Product Guru, the Glasgow-based online platform that connects challenger brands with retail buyers, hosted a sold-out hybrid event dedicated to Gift Food and Drink on the 30th of March at Edgbaston Park Hotel, Birmingham, with 50 challenger brands and an impressive line-up of retailers, including John Lewis, Next, Abel & Cole, Booths, Miller & Co, Dobbies, Funky Pigeon and many more.
The inaugural event was a first-of-its-kind for the sector, introducing a pioneering format with targeted in-person meetings in speed-dating style, virtual pitching, product sampling, and integrated technology.
At Huddles, challenger brands can get involved through multiple options, with the flagship in-person package allowing emerging suppliers to interact face to face for 8 minutes with each buyer. The list of retailers and brands is carefully matched up by Product Guru prior to the event, to facilitate successful partnerships. This innovative event format was praised by both buyers and suppliers who attended the inaugural Gift Food and Drink Huddle. Attendees found the event to be different and effective for their business objectives.
Iris Padial, Buying Lead at Abel & Cole, said of the format of the event: “It is very different, because it’s a very curated type of experience. Because you only have 8 minutes of facetime with each brand, it goes very quickly – it’s very interesting, but it’s not too tiring or overwhelming.”
Huddles events also offer brands the options to get involved from a distance, reaching retailers through product sampling and combined video pitching. During the events, buyers can provide feedback through devices which integrate the experience with the company’s digital tools. All feedback provided to brands is channelled through Product Guru’s platform, to maximise engagement and follow-up interactions. Through the platform, buyers can also shortlist products, request samples, and carry out other next-step actions.
Reception following the sold-out event has been very successful, with both retailers and brands sharing their excitement for Huddles and its disruptive concept.
Simon Drury, Category Buying Manager at Booths, said of his experience: “I’ve seen lots of brands and suppliers very much aligned to the kinds of products we are looking for as a business. Some really great and exciting things to take back to my buying team to explore for discussion and progression.”
Suppliers also shared their positive feedback from the event. Sanjay Aggarwal from Spice Kitchen, said: “It’s been amazing, it’s been really good to work with Product Guru on the virtual side, but now to be at this first event is really great.” Another brand in attendance, Kocktail, shared on their social media channels: “As a challenger brand it's not always easy to get your brand in front of the right people, at the right time. Which is why we're excited to be attending the Product Guru Gift Food & Drink Huddle today.”
The concept of Huddles has been able to impact the industry not only by bringing together brands and retailers in a hybrid show, but re-thinking the traditional trade show model with something new and innovative.
Unlike other traditional events, Huddles gets brands guaranteed timeslots to engage with a multitude of decision-making buyers from retailers that are relevant to their business. Michael Louw from Dean’s said in this regard: “We get to see all the buyers, which in a lot of these kinds of events you don’t get to do.” Lex Thornely from Blue Goose Coffee agreed with the statement, expressing: “Meeting lots of buyers – all in one go – is great. It’s an intense day, but it’s well worth it. If you go to a typical trade show, there’s no guarantee of meeting anywhere near the buyers, so it [Huddles] is different, in a really good way.”
Melanie Auld from Spice Pots, who also attended, expressed about Huddles: “I just love it, and I hope to come to many, many more. The opportunity that I’ve had to see top-level buyers has been incredible – and so many, in one day.”
Product Guru has a schedule of upcoming Huddles events throughout the year for different food and drink categories – including chocolate and confectionery, hot beverages, spirits, beer, and snacking. Brands can apply now for the upcoming hybrid events via Product Guru’s website, for the unique chance to meet with top level buyers and retailers in their category.