Taste Trends: 4 Ways to Level Up Alcohol-Free Options at Events

September 27, 2023

The buzzing no-alcohol movement is as strong as ever, and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon.

Research from Nielsen IQ (NIQ) underscores the fact that consumers are either ditching booze altogether or enjoying alcohol in moderation as part of a “sober curious” or “mindful drinking” lifestyle. Non-alcoholic beer, wine and spirits sales have steadily grown over the past several years, while alcoholic beverage sales have dropped, according to a recent NIQ trends report.

As demand grows and new non-alcoholic brands continue to flood the market and rise in popularity, the events industry must take note and cater to consumer demand for alcohol-free options that go beyond the typical soda, lemonade, iced tea and energy drinks, according to Tracy Stuckrath, founder and president of thrive! meetings & events and host of the Eating at a Meeting podcast.  

“Thirty percent of people who are of legal drinking age choose not to drink alcohol or stop after a single drink,” Stuckrath said, paraphrasing a quote from Phillip J. Cook’s book Paying the Tab. “It’s a matter of creating an inclusive experience and a sense of belonging for attendees, but it’s also a huge opportunity [for venues] to boost revenue as the non-alcoholic beverage market grows.”

Stuckrath recently hosted a podcast with guests Jen Gilhoi and Cate Faulkner, co-founders of the Zero Proof Collective, which is aiming to ensure guests have plenty of elevated non-alcoholic options, as bars, restaurants, hotels, group venues and beverage companies realize the opportunity to increase revenue with the fast-growing market.

We checked in with Stuckrath to get her advice on how the events industry can take a new perspective on its non-alcoholic beverage programs. She offered four tips to create a game-changing experience for attendees who wish to abstain from alcohol.  

Upskill Catering Bartenders

Traditionally distilled in Kentucky, this non-alcoholic spirit has the familiar notes of full-proof bourbon.

Training catering bartenders to be mixologists rather than simply to pour wine and beer and make a few classic drinks is one of the most important ways to infuse events with impressive alcohol-free options, according to Stuckrath.

“Catering bartenders are typically not bartenders you would find at your local craft cocktail bar because they’re usually not learning how to mix drinks,” Stuckrath said. “They know how to make a gin and tonic or an Old Fashioned but don’t understand how to mix certain herbs and botanicals to create unique alcohol-free drinks.”  

She added, “Having someone who’s more of a mixologist really upgrades the experience for attendees who want non-alcoholic cocktails.” 

Partner With Local Small Businesses

Elevating the appearance and flavor profile of drinks with herbaceous, fruity and floral elements inspired by nature has long been a trend in the world of mixology — from rosemary, mint, basil and lavender to colorful berries and citrus fruit and edible flowers.

athletic brewing
Athletic Brewing Co. makes non-alcoholic craft beers.

Going local when possible is an ideal option for sourcing these ingredients, according to Stuckrath.

“Partnering with a local farmer to bring some of their herbs, spices, fruits and vegetables into the alcohol-free cocktail is a great way to support and showcase local businesses,” she said. 

She also recommends looking to local craft breweries that are producing non-alcoholic options.

“There are so many great alcohol-free craft beers now,” Stuckrath said. “It’s a matter of partnering with your local craft brewers that are producing them as another way to feature local small businesses and be more inclusive at the event.” 

Think Beyond Sugar

For decades, the staple for attendees who don’t want a drink with alcohol has been sugary options, which Stuckrath believes needs to change, especially considering the healthy beverage trend among consumers. While there is an ever-growing list of alternatives available nowadays, for the most part, hotels and convention centers are not offering them as part of their non-alcoholic drink list, according to Stuckrath. 

poppi is made with apple cider vinegar for its digestive health benefits.

“I just did an audit of a hotel, and their non-alcoholic menu at their catering bars is Coke, Pepsi, lemonade or sweet tea,” she said. “We have to create a more inclusive experience without all of the sugar.” 

Stuckrath said many times the issue of getting healthy alternatives on the beverage list is getting around the contracts hotels and convention centers have with soda companies such as Coke and Pepsi.

However, some healthy beverage alternatives are owned by the larger beverage companies, such as Bubly sparkling water, produced by PepsiCo, so these may be available as options. 

“It has zero sugar, it’s flavored and it’s carbonated, so adding that to your soda options is awesome,” Stuckrath said.

Meanwhile, at a recent event, she was introduced to poppi, a prebiotic soda in various flavors that is designed to have gut health and immunity benefits. The company is owned by a husband-and-wife team.  

“They are actually getting into many hotels and convention centers because it is a prebiotic soda, not a regular soda, so that’s another great option,” Stuckrath said.

Capitalize on the Growing Number of Non-Alcoholic Brands

Tennyson can be used to craft botanical spirits.

Due to rapidly rising demand in recent years, there has been a major influx of non-alcoholic beer, wine and spirits products, according to 2022 data from NIQ. The report states that between July 2021 and 2022, 72 non-alcoholic SKUs were introduced to the U.S. market alone, including 37 non-alcoholic beers, 17 non-alcoholic wines and 18 non-alcoholic spirits. 

