WASHINGTON -- Food Marketing Institute here will revamp the trade show floor beginning at the 2005 FMI Show to spotlight selected product categories, the association said.
"What we're starting to do in 2005 is to create 'focus' or 'concept' areas on the show floor," said Brian Tully, senior vice president, FMI, in an interview with SN. "There will be defined sections of the exhibit floor starting right in the front that will reflect different kinds of communities that haven't been organized collectively in the past, or that haven't been well-represented at FMI in the past."
The 'focus' categories scheduled to be spotlighted at the 2005 show, which takes place each spring at McCormick Place in Chicago, will be nonfood products, meal solutions, seasonal products and ethnic products. Each section will have its own educational sessions and other activities located in its area of the show floor.
FMI plans to change the focus categories from year to year. For the 2006 show, the association is looking at focusing on private label through a previously announced partnership with Daymon Associates, Stamford, Conn., and on the equipment category. FMI is researching which additional categories should be highlighted.
Tully said one of the goals of the new format is to differentiate the show each year to convert sporadic attendees into more regular show-goers. In discussion with attendees and through surveys and focus groups, FMI has learned that many attendees feel there is little justification for attending the show annually because it appears largely the same from year to year.
"If the mind-set at the outset of the show is that you are going to see something that is the same as what you saw when you were here the last time, then you start to fight an uphill battle in terms of trying to convince people that there really is new stuff out there," he said. "That's the explanation for the changes we're making."
Traditional center store categories, which in the past have comprised the bulk of the show's exhibitors, will be located behind the focus categories in the central rear areas of the exhibit area.
FMI also will offer conference rooms along the show floor where executives from exhibiting companies and their customers can meet.
This year, FMI for the first time incorporated the shows of the United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association and the Organic Trade Association, in addition to its own FMI Pharmacy Conference, which are credited with driving up overall attendance by more than half, to about 34,000.
Steven Hacker, president, International Association for Exhibition Management, Dallas, said the changes FMI is making to the show are relatively common solutions to combat declining attendance, and can be effective if executed properly.
"It isn't going to be automatically successful just because they do it," he said. "You have to do it right. You have to contact the right people and appeal to them with a program that is compelling."