Chocoholics to Converge on Chicago

TSE STAFF
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Miami, FL – Mario Pi hopes to create a buzz with the debut of the co-located National Chocolate Show and Fine Chocolate Show this November in Chicago. But he hopes that will come from more than just the candy. Pi, President of Miami-based Unlimited Sales Group, which owns the shows, sees the combination trade and consumer events as perfect fit with the growing foodie culture sweeping the nation.

Despite health concerns that created a bit of a meltdown for mainstream candies, Pi said the fine chocolate segment is booming. “To some degree, it’s growing as fine food shows grow,” he said. Pi noted that the healthier dark chocolate, organic and sugar-free sectors are growing, along with a variety of chocolate pairing events.

“The power of chocolate is beyond comprehension,” he said. In Pi’s case, he developed a taste for the sector as a consultant for Latin American companies seeking to import their products to the U.S., including an Ecuadorian cocoa bean farmer who wanted to reach producers of artisanal chocolate. Pi, who once staged home and import/export shows, figured trade shows were the logical place to start.

He saw possibilities in the format of a large co-located chocolate trade and consumer show in France and figured a chocolate pairing of trade and consumer shows might work in the U.S.  In November, he’ll see if he’s right.

Slated for the Navy Pier in Chicago, the trade-oriented National Chocolate Show is expected to draw about 100 exhibitors in 40,000  gross sf of exhibit space and bring in between 3,000 to 5,000 attendees.

The consumer-oriented Fine Chocolate Show will feature 125 exhibitors in 30,000 gross sf of exhibit space and draw between 17,000 to 20,000 people for a taste of products from a vat-full of local companies such as Fannie May Fine Chocolates, Blommer Chocolate Company and World’s Finest Chocolates. “Chicago is the chocolate capital … and a great convention city,” he said.

The chocolate show pairing offers perks like crossover privileges to every exhibitor and attendee except consumer attendees. “It’s a built-in audience (providing) more bang for the buck,” he said. Consumer attendees will get a limited number of coupons for chocolate sampling intended to generate sales, not just a buzz.

The dual show concept does create extra challenges, but Pi doesn’t expect any meltdown. Consumer show tickets will be sold on a separate floor from the trade show. Unlimited Sales will handle registration for the trade side; Navy Pier will handle the consumer side. Source One of Chicago is the service contractor for both shows.

Reach Mario Pi at (786) 558-5234 or mrp2001@bellsouth.net