With the continuous release of new options, the catering industry should follow the lead of bars and restaurants that are increasingly offering some of the latest and most popular non-alcoholic brands, Stuckrath said.

“It’s amazing what’s available out there these days, and it’s not just products like O’Douls [non-alcoholic beer],” she said, adding that the expanding list is making it even easier to create an enticing, well-rounded alcohol-free offering at events. 

Stuckrath pointed out notable brands such as Noughty, producing non-alcoholic wine and sparkling wine; Athletic Brewing, making non-alcoholic craft beer; Seedlip, billing itself as the first distilled non-alcoholic spirit; Ritual, specializing in non-alcoholic tequila, rum, whiskey and gin; Tennyson, crafting unique botanical spirits; and Spiritless, creating non-alcoholic whiskey, tequila and canned cocktails. 

“Spiritless is a women-owned company out of Louisville, Ky., which is making good products and making waves in a city known for its bourbon,” Stuckrath said. “If you are having an event in Louisville, this is a great option to offer attendees who want a non-alcoholic option in a city known for its drinking and a nice way to showcase a local small business.” 

Meanwhile, Stuckrath suggested looking for exclusively non-alcoholic beverage stores that have been popping up around the country as a way to research the various brands and possibly source them for events, citing one in Minneapolis that she was particularly impressed with: Marigold. 

Other non-alcoholic bottle shops stocking a plentiful selection of brands include Bendicion in Chicago; Boisson, with locations in Los Angeles, Miami, New York City and San Francisco; Hey Nolo in Asheville, N.C.; Minus Moonshine in New York City; Sechey in Charleston and New York City; Sipple in Houston; and Spirited Away in New York City.

Check out the other two articles in this three-part series: Taste Trends: 4 Ways to Elevate Events With a Plant-Forward Concept and Taste Trends: 3 Ways to Foster DEI Through F&B Experiences at Events 


Taste Trends: 4 Ways to Elevate Events With a Plant-Forward Concept

August 31, 2023
plant based

Choosing to eat a more plant-based diet has been one of the biggest trends among consumers in recent decades, as it’s been proven to have health benefits and be better for the planet, offsetting the carbon emissions generated by the meat and dairy industry. 

As event professionals grapple with catering to the various dietary needs and restrictions of attendees, one of the best perspectives to take is a plant-forward view that is nutritious and inclusive to all attendees while also being sustainable and leaving the planet in a healthier place, according to Tracy Stuckrath, founder and president of thrive! meetings & events and host of the Eating at a Meeting podcast.

“It’s not possible to be 100% plant based at events, but people are really looking to know what’s in their food and how healthy and purposeful it is going to be for them, the communities around them and the planet,” Stuckrath said, pointing to some of the many terms that now exist to define consumers’ dietary practices. 

Among those she uses in a slide deck during her presentations are climatarian, flexitarian, pescatarian, VB6 (vegan before 6 p.m.), vegan and vegetarian. 

No matter how people refer to their dietary principles, eating healthy is here to stay, and the events industry must continue embracing the plant-based trend to meet consumer demand and be more sustainable, according to Stuckrath. 

In the second of a three-part Taste Trends series spotlighting Stuckrath’s insights and tips on the latest F&B trends in events, she shared four tips on ways the industry can nourish attendees through a more plant-forward culinary concept. 

Tracy Stuckrath, founder and president of thrive! meetings & events and host of the Eating at a Meeting podcast

1. Incorporate Healthy Proteins Into Breakfast Offerings

While a fruit plate might be the first idea that comes to mind as a great vegetarian and vegan option, Stuckrath stresses the importance of being more creative and nutritionally minded when it comes to starting the day off on a healthy note. 

“Most people want protein with their breakfast, but don’t make it tofu,” she said. “Incorporate protein-rich grains such as a quinoa porridge, and overall, add something vegetarian but not just a fruit plate and skip the heavily processed vegan meat alternatives.”

Another healthy start to the day could be a vibrant smoothie bar with plenty of fruits, greens, protein powders and plant-based milk and a morning break station with fruit skewers, Stuckrath added. 

2. Lose the Dairy-Based Cheese and Focus on Plant-Based Appetizers

Dairy cheeses are one of the main ingredients for salads and many appetizers, according to Stuckrath, who believes the industry needs to zero in on having a healthier balance of strictly plant-based offerings. 

“The easiest way is to realize that not all of your salads need to have cheese on them,” she said. “I just did an audit of a catering menu and discovered that of the 300 items on the menu, only 20% were dairy-free, and out of 23 salads alone, only four were vegan because all of the others had cheese.” 

For appetizers, Stuckrath said it’s important to have options that don’t contain cheese, shrimp, beef or chicken. 

3. Go Heavy on Grains, Beans and Veggies for Main Dishes

While the trendy “cauliflower steak” can be good if it’s done right, the latest plant-based trends in main dishes for lunch and dinner call for healthy grains and beans, according to Stuckrath.

