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case Study
Aryzta's Unusual Taste Test
A rotating docket of games and inventive food-sampling experiences elicit multiple booth visits from attendees and help Aryzta AG exceed its charitable fundraising goal by more than 66 percent. By Ben Barclay
Exhibitor: Aryzta AG
Creative/Production: Nimlok Chicago, 847-380-8107, www.nimlok-chicago.com
Show: Tim Hortons Owners Convention, 2017
Promotional Budget: Less than $49,000
• Increase brand recognition and positioning among Tim Hortons franchisees.
• Promote the supplier's bite-size, on-the-go offerings.
• Raise $6,000 for the Tim Horton Children's Foundation.
• Achieved a roughly 35-point increase in brand-name recognition compared to the 2016 convention.
• Delivered thousands of samples via game activations and creative promotions.
• Generated more than $10,000 for the foundation.
Reports of patrons finding ants, crickets, and worms baked into their pastries would put most food businesses on thin icing. However, Aryzta AG, a Swiss food company that provides bakery items for Tim Hortons Inc., the iconic Canadianbased chain of quick-service eateries specializing in coffee and doughnuts, was willing to gamble that visitors would not only eat the unexpected edibles but also come back for more – and drag their friends along with them. But insect-ridden food was just one antic that turned Aryzta's booth into a revolving door of returning attendees at the 2017 Tim Hortons Owners Convention in Las Vegas.

The annual private event gives the 2,000 showgoers, who operate Tim Hortons franchises, the opportunity to meet with vendors, learn about new products, and offer suggestions for improving the brand. The show also provides an important touchpoint for suppliers, as each year Tim Hortons solicits new requests for proposal from its vendors that result in shifting shares of the supply-chain pie. In other words, the convention gives Aryzta a chance to secure its slice of that pie and nibble on its competitors' as well.

For the past five years, Aryzta has partnered with Nimlok Chicago to develop progressively more memorable experiences for attendees. "It's our mission to have the most engaging, exciting supplier booth," says Stacey Andrade, senior manager of customer development at Aryzta Canada. "The design and activities that entice guest interaction are a large part of why we are successful at this event."

"One of the big pushes every single year, this year included, is to outperform the year before," says Miranda Wulfing, Nimlok Chicago's trade show and event marketing strategist. "Aryzta wants to be the showstopper and create memorable attendee experiences." Over the years, the company's exhibit has developed into one of the event's biggest highlights, according to Andrade and Wulfing, which can be a double-edged sword. Since Tim Hortons knows that Aryzta reliably draws a crowd, it located the company's 2017 booth near the back of the show floor to incentivize attendees to venture further into the exhibit hall. While a strategic move for show management, the placement put added pressure on Aryzta to develop an experience that overcame the less than desirable locale.

In addition to the location-related challenge, Aryzta provided Nimlok Chicago with three clear goals. First, the company wanted to raise brand awareness among franchise owners, as attendee feedback at the 2016 convention revealed that only about 50 percent of survey respondents knew of Aryzta and the role it plays in providing Tim Hortons' bakery items. Second, Aryzta wanted to maintain its position as a company that shares Tim Hortons' corporate values, so it set a goal of raising at least $6,000 for the Tim Horton Children's Foundation through some form of cause marketing. Third, the pastry supplier wanted to promote its smaller, on-the-go offerings while continuing to highlight its core categories, e.g., doughnuts and Timbits, the franchise's branded version of doughnut holes.

To achieve these goals, Aryzta and Nimlok Chicago hit on a strategy that would entice attendees to stop by the booth not once, but several times. "We want our customers to come back to our booth again and again to learn more about us, see what we're doing, and spend more face time with our team," Andrade says. "But the hardest thing is to keep it interesting and engaging throughout the multiple days of the event." To do just that, the exhibitor decided to take full advantage of the convention's unique schedule.

The two-day convention's exhibit hall was open for a couple hours in the morning during breakfast, in the afternoon during lunch, and again during the evening of the first day, meaning that Aryzta essentially had five short windows of opportunity to lure attendees to its booth. So to maximize those opportunities – and encourage repeat visits – Aryzta planned to alter small elements of its stand to render the space less of a check-the-box booth and more of an experiential exhibit offering a rotating menu of unexpected edible offerings.

