Episode 99 – 2021 Trade Show Recap



Joe: On this episode of the "CPG & CBD University Podcast," we're wrapping up the abbreviated tradeshow season of 2021. Back to in-person industry events and meetings, what's ahead for retailers, and all the emerging trends in CBD and health and wellness? This is the "CPG & CBD University Podcast," and it starts right now.

Joe: I'm Joe Agostinelli, host of the "CPG & CBD University Podcast." And if you are a returning listener, welcome back to our podcast. And for our new listeners, hit that subscribe button for the latest each week on everything CPG, CBD, health, and wellness. You can also catch full video episodes on YouTube of the "CPG & CBD University Podcast." All trade shows, once a staple of our industry, they're back, in-person events for the most part. And my guest today on the podcast returning once again, Vice President of Sales, Vince Gillen. He was just with us a couple of episodes ago on our Hemp Bomb's five-year anniversary episode. It's so hard to believe it's been five years. He's back with the latest on the retail and convenience front. And Vince, not only welcome back to the podcast, but all your recent travels around the nation for the trade shows that so far have picked back up.

Vince: Yes, they have. Good to be here.

Joe: So we started off... Actually, you started off, abbreviated trade show season started back at Tobacco Plus Expo back in May 2021 in Las Vegas. So what was it like getting back on the trade show circuit?

Vince: Well, trade shows, in general, are a huge investment with not just time, but financially. And we wanted to put a really great effort in the booth and all the new products because we hadn't been to a show in a while. So, it was a great experience, and it was right as things opened up. So it was a packed show. Unfortunately, after that, things kind of picked back up with COVID and things died down a little bit. But being able to go to that show, it was new for us. It was a different environment than some of the ones you've been at before: a lot of smoke shops and different retailers that we don't see at all the other trade shows. But it was a great experience, it was really good.

Joe: And in talking about seeing retailers face to face and meeting with them, imagine that's all part of the importance of getting back on the road and to these trade shows?

Vince: Yeah, absolutely. The trade shows are...it's kind of a catch 22 because it's something you have to do, and it is...they're exhausting, they can be mentally draining, but they're fun. And in our industry, a lot of the category managers, the retailer store owners, distributors, they go there to see what's new in the market, what's innovative. And it was great to see a lot of the people that we already do work with, but more importantly, there's a lot of people we haven't had a chance to necessarily meet in person prior. And also, it's a way for us to showcase our new brands, other products, and what we think is going to be or what we think are going to be great sellers in the retail space.

Joe: And speaking of new brands, correct me if I'm wrong, but Tobacco Plus Expo was really the first place where we could showcase some of our newest brands this year, correct? What was the feedback?

Vince: It was great. So we had...everyone's used to us as being just Hemp Bombs, and so there we were able to show Mystic Labs. We got a sneak peek at some of the other stuff with Forever Well and Hyper Brain, but for the most part that was all a Hemp Bombs and Mystic Labs show. And with the products under Mystic Labs, that was great that we kind of had a brand that was really taking off to give Hemp Bombs, if you will, in our portfolio a run for its money.

Joe: And ASD Market Week in Las Vegas then typically twice a year, how is that show different from others?

Vince: So that show, ASD has pretty much everything you would find in any sort of convenience, some of those gift shops, smoke shops, etc. So it's not really directed at one specific niche like say CBD or kratom tobacco, it's a lot. I mean, you can have random products from stickers to plates, to anything you'd find in gift shops and other retail channels that you don't see at other shows. However, you also get a good mix of buyers that are not necessarily always looking for the products that we have. And maybe they have customers that would carry, and they could be really solid distributors and/or have, you know, multiple stores that would do well with our products. So it's just a chance to see different people that you would not see at the traditional trade shows.

Joe: And keep it in the abbreviations, after ASD, there was CDBX, and that's a networking event put on by the Convenience Distributors Association. We're a proud member of that. And then you recently attended the 2021NACS show, we'll get to in a minute. But with CDBX, what are some of the topics you're hearing from distributors about the industry and products?

Vince: Yes, CDBX was probably one of my favorite trade show-type events. It was one-on-one meetings for 20 to 30 minutes with distributors that are all part of the CDA association. And a lot of them carry our products. Some don't. But it was a chance to meet one on one and have time to talk through the products themselves, what's new, what they're seeing in the market. And then we could also look at some of our sales data as well, from not just our sales data, but using SPINS and IRI to show them why we've developed new products based on ingredients, product form. So, it was a really good experience. And when you get that sort of time, that's one on one, and it's just jam-packed. I mean, it was three days full of meetings. So we met with almost 30 distributors. And in a normal tradeshow environment, it's so fast, and there's a lot of stuff you miss, and you try to take good notes, but it's very fast-paced. So, this was a good chance to kind of slow things down and really have intimate conversations with the right people that we feel help move our products.

Joe: And correct me if I'm wrong, but CDA's annual event is coming to Tampa, which is where our manufacturing and distribution facilities are located next year, correct?

Vince: Yes. So that's going to be their trade show where you do have a booth, and it's probably a little bit more fast-paced. But yes, it'll be here in Tampa in February.

Joe: And stay tuned for more about the CDA and the work they do in the industry on a future episode. And as I mentioned earlier, you just wrapped up the 2021 Trade Association with NACS, one of the largest trade shows in the convenience industry. What was the trade show floor like at NACS this year?

Vince: So first of all, NACS puts on a hell of a show. I mean, there's a lot of the big vendors there that just go all out. I mean, the marketing spend for some of the big CPG companies is pretty crazy. So it's a very impressive show to be at. We were very fortunate to be able to attend, and we had all our products there. The show is in Chicago, and I think when you look at Vegas and some of the other areas where they had trade shows, the foot traffic was a little bit heavier. I think some of that has to do with COVID and just geographically or regionally what's going on in each market. So, the show floor was very impressive.