“Millet is big, and it’s becoming the new quinoa because you can do more with it, and there are bean-based options such as a pizza crust called Banza, which is made with chickpeas, so you could do a fun make-your-own pizza night using that and vegan cheeses,” she said. “The main idea is incorporating something like a grain or a bean into the dish to give it the heartiness and protein that it needs and then adding vegetables to that.”

Although veggie burgers and the Impossible meat alternative have been trending in recent years, Stuckrath doesn’t believe these are healthy plant-based options, as they are usually loaded with GMOs and many “lab-grown meat” alternatives have even been banned in other countries.

“I was at an event recently where they served pasta Bolognese using Impossible meat, and about 80% of the attendees wouldn’t eat it,” she said. 

Stuckrath added that if meat is going to be served, make it the accompaniment to everything else, which should mainly be plant-based.

“Make sure all of your sides are plant-based, and you’re not serving heavy, cream-laced sides that are not vegan,” she said. “There are so many ways to do sauces without beef or chicken broth or dairy, and chefs have the skillset to do that by using nut-based or oat-based milks if it needs to be a richer sauce.”

4. Think Vegan Decadence for Dessert

Delicious sweets to cap off a meal can also be plant-based, according to Stuckrath. 

“There are so many great ways to use plant-based milks in desserts,” she said. “Oatly has a fantastic, plant-based soft serve ice cream, for example, and anyone can tell it’s not made with dairy, but it’s still delicious.” 

Stuckrath also said creating tasty desserts utilizing plant-based ice cream or plant-based whipping cream, along with fresh fruits and herbs, is another way to elevate the plant-based offering for a meal’s finale.

“Also, you could even ask a chef to do something really innovative by taking aquafaba, the liquid from canned chickpeas, and whisking it into a wonderful merengue,” she said. 

Endless Possibilities

As the plant-based culinary movement continues to evolve, so do the options for delivering unique plant-based culinary programs for events, according to Stuckrath.

“You don’t need all of these heavy things to get the same great flavors,” she said. “And while one of the biggest challenges with catering chefs is lack of time, I think it’s important to start being more thoughtful and thinking, ‘How can I use my skillset to rethink how I would make this dish?’ ” 

Stay tuned for the third part of this Taste Trends piece, in which Stuckrath shares her thoughts on the movement toward alcoholic-free beverages and ways to incorporate more of them into events.


Free Tool Offers Best Practices For Decarbonization For Events

August 10, 2023
net zero

The Net Zero Carbon Events initiative has published "Best Practices for Decarbonization Pathways" to provide actionable insights and strategies that can be implemented immediately by event organizers, venues, exhibitors and suppliers. The document is available free to download here.

The interim document provides best practices for venue energy, smart production and waste management, food and food waste, logistics and travel and accommodation. The document highlights actions to help event organizations gain a head start on their decarbonization journey. Full guidance documents are set for release in December 2023. 

“Recognizing the urgency of addressing carbon emissions as we move along within our project, we have compiled this preliminary resource,” said James Rees, president of the Joint Meetings Industry Council, which is driving the initiative for the industry. “The path to achieving net zero carbon events is a collective endeavor, and we deeply appreciate everyone’s ongoing support and contributions to this crucial initiative.”

best practices
Net Zero Carbon Events has published this free tool for the events industry.

After the launch of the Net Zero Carbon Events Pledge at Cop26, the Net Zero Carbon Event Roadmap was published at Cop27 in November 2022. It’s available as a Full Report with comprehensive information on how to implement action to achieve Net Zero and as an Executive Summary.


More than 30 major meetings and events industry organizations from across the world are financial contributors to Net Zero Carbon Events, which is open to all organizations involved in events. Registration is free of charge.

Don’t miss any exhibitor-related news: Sign up for ENN’s weekly e-newsletter HERE, listen to our latest podcast HERE and engage with us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn!


Taste Trends: 3 Ways to Foster DEI Through F&B Experiences at Events

August 9, 2023
Japanese breakfast

What role does diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) play in designing F&B experiences in conjunction with an exhibit? 

We checked in with Tracy Stuckrath, founder and president of thrive! meetings & events and host of the Eating at a Meeting podcast, who offered some keen insights on the importance of DEI in event catering. 

Inclusivity is what inspired Stuckrath to start her business in 2010, when a personal health journey changed the course of her career. 

“I was an [event professional] with food allergies, and I lost my job and knew this was what I wanted to do — educate my industry on how to feed me and the 32 million Americans with food allergies,” she said. 

Stuckrath has grown her business over the years to work with organizations worldwide to reduce risk, improve the employee/guest experience, enhance company culture, strengthen DEI and boost the bottom line through safe and inclusive F&B experiences where everyone feels valued. 

In the first of a two-part article spotlighting Stuckrath's thoughts on the latest F&B trends in events, she shared the following three suggestions for event professionals who want to make DEI a more integral part of their culinary offerings.

  1. 1. Focus on Demographics and Dietary Restrictions

A crucial step in organizing food and beverage experiences is zeroing in on attendee demographics as well as what dietary restrictions they may have, such as an allergy or intolerance to gluten, dairy, nuts, shellfish and other foods, according to Stuckrath.

