Show update from Angus Cleland, Terra Pacific Marketing, USA
From May 21st through May 24th this year, I attended the National Restaurant Association (NRA) show at the McCormick Place convention center in Chicago. The show returned to 'in-person' format this year after a two-year pandemic-related hiatus.
As the most significant tradeshow on the North American hotel/restaurant industry calendar, over 1,500 exhibitors attended, promoting their products and services to more than 65,000 attendees over the four days. The show allowed Terra Pacific to connect with several key clients and service providers.
Halperns' Steak & Seafood had their usual highly impressive booth on display. It was staffed with their
sales reps and chefs, who turned out delicious steak sandwiches and various samples for the show's duration.
D'Artagnan shared a booth with their parent company, Fortune Fish, and staged an impressive display of Venison cuts. On consecutive days their executive chef broke down a Venison Saddle to show the cut's ease of butchery and versatility to an attentive and appreciative audience. It was our first opportunity to engage with several key Fortune staff. It is very pleasing that support for the venison program remains strong and enthusiastic.
We met with several other manufacturing and distribution clients over the show, all of whom re-affirmed their support of the Venison program. All saw positive opportunities ahead, particularly with the inflated prices of beef and other proteins in the competitive set, making venison an attractive proposition for menu placement.
Protein supplier representation at the show did seem somewhat lower in numbers this year. Perhaps many decided to wait another 12 months for the market to 'normalize' further coming out of the pandemic before committing to the significant expenditure required to exhibit in Chicago.
'Meat Alternatives' had a significant presence at the show in line with their current visibility in the world of food service ingredients. Black Sheep Foods' Plant-based Lamb' or 'Mywagyu.com' … "The world's first premium plant-based beef alternative" – anyone?! This is a category we are watching carefully. Still, it is clear it will take much more than name appropriation for some of these companies and their products to win over a curious but skeptical North American consumer!
In general, the show attendees had a real sense of positivity, optimism, and relief. It allowed everyone to rekindle relationships face to face and discuss the future of an industry that has been among the hardest hit by the events of the last three years.