It’s ‘always a great day’ at the Kohl food show

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Vendors offered up thousands of samples Thursday at the Kohl Food Show. — Photo by Steve Eighinger

QUINCY — Lisa Connell looked around the room, and took a deep breath.

“We’re always busy at this show,” she said. “It’s always just a great show.”

Connell was in Quincy on Thursday representing Shullsburg (Wis.) Creamery — where curd is the word — and was one of the busy vendors at the annual spring food show presented by Kohl Wholesale.

Each spring and fall, Kohl showcases what it calls “a sensory experience featuring new menu ideas and new products” from more than 150 suppliers. The Oakley-Lindsay Center provided a wall-to-wall display touching all aspects of food offerings, ranging from items as simple as sassy sauces to upscale gourmet specialties and cutting-edge culinary technologies.

About 2,500 attended the six-hour event that ran from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The food service exhibition was held primarily for Kohl’s current and potential new customers. Representatives were on hand from hotels, restaurants, schools and other businesses, sampling the offerings during the private show that was by invitation only. Most of the attendees were from Illinois, Missouri and Iowa, but Kohl officials said at least six states were represented in some fashion.

Connell, like fellow vendors, said she was in town to build recognition and attract sales for her company’s products. This was her fifth trip to Quincy for a show she said is “the finest and largest” she will attend all year. That same thought was echoed by numerous other representatives.

“This is always a great day,” said Rick Budde, director of sales for Kohl. “And the turnout was awesome.”

The event also provided the usual amount of seminars on the latest industry trends and similar topics, all designed to serve a wide variety of attendees, who ranged from chefs seeking inspiration to restaurateurs exploring new menu concepts. Others who were attending were simply after general food industry information.

The Kohl shows always have a theme, too. This one was “Nauti-Kohl”. Yep, a seaward thing, which was entertaining as usual, but the bottom line was — as it always is — the food. 

Kohl Wholesale, the local business that dates to 1873, is a distributor of numerous national brands in its inventory of more than 14,000 products. Kohl’s describes its company as one of the nation’s premier “customer-driven broadline foodservice distributors” — and each one of these food shows always provides an exclamation point for that claim.

“We’ve been at this (business) for 151 years and an event like this is a win-win,” Budde said. “Our relationship with clients has always been important. We’ll start working on the next show on Friday. A lot of man hours are involved in something like this.”

Dave Simon of St. Louis, a representative for Kellanova, a global leader in snack offerings like Cheeze-Its, Pringles and Pop-Tarts, says the Kohl’s show is always one of the main events of the year.

“We come full force for this show,” Simon said.

Simon said the most popular item for him this year has been the new Apple Jack Pop-Tarts.

Gary Ortmann of Festus, Mo., said making contacts at an event of this nature is of the utmost importance.

“You get to meet a lot of customers, and it’s always a good opportunity to sell a lot of products directly to those customers,” said Ortmann, who works for Lakeland Marketing in Green Park, Mo., and was involved with 27 different vendors at the show. Ortmann, like others, feels the annual Kohl’s shows are must-attend opportunities.

“Kohl’s has such a good customer base and reputation,” Ortmann said.

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