Tracy Stuckrath, host of Eating at a Meeting podcast

“For example, someone on Facebook recently posted that she had a large contingency coming from Japan and asked what to serve them for breakfast,” Stuckrath said. “It’s very important to think about the diversity of your attendee base and where they are coming from, so you can incorporate the culture of who is coming to the event and the culture of where it is being held.” 

Meanwhile, food allergies fall under the Americans With Disabilities Act, which includes eating, breathing and all bodily functions as major life activities, Stuckrath added.

“So we have to provide reasonable accommodation for attendees participating in our events,” she said, adding that it’s a matter of collecting all the data and creating an inclusive experience with the food and beverage offerings, while labeling food accordingly so attendees are aware of the ingredients.

2. Be Purposeful in Sourcing Food 

A big trend among consumers nowadays is being purposeful about what they eat and where it comes from, according to Stuckrath. 

“People are really looking to know what is in their food, how healthy it is and how it is going to be more purposeful for them and the community in which they are gathering,” she said. “So are you sourcing food locally and supporting the community — including from a diversity standpoint?”

To that end, Stuckrath emphasized the importance of sourcing from local vendors who are small businesses and racially diverse, such as BIPOC-owned entities, and promoting that whenever possible through menus and food labels.

“It’s not just looking at the diversity of your attendees,” she said. “It’s looking at the diversity of your vendors.” 

3. Accommodate People With Disabilities

One of the most important aspects of inclusivity when it comes to culinary experiences at events is accommodating people with disabilities or impairments, according to Stuckrath.

 “It's not just what's on the plate. It's how can we get them to the plate,” Stuckrath said. “When designing food and beverage functions, consider how a person utilizing a wheelchair, for example, will get to the space. Do they have to take a different route to get there, or do you provide early access for those individuals to easily find their seat?”

Another consideration is the height of buffets for people with disabilities.

“Do you need somebody to help serve one of those attendees who is visually impaired or who utilizes a wheelchair? Stuckrath said. “Do you have the staff to help support them when they're going through that buffet?”

She added, “That’s a whole other aspect of DEI and food and beverage that is important but often overlooked.” 

Stay tuned for the second part of this Taste Trends piece, in which Stuckrath shares her thoughts on wellness and sustainability in F&B experiences, including the movement toward plant-based food and non-alcoholic beverages.

Don’t miss any exhibitor-related news: Sign up for ENN’s weekly e-newsletter HERE, listen to our latest podcast HERE and engage with us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn!

Boost Your Trade Show Exposure and Reach on LinkedIn: Expert Tips for Maximizing Visibility and Engagement

June 19, 2023

At a recent industry event, ENN interviewed JD Gershbein, publisher of the LinkedIn Style Guide. We spoke with Gershbein on site at EXHIBITORLIVE 2023, where he was the speaker at a session titled LinkedIn: The Next Frontier. 

Here are a few takeaways he shared:

  • LinkedIn’s algorithm will currently give posts higher priority if they do not include links off the platform. 
  • Wait a minute and post the link in the comments. Or publish the article or newsletter on LinkedIn (not on your web site).
  • Include three to five hashtags in your post but no more than five.
  • If your post gets five likes within an hour, it will increase your visibility. Tip: Ask your co-workers or friends to like a post if it’s important to you. On the flip side, support your friends and co-workers by liking their posts — without an ask. Even if you don’t have time to formulate a proper comment, every “like” matters. 
  • And they will get more of your content.
  • Include @Mentions when relevant but don’t tag people or companies for no reason. Tip: Don’t tag people unless you expect them to comment. If they do comment, be sure to respond — in a timely manner, if at all possible. Be selective about tagging. It’s annoying to be tagged unless it’s relevant.

Is this gaming the system? Perhaps, but that’s a topic for another story.

Watch our full interview.


Exhibitor Tip: A Free and Simple Way to Get More Customers and Prospects to Your Booth

March 30, 2023

Here’s one simple way to maximize your trade show presence: include your upcoming trade show schedule in your email signature. That way, customers and prospects can be made aware of where they can see you in person in coming months. 

Make sure to include the show name, dates, location and booth number, and suggest to everyone at your organization and/or those who will be part of the show/booth team do the same.

“It’s a tip that doesn’t cost you anything but always keeps your whereabouts top-of-mind,” said Cheryl Soares, foodservice promotions and trade show manager for the California Milk Advisory Board.


Email signature for California Milk Advisory Board
A simple way to maximize your trade show presence: include your upcoming trade show schedule with the show name, dates, location and booth number in email signatures.


Also consider adding: 

  • Speaking engagements: “Join us at ABC session where we will share our thought leadership.” Bonus: Include time, date and location.
  • Sponsorships: “Proud to be a sponsor of the opening reception. Meet us there!”
  • Press conferences: “Join us for an exciting announcement at a press conference at time, date and location.”
  • New products: “Stop by to taste a sample of our new XYZ product.”
  • Private events: “Join us after-hours at a private reception on Day 2 of the show. Message me for an invitation with details to RSVP. Space is limited!” 

