My day started at the Sweets & Snacks Expo in downtown Chicago. In fact, that’s why I was in Chicago on this particular date; I could’ve visited U.S. Cellular (or Wrigley) Field anytime, but the folks at BIGS Sunflower Seeds ...
My day started at the Sweets & Snacks Expo in downtown Chicago. In fact, that’s why I was in Chicago on this particular date; I could’ve visited U.S. Cellular (or Wrigley) Field anytime, but the folks at BIGS Sunflower Seeds had a booth at the expo and wanted me to be there.
Here’s a photo that I took as I approached the convention center:
Did you notice the two women carrying BIGS buckets? That’s Krista on the left and Jenny on the right. I’d just met them, and we headed inside together.
I was also there with Neal Stewart, the Director of Marketing for BIGS. Based on everything he’d learned about me during our travels (i.e. my sugar addiction), he knew that I was going to *love* this expo. While he went to the registration area to get my badge, I stood around and practically drooled at what I saw in the distance:
This expo was wasn’t just big . . . it was COLOSSAL. There were more than 2,000 candy/snack manufacturers in an area the size of four football fields, and according to Neal, most of them were gonna be giving out free samples! It was like Halloween for adults, or in other words, payback for all the Halloween candy that my health-conscious mother used to confiscate when I was little.
Here I am at the Jelly Belly booth:
“Booth” might not be the best word, but whatever, you get the idea.
As Neal lead me toward the BIGS booth, I stopped and took photos. I also took samples of every type of candy you can imagine. Some of it looked cheap and gimmicky . . .
. . . but there was plenty of good stuff to balance things out. Check out the Toblerone booth:
That guy was pouring melted chocolate onto strawberries. I ate two . . . along with several pieces of the chocolate that was sitting on those plates . . . and then I grabbed a few packaged chocolate bars from the bowl at the far end of the table.
Meanwhile, at a nearby booth, Lindt was doing a live show/demo:
Eventually, Neal and I reached the BIGS booth:
In the photo above, do you see the banners that say “Thanasi Foods”? Thanasi is the parent company that owns BIGS Sunflower Seeds. They also have a line of beef jerky (and other “small batch smoked meats”) called Duke’s:
I’m not really a jerky person, mainly because I avoid beef, but I tried a bunch of the different flavors, and it’s truly outstanding (and all natural). If you eat jerky, look for Duke’s and give it a shot. I’d actually be curious to hear what you think because, like I said, I’m not an expert on this stuff, and I wonder how it compares to other brands.
In the photo above, did you notice the guy’s face on the packaging? That’s Justin Havlick, the founder/CEO of Thanasi. Neal is the guy who came up with the idea of sponsoring me, but Justin is the man who approved it, and this was the first time I met him. Here’s a photo of him (sitting on a BIGS bucket) during a sales meeting:
In the photo above, the other guy sitting at the table is Justin’s brother, Erik. They are *great* guys. They thanked me for everything I’ve done for them, and they were extremely friendly and positive and encouraging.
I should mention that the Sweets & Snacks Expo isn’t open to the public. (I got to be there because of my connection to BIGS.) The purpose is for all these companies to connect with the sales people who chose the products that appear in stores. As a writer, I can relate to that challenge; you have no idea how frustrating it is to walk into a book store and look for my books and discover that they aren’t even sold there. The folks at BIGS obviously want consumers to purchase their seeds, but before that can even happen, they have to convince stores to carry the seeds in the first place. That’s why all these companies hand out free samples, but hey, I’m giving back to the NCA by blogging about it and spreading the love . . . right?