A Tale of Two Seasons
To ensure Aryzta could show off the breadth of its creative small-bite menu and test new items, the company divided its 40-by-40-foot island exhibit into three spaces. A kitchen with four to five cooks was hidden behind a tensionedfabric wall at the back of the booth. On the public-facing side was a vast pastry counter where Aryzta offered a variety of doughnuts, Timbits, muffins, and cookies in a dazzling array of unconventional flavors ranging from piña colada to pistachio. The company also served up samples of potential new products such as protein cookies and a cheeseburger-flavored Timbit.
"One of the big pushes every single year, this year included, is to out perform the year before. Aryzta wants to be the showstopper and create memorable attendee experiences."
The remainder of the booth had an open floor plan split into two distinct areas. "Because the Tim Hortons brand is known for its seasonal food promotions, Aryzta played into the promotional theme by showcasing its gourmet food products in different seasons," Wulfing says. One side of the exhibit, then, was dedicated to winter-themed fare, and the other side was devoted to summer. The wintry half of the island featured vinyl flooring printed to look like a slab of ice, and the back wall and side panels were covered with frosty-white graphics. A set of leafless artificial birch trees decorated with yellow Christmas lights stood in one corner, and scattered neon lights cast cool blue accents. Meanwhile, the summer side glowed with warmth and color, courtesy of green AstroTurf flooring and a brick-printed back wall that created the ambiance of a summertime backyard cook-out. Warm wood tones and lush artificial trees contrasted their winter counterparts.

Several traditional product displays along the exhibit's edges highlighted Aryzta's offerings, but it was the inventive flavors, promotions, and in-booth activities that took the cake. Along both side walls were L-shaped counters that hosted many of the unique events. For example, during the first exhibit-hall time slot on day one, the winter counter was staffed by a cook who provided treats augmented with a dose of liquid nitrogen. During the first session, the cook injected Timbits with a strawberry-flavored cream that was then flash frozen, providing attendees with a cold snack that leaked a fog of dissipating nitrogen. Visitors who returned for the second session could create a sundae with a dish of nitrogen-frozen ice cream topped with crumbles of bakery items, fruit, nuts, and drizzles.

Food for Thought
Baked-goods provider Aryzta AG offered Tim Hortons Owners Convention attendees a steady rotation of unique experiences and product samples that prompted multiple visits to the company's booth.

To properly showcase its seasonal food offerings, Aryzta divided its exhibit into winter- and summer-themed spaces, each with its own decor and graphics.

During one product-sampling experience, attendees selected doughnut holes flavored with either strawberry or cayenne pepper filling.

Attendees who won a hand at Bakery Blackjack received a deck of branded playing cards.

The "Exotic Food Dice Roll" tested players' taste buds, raised money for a show-affiliated nonprofit, and drove traffic to the exhibit.

Some brave attendees munched on ants-on-a-log snacks topped with actual dead ants.

The dice roll helped Aryzta raise more than $10,000 for the Tim Horton Children's Foundation.

In-booth giveaways, including branded winter hats and sun visors, were just as seasonal as the exhibit.

For the evening session, Aryzta provided cocktail and pastry pairings à la wine and cheese. One pairing featured vodka-based frozen hurricanes accompanied by chocolate fondue Timbits sprinkled with coconut flakes. And to keep things cool in more ways than one, the chilled concoctions were poured down a Tim Hortons-branded ice luge.

Meanwhile, the exhibit's summer side featured a chocolate fountain where attendees dipped uniquely flavored Timbits and doughnuts, as well as tabletop grills where staffers offered pastry and fruit kebabs for guests to then drizzle with a selection of sweet syrups. As expected, the frequent and consistent changes in flavors and styles prompted repeat visits from Aryzta's target audience. But even an evolving slate of edibles wouldn't be sufficient if the company hoped to achieve its lofty goals.

