Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Perks of Being a Food Scientist

After taking home a nice bag of goodies from the SCIFTS Suppliers' Night Expo on Wednesday, I felt incredibly lucky to be involved in an industry with such great benefits. It's no secret that the best parts about going to the trade shows and conventions are the free samples and branded knick knacks that companies hand out, and everyone I know takes advantage of each opportunity to get their hands on the things most people have to buy. Some of my most prized samples from that night included a two pound bag of almonds, a bottle of buffalo sauce, dried blueberries and apples, a bag of pistachios, and packets of various nuts and seeds. Although I went away with less "swag" than last year, the experience was much more fulfilling since I devoted more of my time talking to the exhibitors and checking them in.

A few of the Chapman students who attended Suppliers' Night. Excuse my demonic eyes...
(Image: Angelica Heres)

The same weekend of College Bowl was the Natural Products Expo at the Anaheim Convention Center. Unlike Suppliers' Night, this event spanned three days and judging from what I saw, most of the attendees knew that in order to score the most product samples, they had to act strategically. That means finding parking close by for multiple unloading trips, carrying more than one bag (and bringing the kids to help you lug them around), and just plain old being sneaky. Of course, these companies are no strangers to this kind of behavior. Years of experience have taught them that they have to protect their goods, especially if they are of high value. Many companies taped down their products or displayed only empty wrappers but quite a few of them used man power to prevent their shelves from going empty. Employees would quickly run over to someone looking at their product to keep an eye on them or put their hand over the displays to prevent products from being taken. It happened to me many times at booths I was browsing even though I had no interest in the products. But I understand. Businesses are designed to create profit, which would be impossible if products are continually stolen. 

Despite these practices, I still managed to emerge with three bags stuffed with goodies. My roommates especially loved the vitamins, granola, and the gluten-free rosemary focaccia bread I brought home to share and I also got a few things I thought my friends would like. But as I looked proudly at my pile of products I really  began to appreciate the risk that these vendors take when handing out free samples. While well-known established companies can afford to give away large quantities of their goods, smaller companies, like those exhibiting on the Hot Products floor, have to take the risk of losing profit in order to gain customers. Business sure can be tricky...

My one-day haul

So thank you, Suppliers' Night and Natural Products Expo exhibitors, for allowing me to sample your products without charge. The gesture is sincerely appreciated and I will do my best to pay it forward.