The quality of people that we got to talk to, you know, it's a very high-end show, so we were able to meet a lot of the convenience category managers, there's distributors there, and then just some of the other manufacturers in the industry. But, it was a solid show. We do wish the foot traffic was a little bit heavier. But for what it was, it was great to be there and show not just Mystic Labs, Hemp Bombs, but also show Hyper Brain and the Forever Well line that we got a lot of great feedback and insight on. So we're looking forward to NACS next year, obviously, and then capitalizing on those meetings that we just had.

Joe: And with those meetings youv'e just had, so many retailers have struggled through the pandemic closures, and the shift from in-store to online. But now as retail picks up again and shoppers return to stores, what can retailers do to be prepared for the holiday season?

Vince: Yeah, I think... So, clearly, there are some products in the market right now that are moving very, very well. You have your staple items like CBD gummies and some of the...like for us, our Pain Freeze moves really well. But Mystic Labs has done really well with the Delta 8 products. And I think all the retailers and the distributors that we've met with, starting back at the Tobacco Plus Expo, and even prior to that, just over virtual meetings, that category has just exploded. And now that we have some kratom products, and with Hyper Brain coming out, I mean, these are all items that are known sellers in the channels that our distributors service. And our data shows that, SPINS, IRI data shows that.

So I think as people do get back out there and May foot traffic picks up even further, and retailers, and hopefully people start traveling more, I think that's key. And that is kind of a big if right now, I mean everyone sees the news, but I feel good about that. But I think retailers just need to focus on what moves and learn from some of the mistakes I think they made with CBD. Like hey, don't bring in 50 brands, and have a good place for it where it's a nice display, and just stick with what sells, and keep it simple.

And if you can do that with CBD, with Kratom, with Delta 8, other hemp cannabinoids, with the nootropic stuff which Hyper Brain is, and then look to maybe at some of the Forever Well products. I mean, the reason we did that, we didn't really know what type of feedback we'd get because a lot of those are sold in certain channels: grocery, health, and wellness. And, you know, you're starting to see a lot of convenience stores that are trying to adapt to be more of that one-stop full service, if you will, for their customers. So they want to have immunity products, they want to have vitamin products that maybe you're not necessarily gonna see in smaller packaging and in those type of brick and mortars.

Joe: And a real quick, cheap plug, but that's how we get so many downloads and episodes. For more on nootropics, listen to our previous or watch our previous episode, Episode 98 with Michael Diaz and Nelson Rodriguez, two members of our formulation team, as we break down that emerging trend extensively. Again, that's Episode 98. Final note from NACS, second year a row, gummies got an award, this time on the Hemp Bomb side, our newest Hemp Bomb gummies with Delta 8, Thoughts on receiving the best new product award?

Vince: Everyone likes awards. I don't think it's something that our distributors see and say, "Oh, wow, we're gonna carry that." But I think it gives a lot of credibility to us, and what we're doing with our formulations, with our team here, and it goes into that. They look at the packaging, the taste, and the quality of the product. So, I think the price points...sure their price, sometimes you win awards like that and it doesn't mean anything, yes or no. I think these are credibility awards, and they show that we're doing things right. And when we do receive awards for our products, it's not like we're getting something we don't deserve. I think people see that and go, "Man, I'm glad I'm carrying that brand. That makes sense." So, of course, it was exciting to get that, get a neat little plaque which we'll bring it here and we'll set it up over there.

Joe: Over there, yeah, we'll have it on the podcast. Why not?

Vince: Yeah, why not?

Joe: We're running out of space.

Vince: Yeah. So we'll do that. But yeah, that was great. And going back to NACS, one of the best parts about that show is I think it's a relationship-building type show. I mean, there's a lot of industry people from the different publications and from CStore Decisions, CSP, community store news, a lot of the industry people that you don't necessarily get to see at in ASD or a TPE. And it's great to kind of learn more about who people are and what their companies do because all of these different channels are really small and a close niche. It's big, but it's not...it's kind of like everybody knows everybody. So, that's one of the good highlights I would say about NACS, is building those relationships and trying to see where we can all help each other as we continue to move forward.

Joe: While Vince, thank you for recapping this abbreviated 2021 Tradeshow season, excuse me. I know you're looking forward to an even busier 2022. What's on tip?

Vince: So Tobacco Plus Expo, TPE again, ASD again. And then obviously, the CDA, CDBX, I always get those acronyms...CBD, CDB, but that one in February, here local, we're looking forward to. And then we'll try to see where regionally, if there are some smaller distributor trade shows we can go to or just meetings in general, that's where we're headed to. But TPE, ASD, NACS, and the CDA are on the agenda, for sure.

Joe: And you can always keep an eye on the Global Widget Website, and in our social media channels, including our LinkedIn page to see exactly where Vince and the team will be as we get into the Tradeshow season of 2022. Vince Gillen, Vice president of sales, is my guest on the "CPG & CBD University Podcast." Thanks for joining me as always,

Vince: Thank you, Joe. Thanks, everyone.

Joe: And don't forget to hit that subscribe button to receive notifications on new episodes. And speaking of new episodes, join us for our next episode. It'll be our 100th episode of our podcast. We'll take a look back at our favorite moments from the first 99, many of which include Vince, and look ahead to the next 100, and we couldn't have gotten here without the support of our listeners and viewers. So, thank you and we will share more gratitude next time. I'm Joe Agostinelli, host of the "CPG & CBD University Podcast." Thanks for tuning in.

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