How the International Baking Industry Exposition’s Marketing Strategy Keeps the Event Fresh

Authors: Kate Ammerman       
Jacquelyn Wells       

IBIE, held every three years at the Las Vegas Convention Center, is billed as the global grain-based food industry’s largest trade event in the Western Hemisphere.

In an era of carb-less and gluten-free diets — not to mention constant consolidation across all business sectors — you might wonder how events that serve the grain-based food industry are doing. The International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE), held every three years, is one industry event that’s on a roll. With a strategic, aggressive multichannel campaign, IBIE went from a show in decline to one that has been breaking records — nearly doubling attendance in the last decade. More than 20,000 bakers attended IBIE 2019, held Sept. 7–11 in Las Vegas.

How does IBIE keep from getting stale? With these (not so) secret ingredients.

Breaking Bread Internationally

While international acquisition has been an integral part of the growth strategy for the past decade, uncertainty around the Department of Commerce’s International Buyer Program forced the development of a contingency plan — dubbed the International Delegation Program (IDP). Developed and led by mdg’s international specialist, Anjia Nicolaidis, and supported by a committee of volunteers who do business internationally, the plan packaged benefits and incentives for large buying groups.

Nicolaidis reached out to international associations, events, and publications to develop partnerships and promote the IDP among key influencers in top markets. IBIE’s strategy also included exhibiting at five international baking industry trade events in Germany, Japan, Mexico, Brazil, and Singapore. As a result of the program, IBIE 2019 attracted 23 delegations compared to 13 at its last event in 2016. There was a 62-percent increase in delegation registrations and a 5-percent increase in international participation overall.

A strategic partnership with iba, the largest baking industry event in the world, was announced at the IBIE opening ceremony.

And the cherry on top? A strategic partnership with iba, the largest baking industry event in the world, developed through these deeper conversations. This new partnership was announced at the IBIE opening ceremony with the aim to share resources to increase brand awareness and enhance market penetration across emerging markets and educational experiences at both events.

Sweetened Experience

IBIE expanded its show-floor activations and 2019 was arguably the most impressive experience to-date. Working closely with Freeman, IBIE ensured that the brand was baked into the convention center — from the multimedia arch above the entrance halls to the signage and social-media activation points to the education area and show features. The result was a brand-forward, consistent experience.

One of IBIE’s goals was to add multiple activations on the show floor to add value to the attendee experience. The education program included more than 100 sessions which attendees paid for, exceeding revenue goals by more than 221 percent. IBIE also revamped its demonstration pavilion, where it hosted a cake-decorating competition and demos from celebrity bakers like Buddy Valastro.

Also new this year: Virtual Bakery Tours, a VR experience using 360-degree videos and VR glasses. IBIE fields numerous requests for bakery tours around Las Vegas at its event, a nearly impossible feat with an audience of this size. The Virtual Bakery Tours provided attendees with a behind-the-scenes experience at retail and wholesale bakeries from around the globe.

First-Mover Advantage

One of IBIE’s growth strategies has been to co-locate or partner with events attracting ancillary markets, and as a result, IBIE has greatly reduced its domestic competition. So, when news emerged of a new event geared toward one of its growing audience segments, the artisan and retail baking market, IBIE knew it had to act quickly.

IBIE immediately developed a strategy to mitigate the competitive threat, developing a highly targeted omni-channel campaign and working with a planning committee to add more content and a targeted campaign to appeal to the “at-risk” audience.

The campaign launched ahead of the typical campaign cycle, capturing the first-mover advantage and ran during the competitor’s key promotional period to ensure IBIE was the first choice for prospects. Despite the increased competition, this approach was able to grow baker attendance by nearly 10 percent at IBIE 2019.

Learn more about IBIE 2019 at

Jacquelyn Wells, the marketing lead for IBIE since 2007, is a vice president and Kate Ammerman is an account manager at mdg, a full-service marketing and public relations firm specializing in B2B events.

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