If it seems like too much information to add in a signature, include the next two to three upcoming trade shows instead of your full calendar for the year.


Email signature by mdg
The National Restaurant Association Show 2023 offers exhibitors custom graphics for their email signatures.


Additionally, some trade show organizers provide exhibitors with a graphic they can use in their signatures and social channels. Show organizers, like the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) and the National Restaurant Association, even offer exhibitors the option to easily add and customize the graphic with their booth numbers. 


Email signature graphic by mdg
CONEXPO-CON/AGG partnered with mdg to provide exhibitors with custom graphics for email signatures.


In 2023, CONEXPO-CON/AGG and the National Restaurant Association Show partnered with mdg, a Freeman company, to provide a variety of promotional tools, including customizable email signatures. See a sample of the digital tools offered by CONEXPO-CON/AGG here and the National Restaurant Association Show here

Be sure to ask your booth sales representative if they provide this service.

Photo: The California Milk Advisory Board exhibited at the 2023 International Pizza Expo and Conference, held March 28-30 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.


Don’t miss any exhibitor-related news: Sign up for ENN’s weekly e-newsletter HERE, listen to our latest podcast HERE and engage with us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn!


Las Vegas Market Works With USAID to Help Ukrainian Exhibitors Expand Their Business in the U.S.

March 15, 2023

Even in the midst of a war — perhaps all the more so — companies look to exhibitions to help grow their businesses. After domestic demand dropped sharply when Russia invaded Ukraine in Feb. 2022, Ukrainian furniture companies were forced to look beyond their borders for sales.


That was the case for eight Ukrainian companies that exhibited in a pavilion at the Las Vegas Market, which was held Jan. 29-Feb. 2 at The Expo at World Market Center. Ukrainian owners, operators and reps made the arduous journey to display their goods at the biannual market in the hopes of creating connections with more retailers and expanding their international sales.


At the Ukrainian Pavilion, companies were selected by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which supports development and disaster relief in countries across the world. USAID worked with the show organizer, International Market Centers (IMC), to help the companies exhibit at Las Vegas Market, covering exhibition space rental and the promotion of the Ukrainian Pavilion.

 To find out more about how the program worked and what the experience was like on-site, we interviewed a Ukrainian exhibitor, a USAID representative, a representative from the Ukrainian Export Office and IMC CEO Bob Maricich. Here’s what we learned.

Watch this video to see what the Ukrainian Pavilion at the Las Vegas Market looked like. 

 Q&A with Ukrainian exhibitors, export office and USAID


Why did you decide to exhibit the Las Vegas market?

Julia Lisovska, sales director, Tivoli, a Lviv, Ukraine-based manufacturer of chairs and tables: “Because it is one of the biggest shows.”


What's the goal of the Ukrainian pavilion?

Iryna Mykulych, international relations manager at Transparency International Ukraine, the entrepreneurship and export promotion office of Ukraine: “The major goal is to bring our producers to the international market, particularly to the U.S. market. Our role as a state institution is to help our small businesses bring their products to this market, which will boost our economy, as well.”


What's the experience been at this Las Vegas market?

Lisovska: “The first day was very busy. We received (our) first orders on Sunday.”


What is your biggest takeaway from market?

Jeff Michels, furniture and export expert, USAID Competitive Economic Program Ukraine: “What is really interesting is just to see the overall reactions from a lot of the potential customers. We have five or six companies physically present. We have 10 more who are in the catalog. It's interesting to see how people are reacting to each manufacturer — some better than others — and to hear their guidance on what could be possible adjustments for some of the product lines. That is a big takeaway. Even if you're not looking monetarily at the immediate term, getting that feedback is really valuable.”


Mykulych: “I've talked to people who mention that they visited us in the summer. So I think as long as you keep appearing here, every single exhibition, people will recognize you better. This is my takeaway. As many times we are here, it will just increase the deals, business and visibility.”


What was the process for you to travel and send your goods to market with your country being in the midst of a war?

Lisovska: “For the goods, it's not a problem at all. Goods could be loaded from Ukraine and delivered to one of the most popular port in Poland or in Germany. The delivery time is quicker because from Germany it could be like 12, 14 days only. For people, we just cross the border, and we can fly from the nearest airport as normal people.”


Mykulych: “If you ship goods, it's not a problem at all. But the road for people is actually not as easy as it sounds. For example, for me to travel from Ukraine, it took me four trains to get to Warsaw, and then I needed to switch two planes actually to get here. It's a bit more complicated than it was before the war. (Before) I just drove like 20 minutes to the airport, board a plane and switch the plane in Germany or somewhere else, and I'm done.”


Michels: “I really do believe that when you're looking at the fact that we have five, six companies physically present right here at the Las Vegas Market even during a war in Ukraine, it really speaks for me about the resiliency and the determination of the Ukrainian people. They're unstoppable.”


What advice do you have for other Ukrainian companies that would want to participate in a program like this?

Mykulych: “We are the ones who select the companies who are actually ready to exit the market. They need to have the website in English because many of our companies, they don't, unfortunately. They have really good staff, they have really good prices, but unfortunately they're not ready to enter to another market. But marketing, and making, for example, professional shooting of their products and making catalogs, this would be helpful for them.”


