Industry Partners

Coronavirus Sparks a Spate of Grocery Trade Show Cancellations

As the outbreak intensifies, grocery industry’s key events and supply chain are taking major hits
Photograph: Shutterstock

As the number of coronavirus cases continues to grow, along with sharp increases in corporate travel restrictions and heightened concerns among citizens about air travel and crowded places, the grocery industry’s key events are taking a major hit. The majority of conferences, conventions and trade shows have been or are in the process of being canceled or postponed as attendees, exhibitors and organizers remain skittish about coronavirus, which has caused 11 deaths with nearly 200 confirmed cases of the illness across the country, with new cases being reported March 5 in New Jersey and Tennessee, bringing the total of affected states to 18. (All stats current as of the afternoon of March 5.)

IRI is the most recent organization to cancel its 2020 Growth Summit, originally scheduled for March 30-April 1 in Orlando, Fla. In a statement, IRI said it “considered many factors, but ultimately made this decision to ensure we are putting our clients’ and employees’ safety and well-being first.”

SNAC International also announced that it has cancelled SNAXPO, which was scheduled to take place in Charlotte, N.C., March 22-24. Elizabeth Avery, president and CEO of the organization noted that cancellation due to the impact of significantly reduced anticipated attendance related to recent corporate travel restrictions.

This follows news that Shoptalk has been postponed and will now take over Groceryshop’s slot in September in Las Vegas, with Groceryshop shifting to spring 2021. The IGA Global Rally also has been canceled, which already was going to be a reduced show because its Chinese contingent had already pulled out. Other grocery adjacent shows that have been canceled include the International Housewares Association’s Inspired Home Show 2020 and the Seafood Expo North America.

All of these cancellations come in the wake of the big one that set off the spate of cancellations earlier this week: Natural Products Expo West.

Other industry shows remain on the bubble. A decision about Western Michigan University’s Food Marketing Conference, set to take place March 31-April 1 in Grand Rapid, Mich., is expected to be announced March 6, according to university event organizers.

Supply Chain Affects

In light of the effect coronavirus is having on the industry as a whole, the Consumer Brands Association (CBA) is lending its support to the newly created, bipartisan Congressional Supply Chain Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives. The launch of the caucus coincides with the coronavirus outbreak, which is disrupting global supply chains and threatening access to the products upon which consumers depend. The CPG industry supports 1.2 million infrastructure jobs and accounts for one-fifth of total freight in the United States. 

“American consumers have billions of interactions with consumer packaged goods each day. Ensuring access and affordability of these products is a complex task, made more challenging by the emergence of coronavirus,” said Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of CBA. “Our industry is grateful for the bipartisan leadership of the co-chairs in recognizing the critical role supply chains play and the importance of streamlining them for the benefit of consumers.”

Acosta also is stepping up to help its brand partners weather this international crisis to ensure minimal disruption to business by offering additional services to their brand partners at no charge for as long as the coronavirus continues to be a widespread threat.

In light of many CPG manufacturers halting business travel and canceling large gatherings and meetings out of concern for their employees’ safety, which has resulted in costly business disruptions because they can’t travel to perform essential headquarter and selling services, such as selling new products, negotiating promotional programs and conducting category reviews. Acosta’s associates aligned to retailer headquarters and stores in all markets across North America are prepared to conduct these important services at no cost on their behalf without traveling—even if the services are not part of Acosta’s existing work with the brand.

In addition to the no-cost offerings above, Acosta is reaching out to its retail partners to offer supplementary incremental support in an effort to contain further outbreaks, such as cleaning and sanitizing hard surfaces, to ensure the health and safety of their employees and shoppers.

Consumer Response

Consumers as well have been in panic mode and cleared many store shelves of any type of disinfectant product. This panic also may help boost grocery retailers as consumers begin to eschew restaurants in order to eat in the safety of their own homes. However, while consumers may be turning to grocery stores for more meal occasions, retailers need to be ready.

“For retailers, this means answering consumers' call for multiple fulfillment options, including home delivery, BOPIS (buy online, pickup in-store), curbside pickup and more, as well as solving for supply shortages due to consumer demand,” said Meyar Sheik, chief commerce officer of Kibo. “As consumers take precautions in light of the virus, they will be looking for increased fulfillment options on everything from having groceries delivered to their home to quick drive-up options at a store location.”


More from our partners