts, then the rest of the team can walk around, do some scouting, digest the trends, and scope out the competition. Everyone was warm and in a good mood, and it was a really convivial atmosphere. We got the chance to make some friends with the people in the booths around us, people we’ll really stay in contact with.
There were also a bunch of different sub-events going on, like cookoffs and speeches and evening raves. These really added to the depth of what you could gain from this experience. As you can imagine, we tried a ton of food and drink while we were there. If you go hungry at any point, you’re doing something wrong.
How long was the event?
The event was two full days, and this year was on a Sunday and Monday. The reason for this was that lots of chefs in the area have off on Mondays, so VFX picked days that would best attract them. While Sunday was packed and more intense, Monday calmed down tremendously. This was only the second year they’ve had this event, so hopefully in the future they’ll move to Saturday and Sunday instead.
How is it different than other food expos?
VFX is special because it’s really aimed at smaller, up and coming brands, so this makes it much more reachable and affordable. With a great location in the middle of Las Vegas, this expo
helps small companies gain traction and make important connections. It was lovely to see and chat with the man who launched the VFX, Brett Ottolenghi (president of Artisanal Foods). He was doing a lot of walking around and mingling, so it feels very personal. We really hope VFX maintains this focus on smaller companies as itself gets bigger over time.
Was it right for us? Why?
We’re a hardware company. We’re making a product for people who really care about quality food. We’ve spent months narrowing down who our customer really is. After interviewing hundreds of people across industries and personas, we narrowed it down to what we describe as high end gourmets. Basically Íko’s first product is quality all round, it is packed with technologies to enable a microclimate and enhance the user experience of growing herbs at home.
So this was the perfect place for us as high end gourmets were not in short supply. We got to mingle with our target market and it was a great way for us to validate our customer and their needs.
In addition, we met a chef who is interested in featuring Íko on his TV show nationwide, mixologists who were eager to have one at their bar, and home cooks who were excited at the idea of growing their own bronze fennel or sorrell right in their kitchens. We realized that it’s not just those cooped up in apartments in the chilly northeast that need Íko, but also those in arid Nevada and the overcast North West. And it’s more about the person than the place.
Who do we recommend attend the next VFX?
This is a great opportunity for Eastern-based companies looking to expand west to test the waters. There were a lot of California and other West Coast distributors at this event.
We want to encourage more kitchen hardware companies to participate. We were only one of a few hardware devices there, which really made us stand out. It seems like people get so wrapped up in trends, but you shouldn’t be afraid if your company isn’t a gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan type of food. Your company might actually break the norm and catch the eye.
You’ll even stand out more if your value is based on something more profound. All of these trends have become mainstream in this space, but true flavor and the earnest story that you bring are more important.
1. Ask for a booth between alcohol vendors: they’re the most popular booths there by a long shot! We were by chance next to a cocktail duet and an artisanal tequila seller. The tequila guy brought speakers and it turned into a festival. The Moscow Mules made our plant machines even more enticing.
2. Rent a car and check out the Valley of Fire State Park. It's about an hour and a half drive from the event, and you can catch the sunset after the festivities.