Michels: “Part of my role with USAID is to give direct feedback and recommendations to the manufacturers in terms of how they can adjust some of the current models of furniture and to be able to sell to the American market. Sometimes it's as simple as changing a pedestal leg on a piece of furniture or the fabric of upholstery. There are adaptations that need to take place, for any market, including the American market.”


Mykulych: “Participation in such an exhibition is vital. Even if the producer is not ready 100%, they can come here, they can talk with customers and then they will be able to adjust to the need of the customers in this particular market.”


Watch or listen to the full interview here.


Q&A IMC CEO Bob Maricich


How did this program come about with USAID and how does IMC work with the organization?

“The collaboration between IMC and USAID is the next chapter in a multi-year plan to bring Ukrainian furnishings to the U.S. through the Las Vegas Market. When longtime exhibitor, Tivoli, a Ukrainian furniture manufacturer, committed to the Summer 2020 Las Vegas Market, they expanded their space to create a Ukrainian Pavilion. After multiple successful showings at Las Vegas Market, they felt that Ukrainian furniture manufacturers would do well in the North American market. They were interested in not only their businesses success but also in the success of Ukrainian furniture manufacturing as a whole. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic caused disruption in the 2020 markets, and the Ukrainian Pavilion was not able to open




NAB Launches Sustainability Awards for Exhibitors to Be Presented at 2023 NAB Show

March 16, 2023

NAB has launched a new sustainability awards program at the NAB Show, which will be held April 15-19 in Las Vegas, to recognize individuals, companies and products for outstanding innovations in media technology that promote conservation and reusability of natural resources and foster economic and social development.

Back Story

“This is a topic that has been bubbling up in our industry and others for quite some time, and I think we have a responsibility as a show organizer because we have a tremendous platform at our disposal,” said NAB SVP Chief Customer Success Officer Eric Trabb, who is spearheading this new program and launched the NAB Product of the Year Awards in 2019. “What can we do as a show organizer to help elevate that conversation and to recognize what's going on in the marketplace?”



Trabb had a conversation with the team at Amazon Web Services (AWS), which is helping customers in the media and entertainment sectors implement sustainability measures in their operations and has significant sustainability goals for its own operations. For example, the company’s goal is to power its operations with 100% renewable energy by 2025 and to achieve Amazon's goal of net-zero carbon by 2040.

Together they created this recognition program.

“We started to collaborate right away, and before you knew it, we came to this concept to recognize the work that's happening in our space,” Trabb said. “What better way to do that than at the industry's largest and most influential event.”


Need to Know

Supported by AWS, the new awards program will include:

  • The Sustainability Champion Award, honoring individuals driving sustainability efforts and programs.
  • The Sustainability Leadership Award, honoring organizations that have launched or completed sustainability initiatives.
  • The Sustainability Product or Service Award, honoring products or services that significantly improve sustainability or provide sustainable market alternatives.

NAB Show will accept nominations from businesses of all sizes, locations and maturity, including non-profit organizations. Judged by an independent panel of sustainability experts, award winners will be chosen in each category, one each for small, medium, large and non-profit.


Nominations opened in January, and the submission deadline is April 3. The nomination fee is “just under $600,” Trabb said.


How It Works

To manage the program and judging process, NAB hired Barbara Lange, principal and CEO of Kibo121, a boutique consultancy firm focused on guiding media tech organizations on their path to sustainability.

“We relied on Barbara's insight to help us to develop the criteria and a credible panel of judges,” Trabb said.

How will entries be judged? The criteria depends on the category.

“For example, for the leadership award, we want to look at companies that are making transformation in alignment with the Paris agreement and the U.N. sustainability developmental goals,” Trabb said. “For products and services, it's more about addressing a critical environmental challenge and demonstrating real positive impact.”

A total of 16 awards will be presented during a special ceremony on the main stage at NAB Show on April 16 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. A panel on sustainability will precede the awards.


Giving Back

In collaboration with AWS, NAB researched and identified a charity, and the show will donate a percentage of the nomination fees to Creative Visions, a nonprofit that supports storytellers and empowers education and youth around human rights issues, according toTrabb.


Learn More

Details about the award rules and regulations for the awards program can be found here. Submit your entry here.


Watch or listen to TSNN’s full interview with Trabb about how the program came together, what the judging process will entail, how AWS is supporting it and what NAB has planned on-site.



Taste Trends: Phil Evans, Executive Chef, Raleigh Convention Center

February 28, 2023

Oftentimes, the careers we imagine for ourselves as children aren’t necessarily what we end up pursuing as adults. Ask Phil Evans about his path into the culinary arts, and he’ll tell you a similar story.

“My parents were the driving force for me to get into the culinary industry,” Evans explains. “I actually wanted to be a schoolteacher, but I grew up in the kitchen cooking with my grandmother and then my mother, so it came to me naturally. I inevitably fell in love with cooking.”

