Our next to last day at the Food & Hotel Asia (FHA) 2018 Trade Conference and Exhibition, was most extraordinary. Although it started out as just another day of exploration of the venue halls and short conversations with delegates across many different geographies, this changed rather completely early in the afternoon.
One of the first tasks of the day was to discuss our booth and our potential participation at the 2020 iteration of the FHA show (to be held in Singapore) with the management team at the US Dairy Export Council (USDEC). At this year’s FHA, we had a double booth, the result of a last minute cancelation by another producer company or organization. We were lucky to snag the extra space as we were joined this year by Tillamook Dairies, of Tillamook, Oregon as well as the return to FHA Singapore of Beehive Cheese from Utah. Thus we had one large commercial dairy and a smaller artisanal producer. In addition to Beehive’s sample cheeses, Tillamook brought both various different cheeses and eight varieties of ice cream.
At Trade Shows like FHA, it is impossible to predict attendance: how many visitors, either potential commercial buyers, or private citizens, will attend the exhibition and how many of those will come by your booth for a conversation or to try a sample of your product. Fortunately for us in 2018, attendance at the show has been quite strong and the number of people coming by our booth, both for conversation and sampling has been excellent. Both Beehive and Tillamook have had numerous conversations with potential buyers and many, many people have sampled both the various sample cheeses and the ice cream.
Thus it was not much of a surprise when a woman came by the booth on Thursday and asked me if I was working for Tillamook. I briefly explained my role and asked if she would like to speak to one of the Tillamook representatives at the booth. She asked if Tillamook was selling ice cream to a particular retail store company in Singapore and I referred her to one of the Tillamook team. It seems that Mrs. Lee (her real name) had been purchasing Tillamook ice cream at this store, but that the availability was inconsistent: sometimes they had it, sometimes not. When it was available, it always sold out quickly. She had tried other locations of the same store, with similar results. Mrs. Lee was very frustrated with this situation and she and her family really loved the ice cream, especially her son and his friends and the inconsistent availability was a big problem. She told that she had even spoken many times with the store manager, but without much success. She appealed to the Tillamook team to fix this appalling situation by making sure there was always enough of the ice cream available. We were all amazed by this totally random and impassioned testimonial about the quality and deliciousness of the product. To end the conversation, Mrs. Lee called the store and got the manager on the phone to advise that she was talking with the Tillamook people at the trade show and that they would be following up with the company – which they will certainly be doing!
My colleagues and I have been to many shows like the 2018 FHA, but none of us have ever before had a “Mrs. Lee moment”. It really made the day.
Once again tired and foot weary, we made our way back to the hotel to prepare for dinner and for our final day at FHA 2018 on Friday.
Barry Horowitz, former-Chair of the Export Council of Oregon, has taught and written on International Supply Chain Management, Logistics, Transportation and Trade topics for more than 30 years. He is currently working with the Port of Portland and other Oregon traded sector agencies to develop international trade strategies and programs.
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