SOHO Expo 2020 Takes Place In-Person; Attendee Response “Overwhelmingly Positive”

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Ribbon cutting by Renee Southard, President of SENPA, with the Board of Directors supporting her. Courtesy of SENPA.

Orlando, FL—More than 550 industry members, including retailers and exhibitors, gathered in person at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Orlando for SOHO Expo 2020, which took place December 10-13. The “show with a Big and Natural Heart” has been produced since 1971 by SENPA, a non-profit trade association with proceeds from the show staying within the industry.​​​

The majority of industry trade shows were either canceled or produced virtually in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but SENPA set out to end 2020 on a high note by meeting in person with a commitment to put on the safest show possible.

Attendees wore masks throughout the hotel and show floor. Courtesy of SENPA.

“The SENPA Board of Directors and Staff were tasked with cancelling SOHO Road Shows and rescheduling SOHO Healthfest in Dallas, TX, this year,” Renee Southard, President of SENPA, said in a press release. “All were challenging decisions, but as a team we envisioned the journey to SOHO Expo celebrating 50 years and the only in-person event held in 2020. The board and staff went to work ensuring the safety for all attendees as the top priority for SENPA, Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center, and The Expo Group. We had all the measures in place to put on a safe show and allow for networking to take place again.”

Social distancing pins helped attendees indicate their comfort level around others. Courtesy of SENPA.

The response from attendees at SOHO Expo 202 was “overwhelmingly positive,” according to a survey by SENPA.  “We are very pleased with the responses we received,” said Debra Short, Executive Director of SENPA, in the release. “Over 85% of our attendees gave us the highest safety scores possible. In addition, over 60% of attendees rated their overall experience as outstanding.”

Praise for the event was shared on SENPA’s social media feed. Lester Burks of Buried Treasure / Life Line Foods and past President of SENPA, said, “I’ve always looked at SOHO as the first show of the year not the last, so it’s the best way to kick off 2021. What retailers buy at this show is for next year’s inventory. We’ve spent more time with people and no one has been hurried. People that are here are serious. We even saw people from the west coast here!”

Exhibitor GoodMoodHealth shared, “This is our first ever trade show and we have loved every minute. The response we’ve had has been great and it has been such an amazing experience. We will definitely be back next year!”

Annual SENPA President’s Award

Frances Drennen, winner of the President’s Award. Courtesy of SENPA.

Each year SENPA honors a special individual or company from within the natural foods community with the President’s Award. This individual or company is honored for making a long-time contribution to the Natural Products Industry above and beyond commercial success. In 2019, the President’s Award Recipient was WholeFoods Magazine’s own Howard Wainer. And in 2020, the award went to Frances Drennen, Partner/Owner at Manna Grocery & Deli.

“Frances Drennen’s Manna Grocery celebrated 40 years in business in Tuscaloosa, AL, providing superior customer service to a her community,” Burks told WholeFoods. “As a SENPA Past President, her vision was to continue educating the independent retailer. This speaks to the impact she has in the natural products industry, and her leadership is why she was chosen our 2020 President’s Award recipient.”

And while WholeFoods Magazine had hoped to present the WholeFoods Magazine’s 2020 Retailer of the Year award in person at the SOHO event as has been done in year’s past, this year SOHO Expo attendees were able to review a recording of the presentation. Earlier in December, WholeFoods Publisher Heather Wainer made the trip to Weavers Way in Philadelphia to present the Retailer of the Year award to GM Jon Roesser. View the presentation here, and read the feature coverage to learn more the 2020 ROTY here.

SENPA announced that it will follow the same safety protocols at its next show, SOHO Healthfest in Dallas, TX, on April 23-25, 2021. Registration for both exhibitors and retailers is open at senpa.org.

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