Now, as executive chef at Sodexo Live!, Evans boasts an extensive background in fine dining, catering and hospitality, a successful career that began in the kitchen of France’s three-Michelin-star Chef Marc Meneau. From there, he went on to serve as executive sous chef and executive chef at five-star and five-diamond resorts including The St. Regis resorts in Houston and Aspen, before landing in his current home of Raleigh, North Carolina, where he became known from his time as executive chef at the acclaimed Herons restaurant at The Umstead Hotel and Spa.

“Working in the hospitality industry has led me all over the U.S. and to parts of the world I would not have seen if not for this career,” Evans says. “Each day, working with food presents different experiences and opportunities to learn. No two days are alike.”

In 2016, Chef Evans joined the Raleigh Convention Center (RCC) as executive sous chef before stepping into the role of executive chef in 2020, right in the middle of a global pandemic that left many in the food service industry scrambling to survive. But instead of viewing the shutdown as a calamitous disaster, the down-to-earth, creative chef saw a unique opportunity to explore how Sodexo could better stand out as a steward of North Carolina foods, flavors and hospitality. The result was Evans’ latest award-winning menu, “A Seat At The Table: Southern Cuisine Featuring North Carolina’s Women and BIPOC Farmers and Food Producers.” 

Corporate Event News had the recent pleasure of speaking with Evans about this inclusive sustainability initiative, how his passion for supporting local, historically unrepresented farmers supports the RCC’s progressive environmental initiatives, what he sees as the convention industry’s biggest food and beverage trends, and how meeting and event planners can still provide delectable culinary experiences for their attendees without busting their F&B budgets.

What are the biggest and most exciting culinary trends you’re seeing and executing at meetings and events these days?

Local, local, local! There’s a big push to incorporate local into anything we can and the RCC is leading that charge. From Raleigh-made Bone Suckin’ BBQ sauce to locally-made jams, produce, sauces and even garnishes, we are doing it. Prior to the pandemic, we even had success with a small hydroponic garden right here in the kitchen. Doesn’t get much more local than that.

At the RCC, locally minded cuisine isn’t just limited to what’s served on plates. Thinking local also means diverting our food waste and turning it into compost through our ongoing compost program. Since 2018, we’ve saved almost 250,000 pounds from the landfill and, in the past five years, we’ve donated compost – about 25,000 pounds at this point – to a nearby learning garden that supports families experiencing food insecurity. We donate excess food as much as possible and offer the “Share a Meal” program, where clients can purchase additional meals that are then matched by the RCC and donated to shelters, food banks and other neighboring organizations in need.

We are also well-positioned to capitalize on the “glocal” trend, which sounds like a cutesy hashtag but actually produces amazing, crowd-pleasing dishes. “Glocal” means taking local products and recipes and putting a global spin on them – something the chefs and bartenders of our colorful Capitol City have been experimenting with for years. There’s a reason why Raleigh is regarded as an up-and-coming food destination, and we strive to reflect that excitement in the food we prepare for guests at the RCC as well. For example, North Carolina produces more sweet potatoes than any other state, so we give them an international flair in our Asian-inspired sweet potato salad with soy ginger vinaigrette.

In line with this, please tell us about your ‘A Seat at the Table’ program at the Raleigh Convention Center. When and why did you launch this program?

During COVID, as we were looking toward reopening, we wanted to visit and reconnect with our local farmers, especially those from historically underrepresented groups such as female and BIPOC farmers. Our produce supplier already featured local, minority-based businesses and farms, but we had not personally connected with that part of the supply chain. So, as soon as we safely could, we went to work visiting as many farms as possible, and the meaningful connections I made along the way inspired me to dedicate an entire menu to those farmers and their products. And now we’re revisiting the spirit of that menu and exploring how we can expand it to more of our offerings.

The ‘Seat at the Table’ menu represents a large variety of what makes North Carolina agriculture so special. It gives us a tremendous palette with which to work – whether it’s collards, sweet potatoes, peanuts or fantastic NC pork – all from smaller, family-owned locations where farming is a passion, not just a business.

Prior to COVID, dietary-conscious menus were a growing trend. Is this still true, and if so, do you foresee this accelerating in the future?

That trend is not going anywhere – in fact, it is getting bigger. We are also seeing a rise in requests for mocktails and low-ABV beverages, which means we must create delicious drinks that don’t “hide” behind alcohol and can appeal to discriminating tastes.

During the pandemic, we learned to listen to our bodies and to eat more nutritiously. I’ve noticed that now even those who don’t consider themselves to be particularly health-conscious are more mindful about what they’re consuming. We offer a wide selection of options that can suit any dietary preference, and if it’s not yet on the menu, we’re always eager to work with clients to craft the perfect bite. 

Many event planners are now working with tighter budgets due to higher food and beverage costs. What are your top tips for overcoming this obstacle while still providing delicious fare for attendees? 

Two words: comfort foods. Some of the most traditional and delicious comfort foods are also the most affordable, and they hit the right mark without requiring a lot of costly ingredients. For example, take mac and cheese. A perfectly made mac and cheese doesn’t need expensive cheeses or add-ins like lobster; a silky roux with sharp cheddar works just fine and you’ll have clean plates all around. The same goes for things like meat – we will steer our budget-conscious clients away from filet mignon and lead them instead to the perfectly braised beef short rib. 