Trick or Treat
Since this was the first time Tim Hortons hosted its convention in Las Vegas, Aryzta offered casino-style games with a few culinary twists to spice things up. For these activations, Nimlok Chicago devised an 8-foot-long countertop positioned between the seasonal spaces. Here, Aryzta offered multiple gaming experiences throughout the show, two of which tested participants' willingness to put their taste buds (and gag reflexes) on the line.
"We want our customers to come back to our booth again and again to learn more about us, see what we're doing, and spend more face time with our team."
During the morning time slots, the table was set up for an activity dubbed "Timbits Roulette: Hot or Not." Spread across the table were about a dozen Timbits encased in miniature domed cake stands. In addition to standard flavors such as strawberry, Aryzta piped a handful of these mystery Timbits full of more adventurous and unexpected fillings, including a spicy cayenne-pepper cream. When prompted, players stepped up to one of three stations, chose an encased pastry, removed the lid, and took a bite.

"It was hilarious to watch people gasp when the heat of the cayenne hit them, and that alone proved a powerful traffic builder," Wulfing says. "Everyone was a trooper, though, and ate them, and others kept stepping up for the fun." Participants who were unlucky enough to select a spicy morsel received a branded visor to help them cool off, and those who consumed a cool strawberry-filled Timbit received a logo-adorned winter cap to warm them up.

After a simple tabletop graphic switch, the gaming island became Bakery Blackjack for the first afternoon. Players tried their fortune against the dealer, and those with the luck or acumen to win a hand received a branded deck of cards featuring doughnut graphics.

The booth's overwhelming main attraction, dubbed the "Exotic Food Dice Roll," was featured during the evening time slot on the show's first day. With another new graphic and bumpers added to the table, the gaming stand was transformed into a craps-style activity, and a charismatic employee-turned-emcee with a headset microphone asked passersby, "Would you like to help raise money for the Tim Horton Children's Foundation?"

Brave and witting participants stepped up and cast a pair of oversized foam dice down the tabletop. Each potential roll was paired with a corresponding small-bite sample hidden under a lidded dish. Some items were traditional bakery delights, while others were a bit more unconventional. For example, the familiar snack known as ants-on-a-log came with a throat-tightening twist: the customary celery and peanut butter were topped not with raisins, but with dead ants. Other rolls of the dice brought forth chocolate-covered crickets or doughnuts with worms cooked into them. And lest you think that some of these devilish delights might not meet health codes, Aryzta researched all ingredients to ensure they were safe for human consumption. All guests also signed a liability waiver prior to participating in the activity.

Knowing that even the most stalwart participants might be tempted to opt out of their mystery morsels, Aryzta amicably pressured them by pledging variable amounts of money to the Tim Horton Children's Foundation depending on the type of snack consumed. For instance, it would donate $25 every time a player ate a traditional pastry, but the donation jumped to $100 when an attendee successfully downed an ants-on-a-log treat. For those willing to roll the dice more than once and increase the chances of an unsavory sample, the company would boost the pledge to $300. Perhaps surprisingly, everyone who played ate their edibles, and many returned to the booth with friends in tow, using peer pressure and the promise of donations to a good cause to incentivize their participation.

Icing on the Cake Doughnut

By the end of the evening, the Exotic Food Dice Roll helped Aryzta raise more than $10,000 for the Tim Horton Children's Foundation, surpassing one of the company's key objectives by more than 66 percent. And despite the back-of-the-hall location, the company's dichotomous booth design was busy during all of the show-floor sessions. What's more, attendee surveys – which also provided Aryzta with feedback about past, upcoming, and possible food promotions – found that roughly 85 percent of showgoers knew the culinary company and could identify the role it plays in the Tim Hortons franchise, which amounts to a brand-awareness boost of 35 percentage points compared to the previous year's convention.

The creative presentation of samples, flavor rotations, and gamified activations seemed to have a positive impact on booth visitors' participation as well. As a result of the games, Aryzta distributed 200 decks of cards as well as 800 visors and winter hats, with a large number of attendees returning to the exhibit multiple times. By taking a few fun culinary risks and by demonstrating that its values align with Tim Hortons', Aryzta provided franchise owners with unforgettable experiences that are sure to make its brand linger in their minds even longer than the taste of chocolatecovered crickets on their tongues. E

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