The Most Important F&B Expo in Asia

On 12-15 April, F&B buyers and suppliers from around the world descend on Singapore, in their masses, for the most important international food show in Asia; Food and Hotel Asia (FHA) 2016.

The cost of exhibiting at this show is significant and the resources required to set up and staff the expo booth mean that other work projects are temporarily suspended. It’s vital that participation in the event shows a return on investment. Otherwise, it simply becomes an expensive exercise in business card collection.

Smart FHA exhibitors take a strategic approach to developing business with the leads they garner at the show. Below are five tactics I recommend:

1) Review their existing portfolio

As you work through the numerous leads you have from the FHA, an affective way to separate the promising importers from time wasters is to review their existing portfolio.

For example, if you are a frozen foods exporter and receive interest from a distributor who has no frozen foods in their catalog, you should have serious concerns about their ability to warehouse and transport your products. Further, a catalog full of well-known international food brands is a good indicator of the distributors capabilities.

2) Follow ups

When you follow up on promising leads be sure to deal with the decision makers and bear in mind that language and cultural differences in Southeast Asia may require a different approach to your usual business development process.

In my experience, email is not the most ineffective tool. Most decision makers are rarely in the office, as their job requires a lot of face time with business associates. Thus, while they are unlikely to sit at their desks and wade through hundreds of emails they receive each day, they are usually glued to their mobiles, so a phone call is often the best means of getting in touch.

For short conversations, messaging Apps like WhatsApp or WeChat are also commonly used (these tools are convenient, instant and well suited to business people in Asia who often spend a lot of time stuck in traffic).

3) Visit Shortlisted Companies, on their turf

Factor in market a visit, post expo, to meet with your short list of importers. There is no better way to truly measure an importer’s strengths and weaknesses than by visiting them at their office and assessing their capabilities and reach into the market.

You will quickly learn the truth of any comments made during your first encounter at FHA, or follow up conversations post event, and you will be in far better position to determine whether they will be a good fit for your company.

4) Visit Key Supermarkets (for retail exporters)

A great indicator of an importer’s expertise in retail distribution is to evaluate the shelf real estate the brands they carry occupies. If they are good at what they do the brands they carry will look tidy and well stocked and they will take up a large amount of space relative to competing brands. 

5) Dedicate sufficient resources

It takes time and perseverance to convert leads from FHA into new business and ensuring you dedicate sufficient resources to the task is the difference between an expensive five day window display and developing tangible export opportunities.

If you don’t have the time to do it, contract a reliable export services firm that can do it for you.