Southwest Traders 2017 Product Show Recap

Billed as “the largest frozen yogurt, ice cream and topping show in the nation,” Southwest Traders annual product show featured over 50 suppliers, industry experts, seminars, and networking opportunities. The show was held at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, CA on March 2-3, 2017.

Seminar Highlights

There were two owner roundtable sessions and one industry experts session. The recordings are available on the Southwest Traders Facebook page.

With the rise in the minimum wage rate in California and a softening of the frozen yogurt market, shop operators are feeling pressure to increase prices and diversify. However, it has been difficult for many to offer something other than frozen yogurt, successfully. Shop owners suggest renting machines (e.g., milkshake maker) and trying things on a small level before committing. This includes trying new toppings and flavors on a smaller level.

Shop owners recognize the need to continue to attract new customers (Yelp, social media are good for this) and retain existing ones. They’ve been successful partnering with schools and other local businesses to attract and retain customers. Fundraisers and sponsoring sports teams are a good way to support kids and drive families to shops.

Shop owners have had mixed but generally positive experiences with social media. Instagram reaches a younger audience than Facebook. Yelp ads have been a good way to drive customers to the shop and owners also suggest that people actively manage their Yelp business pages, including responding to reviews. Shop owners also like to use retention programs or reminder programs like FiveStars or SpotOn. Very few offer delivery; they had concerns about product quality and interest from customers.

One topic that came up over and over was the importance of cleanliness, not just of the dining area but of the bathroom. Cleanliness, good customer service, engaging with the local community, and offering options for everyone (including those with dietary restrictions) were the main themes.

Experts at the show believe that the trend towards all natural, no sugar added and healthier options should continue.

Product Show

Suppliers in attendance included frozen yogurt mix suppliers, frozen yogurt machine vendors, packaging companies, toppings suppliers, baked goods suppliers, ice cream/gelato/Italian ice suppliers, and fruit/produce distributors. Attendees included:

  • Ambrosia
  • Carpigiani
  • Cloud Top Organics: Delicious samples of Matcha green tea and Black sesame froyo made wth Cloud Top organic vanilla soft serve, recipes provided
  • Dannon YoCream: New Vanilla Bean gelato and new frozen dispensed smoothies
  • Dreyer’s
  • Electrofreeze
  • Frozen Bean
  • Frozen Solutions
  • Kent Precision Foods (Dole)
  • Miss Karen’s: Buy 5, get 1 free promotion in March for Southwest Trader customers
  • Rainbow’s End: New nonfat Strawberry Passion Fruit frozen yogurt (not tart), New German chocolate cake gelato
  • Serenata: Boosterz organic fruit and vegetable powders
  • Summit Premium: Lots of non-dairy alternatives including Almond milk soft serve, Cashew milk soft serve, Coconut milk soft serve, premium no sugar added plain yogurt base sweetened with Stevia, Superfruit soft serve acai, Strawberry hibiscus sorbet
  • Stoelting
  • Taylor Freezers
  • TR Toppers: New PB & Jelly cups were a hit at the show

Additional Thoughts/Future Directions

Shop owners would like to see major industry suppliers fund a national ad/public relations campaign to encourage consumers to eat more frozen yogurt. They’re also interested in knowing how well their shops are doing relative to others. For either to happen, the industry players will need to collaborate in new ways.