Food & Drink International - Spring 2017 Volume 1 - 79

Vegas Food Expo

T

The larger the trade show, the more expensive it becomes to exhibit and more often than not turns into social event than one of
discovery. Brett Ottolenghi, proprietor of Artisanal Foods, created Vegas Food Expo to change all that by catering to small,
innovative companies.
"The dream has always been to create the Vegas Food Expo," Ottolenghi
says. "Las Vegas is the convention
town of the U.S. Forty-two million
people come here per year and a
large percentage are here for conventions. It seemed logical we should
have a food expo."

Following a Dream
Attending trade shows has been part
of Ottolenghi's life since he was eight
years old. His passion ran so deep
that he remembers dodging event officials at a young age to avoid being
escorted out until he could pass for
18 years old, which is the age requiement for admittance to most shows.
"For about 10 years, or until I was
15 or 16 and could pass for 18, I was
getting kicked out of New York's Fancy Food Show when people saw me,"
he remembers. "But I looked forward
to it - it was my favorite three days of
the year."
At 13 years old, Ottolenghi got into
the truffle business with his father
and more than a decade later still
operates Artisanal Foods out of Las
Vegas. Ottolenghi officially entered
the business during his teenage years
and because of that, trade shows
took on new relevance. "Attending
annual trade shows in different cities
becomes like visiting famiy," he explains. "It's a lot of fun and there are
always parties. If you have a show at
the Javits Center, a 10-by-10 booth
will cost an exhibitor $5,000. That's
prohibitively expensive to the vast
majority of small food companies."

Making it Happen
Vegas Food Expo will debut in March,
showcasing more than a hundred upand-coming brands. Ottolenghi began
looking for small, innovative companies in January 2015 to exhibit at the
show. "We started by finding companies we thought really had an original,
interesting product that was well executed and poised to be discovered,"
he explains. "These companies have
everything in line and just need to
reach the marketplace. It will be a
diverse group with about 10 companies in each of 10 categories."
The inaugural Vegas Food Expo
will offer a well-curated collection
of young food producers. To accommodate them, the shows exhibitor
packages are all-inclusive, costing
roughly one-quarter of the larger
mainstream shows.
The first day of Vegas Food Expo
is only open to buyers, chefs and the
media. More than half of the buyers
in attendance will include purchasing agents and chefs from the Vegas
strip. "It will be a great opportunity
for companies who want to enter the
Vegas market," Ottolenghi notes. "We
have individually contacted several
hundred food chains, small gourmet
shops and restaurant groups, as well
as promoted on social media and
email blasts."
The second day will be open to
everyone, including foodies. "That's
something unique because most
shows want to pretend to be industry
only, but it becomes that anyone can
get in," Ottolenghi notes. "I think it's an

interesting part of the food system that
food enthusiasts would be able to see."
A speaker's series will round out
the show. Topics on day one will
mostly appeal to buyers, exhibitors
and chefs while the second day's topics will be more broadly appealing to
food enthusiasts.

Space for a Cause
In addition to the exposure small producers will receive, Vegas Food Expo
opened its doors to a few nonprofits
that will share their mission at the
event. Three Square, southern Nevada's only food bank, will be present
to share their mission of providing
wholesome food to hungry people.
Lionfish University will have a
booth at the expo to educate attendees on the invasive species and the
popularization of consuming Lionfish.
Shark finning is another issue Ottolenghi has been passionate about
for years and continues to support a
federal ban. Shark Stewards will have
an information booth present during
the Vegas Food Expo. "Vegas is one
of the worst offenders of consuming shark fin," he says. "Every year,
90 million sharks are taken from the
oceans and primarily used for their
fins because the meat is no good and
filled with mercury."
"I've tried to push for a ban here in
Vegas, but it's off limits because it's
so important to the gamblers and they
are so important to our economy," Ottolenghi continues. "Even though we
all agree it should be banned, I can't
convince the commissioners to take
the leadership role and ban it."
Vegas Food Expo will be held
March 30-31 at the Gold Coast Casino & Hotel in Las Vegas. General admission is $50 and complimentary to
buyers. Tickets can be purchased at
www.vegasfoodexpo.com.

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