Column: Virtual Potato Expo provides unique opportunities By Zeke Jennings

I’ve worked in trade publications for six years and communications for more than 15. So, I’ve been to a fair share of trade shows and conferences. The first Potato Expo I attended was in 2019, and I was beyond impressed with the level of educational speakers and knowledge of all the folks working the exhibitor booths.

Spudman Managing Editor Zeke Jennings

The company to keep and food to eat was pretty darn good too. Unfortunately, we’ll all be responsible for making our own food this year and the company will be screen-to-screen instead of in-person. The pandemic, however, hasn’t stopped the National Potato Council from lining up an impressive lineup of educational sessions, speakers and exhibitors. I

participated in several virtual trade shows last year, and they do offer some benefits over a traditional event.

The biggest, in my opinion, is the ability to essentially be in two places at once. An in-person trade show sometimes has overlapping educational sessions or events that one has to choose between. With a virtual event, if you can’t attend an event live, in most cases, you can go back and watch it later.

DIGITAL GUIDE: Everything you need to know about Potato Expo 2021 and how to get the most out of it

One of this year’s Expo keynote speakers is Michael Sansolo, who has more than 35 years of experience tracking food retail trends. Sansolo will speak about the changes to food consumption during the pandemic and what lasting effects they may have long-term during his “COVID-19: What Happened and What’s Coming Next for Consumers?” address on Jan. 6.

During a recent episode of the “Eye on Potatoes” podcast, Sansolo said it’s impossible to predict returns to foodservice, given the unknown, but said one lasting effect could be the move toward online shopping in the retail sector.

“This could change how displays are built in the future. Folks in any industry have to be thinking, ‘How are we going to communicate with shoppers in this new environment?’”

An opportunity for the potato industry, or really any food industry, is to capitalize on the fact that a lot of people started cooking food at home who previously did not, or at least didn’t do so often.

“We’re going to have to bake in those gains we’ve made,” said Sansolo, citing things like marketing recipes and baking strategies. “People saw that cooking from home can work for them.”

So, definitely make use of this virtual format and explore everything. I know I will.

Top: A look at the “lobby” of the upcoming Potato Expo 2021 virtual trade show

75 Applewood Dr. Ste. A
P.O. Box 128
Sparta, MI 49345


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