Part of our job as the Raleigh Convention Center’s caterer is to work with clients to provide top-notch options. That often means elevating less expensive cuts of meat while maintaining the fantastic taste and luxurious entrée perception. This is the kind of work that challenges and rewards you as a chef.

What are some of your favorite restaurants that event groups should make sure not to miss in Raleigh and why?

It would have to be Poole’s Diner and their fabulous mac and cheese. Talk about comfort food! I have chefs visit me from all over the world and I tell them that they must go to Poole’s and get Chef Ashley Christensen’s Macaroni au Gratin before they leave town. You won’t regret it – and it’s just across the street from us, too!


The Art of a Brand Refresh With Wendy Gibson, Skyline Exhibits

February 28, 2023

It’s that time of year again when we in the business world focus on setting new goals and intentions to set ourselves up for a successful year ahead. The same goes for exhibiting companies, many of which may be seeking to kick off 2023 with a fresh brand identity to amplify their presence on the trade show floor. But what if you’re one of those companies that can’t afford a complete rebrand just yet?

Consider a brand refresh instead, suggests Wendy Gibson, chief marketing officer for Skyline Exhibits, a trade show exhibit builder known for creating award-winning trade show experiences through modular structures, high-impact graphics, custom fabrication and comprehensive services. In the course of her diversified career, this dynamic marketing leader has helped myriad clients elevate their brands on the show floor via impactful exhibits and brand messaging.

TSNN sat down with Gibson to get her suggestions for how exhibiting companies can refine their brand positioning to get noticed in today’s overcrowded marketplace—without breaking their marketing budget. 

What do you suggest for exhibiting companies that don’t have the budget for a complete rebrand and why? 

I would create a refreshed value proposition, which includes a positioning statement, elevator pitch, brand pillars, key benefits and supporting features. 

Once you have your value prop, stretch your budget to update some of your brand elements. A less expensive way is to start with your digital brand assets first. You want to signal both internally and externally there is a change to your brand. Key drivers to changing your brand are aligning it with where you are today, as it may need to catch up. Another key driver is to reposition your company to a market segment or new area you want to create awareness and drive desire. 

The bottom line with building a brand is consistency. Getting everyone on your team—sales, marketing, executives, front-line employees and partners—to speak the same language and reflect the same brand standards is critical. Getting everyone to speak with one voice goes beyond standard visual brand elements to deeper messaging and is critical to building a successful brand. Arm your team with messaging they can deploy consistently through prospect and client communications and touch points. 

What does a brand refresh involve, and what are the key components necessary for a successful one?  

I like to think of a brand refresh as remodeling a home, whereas a rebrand is tearing it down and rebuilding. A brand refresh gives your brand an updated look or feel without renaming or creating a new logo, whereas a rebrand is starting from scratch.  

It’s common for mature brands to evolve. In doing so, they hold on to some of their brand personality, attributes and heritage. Healthy brands leverage that and grow to maintain relevancy in the marketplace. Through a thoughtful brand refresh, marketing departments can demonstrate they are modern, relevant and connected to their clients.  

Brand refresh components typically include:  

  • Tweaking the logo, including following a trend of slimming down a logo to enhance legibility on small screens and tight digital spaces.
  • Refreshing color palettes and fonts to align with the brand’s personality. Remember to ensure colors and fonts are ADA-compliant. 
  • Updating messaging and value proposition, which is best accomplished by working with your sales channels and client services. Ensure you get feedback from those closest to your clients and the clients themselves, as nothing trumps the voice of the client. An updated pitch deck can help carry your message forward.
  • Introducing the brand refresh first through digital channels, such as an updated website, social media and digital marketing. Always tackle digital first. 
  • A brilliant branding campaign can tie it all together, and, of course, launching that campaign at a trade show or event does wonders to amplify your message. For example, “Check out our new website and new brand video to see a refresh in action. Let us know what you think!”

Which branding elements should take top priority on a company’s refresh wish list?

Listen to your key stakeholders and let client feedback drive your priority list. In the case of Skyline, we were delivering high-impact exhibits, however, when you visited our website and social channels, we needed more appeal for the modern marketer. Based on feedback from sales and clients, our top three priorities were messaging, brand elements and developing a new website. Each situation is different, but the voice of the client should influence your priorities. 

What are your suggestions for amplifying one’s brand on the trade show floor?

Brands want to stand out on the show floor to attract visitors to their exhibits. An exhibitor can stand out using high-impact graphics and creative booths and delivering an engaging attendee experience.    

We start a conversation on objectives during our first explorative meeting. That often includes the topic of the brand, whether it is a launch, refresh, campaign or amplification. By the end of the kick-off with our client, we understand their brand and goals, which provides the foundation for our recommendations and design.


Partner Voices
For the past 18 years, BlueHive Exhibits has been a steadfast partner for both national and international companies, catering to their trade show and event needs.