Trade shows make strange bedfellows – food industry trade shows

David Fusaro

It’s been a strange and challenging year for the Food Processing Machinery & Supplies Assoc. (FPM&SA) and its executives. Still stinging from the poorly attended International Exposition for Food Processors (IEFP), held in November 1994, they entered the year with plans to hold a huge joint trade show, saw those talks evolve into a merger of two associations, then were left at the altar by the Dairy & Food Industries Supply Assoc. (DFISA).

Despite some hard feelings, the MegaShow that FPM&SA and DFISA crafted together should go off as planned this month in Chicago. But it will be a one-time event, not a perpetual joining of two significant shows, much less two associations. Each has since found a new partner, at least for the immediate future.

FPM&SA will stage IEFP alone in 1996. Formerly the Canners Show and dating back 108 years, IEFP will be Oct. 20-23 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. And just last month the association announced it will co-locate IEFP in 1997 and 1998 with the Pack Expo West and Pack Expo show of the Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute (PMMI). Dates are still to be announced, but the locations are Las Vegas in 1997 and Chicago in 1998.

IEFP 94, which was held in Los Angeles, was one of those good news/ bad news stories. It had the most food manufacturing companies represented among attendees: 4,472. But, on average, those firms sent fewer people than ever before, as attendance from food processors — the real potential buyers — was a sparse 5,291. Total attendance, including exhibitors and guests, was 10,552.

The National Food Processors Assoc. annually co-locates its business meeting with IEFP.

The 1994 figures compare with 15,216 attendees the year before in Chicago, and the record of 19,101 attendees in Anaheim, Calif., in 1989.

George Melnykovich, president of FPM&SA, had worries for IEFP 94 right from the start. Los Angeles previously had been a less-than-popular locale, and “We had never ended IEFP on a Sunday before,” he reflects. “It was an accommodation to several people.”

While he wouldn’t specify the “accommodation,” several influential members apparently also were planning to exhibit at the PMMI show Pack Expo, which conflicted with the last day or two of IEEP. Instead of beginning on a Sunday and ending on a Wednesday, as was tradition, this IEFP began on a Thursday and ended on a Sunday.

“I felt like Melina Mercouri in `Never on Sunday,'” Melnykovich wrote to members after the show. “Traffic was this on Sunday. Lesson No. 1: Never close a show on a Sunday. Lesson No. 2: Believe it when workers say `The company may own me Monday through Friday, but my weekends are mine.'”

Through 1993, IEFP had a January/February date. The switch to a fall show put IEFP into some conflict with both Pack Expo and DFISA’s Food and Dairy Expo. As a result, some discussions were immediately begun to co-locate with each organization’s show.

DFISA talks actually date back to 1982, and discussions turned to talk of a merger about 1985-86, says Melnykovich, but members back off then, too.

This time a merger was on track. The boards of both FPM&SA and DFISA voted to explore a merger early in 1994. About 20% of FPM&SA members also are DFISA members, according to Melnykovich. (About 14% of FPM&SA members also belong to PMMI.) But talks broke down just before IEFP 94. The two continued with plans to stage together the MegaShow, but in January DFISA announced the International Food and Dairy Show with its former trade show competitor International Dairy Foods Assoc. (IDFA). It will be Nov. 1-4, 1997 in Chicago.

The American Meat Institute later said it will hold its biennial International Meat Industry Convention and Exposition concurrently with the International Food and Dairy Show.

“I don’t think an IEFP on its own is to the benefit of our members,” admits Melnykovich. “I wish we could bring more groups into the mix. A common complaint you hear is `There are too many trade shows!’ They’re costly and exhibitors don’t always get the most bang for their buck.”

Exhibiting costs for trade shows certainly are up, but so is attendance at most shows. After a flat period in 1990-92, square footage grew by 4-5% in 1993 and ’94, and attendance grew 5.0 and 5.7% in those years, according to Darlene Gudea, editor of Tradeshow Week. While the number of new shows seems to have abated, she says, the various exhibiting costs — from exhibit design to transportation to room and board for employees — is up “probably” 5-6% in each of the past two years, she estimates.

For now, FPM&SA members appear satisfied with the two co-located shows with PMMI. And while there are no current discussions to merge FPM&SA with PMMI, Melnykovich won’t rule that out at some point.

“We’re adopting a wait-and-see attitude about the shows with PMMI,” he continues. “We’ll evaluate the 1997 one before we decide what we’ll do in 1999. We may want to continue to co-locate with PMMI, or maybe we’ll seek even more of a blending. I don’t know.”

COPYRIGHT 1995 Business News Publishing Co.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

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