The Lowdown on Pizza Expo 2018

Pizza Expo 2018 in Las Vegas was one for the books – walking between booths with increasingly full bellies and slightly less-full wallets (what’s a trip to Vegas without a round of video poker?) we kept our eyes peeled for the very latest trends in pizza. Here’s what we saw…er, tasted:

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Emily and Anita meet with General Mills’ Pillsbury Doughboy

  1. Get on board with charcuterie. Booths everywhere displayed boards of artfully arranged cured meats, both alone and with honeys, nuts and cheeses. The message was clear: simple, elevated appetizers are in. Many pizzerias are choosing to create signature charcuterie boards with flavors that represent their operation, while others switch it up weekly in order to drive diner interest and use up extra ingredients they have on hand.
  2. Health-forward options are turning the tables on tradition. Besides “Non-GMO,” “Made with real ingredients,” and “Organic” signs everywhere, new companies are popularizing innovative ways to freshen up pizza. Cauliflower pizza crust, made with cauliflower as the first ingredient and thickened with almond flour, appeared at several different booths. We were pleasantly surprised by the taste of this unconventional crust, but the familiar texture is what really won our hearts. Who knew cauliflower could be such a satisfying alternative to traditional crust?
    • Another plant-based variation on the classic ‘za appeared at Pizza Expo in the form of vegan cheese. This trend isn’t entirely new to us since it’s already begun making its way around the Twin Cities (check out Parkway Pizza’s partnership with the Herbivorous Butcher!) but our hunch is that pizza lovers everywhere will be offered an increasing number of vegan cheese options in the future.
  1. Your booth makes a difference. Well-designed, well-staffed booths attracted more visitors, especially if samples or demos are involved. From one food industry expert (and bona-fide pizza fanatic) to another (you wouldn’t have read this far if you weren’t also obsessed with pizza, right?) here are some quick do’s and don’ts:
    • DO create a welcoming atmosphere. Try making a small café- or diner-like space in your booth. Not only does it give people a place to rest, it’s a great conversation starter.
    • DON’T overstaff sales reps. Balance the space you have with a non-intimidating number of personnel—no one wants to feel ganged-up on, even if that’s not your intention! If you have several team members at an event, take shifts. While some reps handle the booth, others can scout for new trends or competitive insights around the expo.
    • DO get interactive. Show what you know! Experiment with hosting a live demo or get conference attendees up close and personal to interact with your product. People need an enticing reason to stop by your booth.
    • DON’T forget water or beverages. Pay attention because this is important. There’s no way that we were the only Pizza Expo attendees searching for a water fountain between bites of pizza. While EVERYONE had mouthwatering food samples, there were no liquids anywhere! Try branded water bottles and cups to serve refreshments with your savory treats – trust us, attendees WILL find you.

Here’s to next year! (And no, we’re not sick of pizza).

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