How Hormel Pivoted When COVID-19 Disrupted Trade Show Plans

COVID-19 changes everything, but also presents new opportunities. Typically Hormel Deli Solutions (HDS)’s appearance at the annual International Deli Dairy & Bakery trade show helps to ensure the company’s products remain top of mind for retailers and buyers through sampling and in-person meetings.

This year’s 3,500-square foot booth would have been particularly impactful for HDS as the company planned to showcase its full portfolio of deli innovations as well as hold tasting events. 

After COVID-19 forced organizers to cancel the June show, HDS realized that instead of bringing people to the trade show, it could bring its trade show to them — by means of an imaginative, one-of-a-kind direct-mail piece.

The 3D pop-up book, developed in partnership with food marketing agency JT Mega, essentially transferred the highlights and trade show booth experience into themes and visuals that were further “lifted” off every page thanks to its 3D format.



“The goal of the booth was to create an atmosphere of food fantasy, where attending retailers could discover and realize the potential HDS provides for both their store offerings, and ultimately their consumers’ fulfillment,” says Tess Pillay, account supervisor, JT Mega.

One key challenge was timing. With the event canceled, HDS needed a quick turnaround in order to have an alternative activation.  JT Mega went from original concept to shipping the mailers in 90 days. “We had to present the idea, concept approval, vendor/printer search, produce video, print, and ship to customers…all within the same month of the IDDBA show,” explains Pillay.

She adds it was also difficult to source a pop-up book vendor during the pandemic as well as work within a brand-new format in record speed. Further, the agency needed to secure home addresses for mailing during quarantine.

HDS distributed a total of 400 books to retailers and clients. “My customers were very excited to get the IDDBA book -- it made them feel like they were in our booth with us, because the pop-ups really brought the food to life and they can’t stop looking at it,” says Rachelle Banwart, business development manager, Deli-Prepared Foods at Hormel.

Many HDS sales reps reported getting immediate orders for items showcased throughout the pages along with tons of “thank yous” and other appreciative feedback from customers. Several even reported sharing and reading this interactive book with their children at home.

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