New Orleans is famous for its jazz, its cultural diversity, its unique status at the crossroads of colonial claims on the New World. 

But “The Big Easy” is famous for something else. It’s a survivor. Any city still standing after three centuries of war, weather and other mayhem has to be. New Orleans made it through Hurricane Katrina, the War of 1812 and the Civil War —just to name a few. 

And it’s not only surviving, it’s thriving. New Orleans’  Ernest N. Morial Convention Center is still pulling in business professionals from around the world, and on June 10-12, it will play host to the Madison, Wisconsin-based International Deli Dairy Bakery Association’s annual show. 

New Orleans’ status as a survivor hits home for Mike Eardley, president and CEO of IDDBA. And he thinks it will also resonate with the more than 10,000 industry professionals expected to attend IDDBA ’18.

“Just as New Orleans has faced challenges to its survival since its founding exactly 300 years ago, so too does the food industry in an ever-changing omnichannel world,” says Eardley.  “New Orleans has continued to thrive and succeed, and our fresh departments shall do the same. Our dairy, deli, bakery, cheese and prepared foods professionals have a lot of shared values.” 

Of course, New Orleans is as famous for its food as it is for jazz, Mardi Gras, the French Quarter and a host of other things. And what better metaphor than a throw-it-all-in-the-pot gumbo or jambalaya could you find for a combination of dairy, deli, bakery, cheese and prepared foods buyers, merchandisers and executives meeting together and sharing stories and swapping ideas for three days? 

“Where could that excitement be better celebrated than in a food and hospitality-centered city like New Orleans?” Eardley says. “The people, the place and the community all will help us learn and grow.”

Record-breaking numbers 

Based on the momentum heading into IDDBA ’18, it seems clear that attendees are just as excited about New Orleans as Eardley. “We’re confident that we’ll surpass 10,000 registrants, the number we recorded at last year’s show in Anaheim,” Eardley says. “That was an all-time record for us.”

It was also the highest number of attendees at IDDBA since 2004, when retail consolidation started to become more commonplace in the industry. Those 10,000-plus attendees (and a record 820 exhibitors already confirmed) will be a good match for the Morial Convention Center. “We’ll be situated in the largest exhibit hall ever for our show, so we certainly have the capacity to break our attendance numbers,” Eardley says. “We anticipate a sold-out trade show floor, which will enable exhibitors and attendees alike to experience an engaging and almost boundless marketplace of products and ideas.”

 The success of this year’s show, Eardley says, depends largely on how attendees and exhibitors engage with the association’s six ideals, also known as “Influencers”: People, Community, Consolidation, Food Safety, Competition and Technology.

“I truly believe that the success of our industry is dependent on these ideals, and it’s the goal of IDDBA’s Board of Directors, committee members, volunteers, and association staff to create an event that embraces and demonstrates these influencers,” Eardley says. “Whether it’s being energized by one of our dynamic mainstage speakers, learning about creating instore experiences at Show and Sell, or discovering the almost endless array of new products offered by our exhibitors, IDDBA ‘18 is the perfect venue to reflect on ways to continue to grow your stores, businesses, and the industry.”

For Eardley, the most exciting part of IDDBA is seeing the dairy, deli, and bakery communities come together for three days of learning, camaraderie and exploration.  “The networking and sharing of ideas that happens, along with the sheer excitement of all the synergistic energy created by the participants, keeps me pumped and energized all year long,” he says. “IDDBA has always strived to be more than a trade show, and our goal each year is to build upon past successes and offer an experience unlike any other within the retail food industry.

Return to the Neighborhood

IDDBA’s staff, volunteers, exhibitors, and presenters are all focused on challenging themselves to deliver what Eardley calls a “fantastic shared experience.” One highlight of this year’s show will be the follow-up performance of Expert Neighborhood, which debuted in 2017. The Neighborhood is a special section on the trade show floor where attendees get their business and management questions answered by recognized experts, both in and outside of our industry. 

“We were very pleased with the response, and we’re bringing it back this year with a lineup of dynamic individuals ready to share their insight on such topics as regulations, leadership, and disruptors,” Eardley says. “Also, we’ve made it easier for attendees to book their appointments through an online scheduling system.”

Show and Sell has been around for quite a bit longer than Expert Neighborhood —it debuted in 1989. But each new version of it is different from the last, and Eardley says 2018 should be no different. “Every year it brings a new and different feel to our event,” he says. “I’m excited that attendees will be able to experience the hard work and dedication of our Show and Sell volunteers and IDDBA staff.”

Inspired by new and future trends impacting instore departments, this year’s Show and Sell will empower attendees to energize their own stores with food and merchandising concepts for instore fresh departments and convenience stores, Eardley says. Complementing it will be the Show and Sell Workshop, which features a daily lineup of how-to and engaging sessions on a variety of topics. 

“Everyone is doing more with less, and we feel an accountability to help them be successful,” Eardley says. “It’s one of the major factors that drives the concepts and ingenuity of Show and Sell each year.”

Past attendees have told IDDBA that learning about new products is one of the primary reasons they attend the show. In addition to learning about these products from the exhibitors themselves, the association make it easy for attendees to find them through its New Product Showcase, which again will be prominently featured on the trade show floor. 

Heading into IDDBA ’18, Eardley, his staff and the IDDBA board are confident that now is a great time to be in the perimeter-store industries. “I’ve been in this business for a long time, and it has never been more exciting for all of our fresh departments that are represented at IDDBA,” Eardley says. “Our areas of the store are well-positioned to fill the evolving needs of our customers.”

As IDDBA’s “What’s in Store” research makes abundantly clear, sales and interest in instore delis and bakeries are growing. Today’s consumers, Eardley says, are seeking exactly what the store perimeter is providing: freshness, convenience, customization, transparency, and food that resonates with their lifestyles. Even in the Age of Amazon, the perimeter’s prospects look good. 

“As we continue to help make customers’ lives easier, we will grow even faster,” Eardley says. “Ultimately, it’s up to us to grow ourselves and our operations. IDDBA is a community more than an association, and we are committed to helping every member of this community grow and thrive.”