Expo West 2024 Sampling Impossible counter

Tasty Tactics: Sampling Ideas from the Exhibitors at Expo West 2024

“People say that it looks like a wildlife preserve but it’s what our farms look like.”

­­–Niki Haugh, Promotions Marketing Program Manager, Organic Valley

If there ever was a trade show that’s all about sampling, it’s arguably Natural Products Expo West that takes place at Anaheim Convention Center each spring. EM was on hand to see what’s cooking in health-conscious culinary marketing and, let’s admit it, try it.

How do brands bring out the most in flavor and experience? Here’s some sampling wisdom and ideas that worked.

expo west booth trends 2024 teaserTrade Show Trends:

Start with a Sumptuous Daily Menu

Expo West 2024 Sampling Imposisble sampling truckThe scent of sizzling burgers was hard to pass up on around the food truck in front of the convention center—but wait, it was coming from “meat from plants” by Impossible Foods. The brand leveraged the show to launch its new, striking red aesthetic designed to appeal to meat-eating and “flexitarian” consumers. Challenging preconceived notions of what defines “meat,” the brand tempted attendees with spicy and regular “chicken” sandwiches as well as Indulgent Americana sliders.

Inside, the brand’s biggest-ever 50×30-square-foot booth was designed to be a “butcher shop” in gradient red complete with awnings, “sausage strings” and tea towels featuring beef and pork cuts, all saying “plants.” The restaurant-style kitchen served sausage breakfast sandwiches, chicken nuggets and brats, as well as a very popular DIY hot dog bar.

Both activations offered different menus that also changed during the day and throughout the event, keeping attendees coming back for more. With a target of 13,000 total samples per day, how did they pull that off?

“You need to hire an amazing culinary team that knows your product and has cooked it before,” says Gabby Witte, marketing manager for Impossible Foods. “They know how to keep the line moving and get the samples out quickly because it’s a hot product. And then planning ahead with our internal culinary team and being thoughtful about daily menu items to attract people to our booth. We cut it to the wire but if you can, start planning super early.”


Put Flavor on Tap

Expo West 2024 Sampling Chobani ColombeA frothy, creamy cold brew pour just for you? Yum! La Colombe coffee brand revamp under Chobani’s ownership translated into a win for attendees. The exhibit was anchored by a bar circled around an LED column featuring attention-grabbing messaging that invited attendees to sample canned cold brew from the coolers or order a coffee drink from the taps, each fitted with different creamers. The tap element offered a delicious interactive way to sample different flavors and provided the brand ambassadors with an opportunity to talk about the key product features and create a connection powered by the experience.


Add a Touch of Whimsy

Blooming walls and flower beds drew attendees like bees to the exhibit by Organic Valley, a dairy brand. “People say that it looks like a wildlife preserve but it’s what our farms look like,” says Niki Haugh, promotions marketing program manager. What made them stay, though, was the tasty treats with a sendoff to their favorite childhood memories. They could dig into the gooey grilled-cheese sandwiches or have a “milk for all ages” moment with milk in a super-cute miniature branded bottle-slash-glass topped with a chocolate chip cookie. If they didn’t want to take the glass home, the brand would recycle it.

Expo West 2024 Sampling Organic Valley Milk


Shake it Up

Lundberg Family Farms, an organic rice grower, offered an unexpected take on cocktails, invited attendees to its “Rice-ology Bar” where they could create their own rice blend or choose from the suggested flavors, including Richvole Red and Snow Goose. “We used to have people do it themselves, but it would become like a Whole Foods back there,” said Mario Paysee, channel leader for food service. Now the staff take orders, pour the rice varieties from the wall dispenser into mason jars, and shake it up, bartender-style. Attendees walk away with a cocktail-in-a-jar and a fun experience.

Expo West 2024 Sampling Lundberg Rice-ology bar


Finish with a Tasteful Giveaway 

expo west spoon giveaways 2024From full-size bottles to sample packages to branded totes, Expo West had no shortage of giveaways, but the one that stood out to us was a porcelain jar spoon by the fruit spread manufacturer St. Dalfour. A relatively small footprint styled as a Parisian café was cleverly divided into a storefront with samples available in jars and paired with yogurt and granola, and a cozy meeting space wrapped in grapevines. But what the brand couldn’t keep in stock was porcelain jam spoons, a classy and useful giveaway that would bring the brand to the breakfast table time and time again.

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