Feature Article - September 2015
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All's Fair

The Latest Trends in Family-Friendly Community & Concert Events

By Rick Dandes

Eat, Drink & Be Merry

The popular trends in today's concession business are "ever changing," explained Tish Hardric, national sales manager, theater division for a Hollywood, Ala.-based provider of concession products. With the influence of 24/7 information and social media, it seems that consumers are moving from one trend to another at record paces. Trends in the concession business also can vary by region and even by the type of event. But the one trend that seems to be at the heart of most is that of nutrition and moving back to more "natural" snacks.

Consumers are more conscious of nutrition today than any time in the past, Hardic said. Concessionaires have to be versatile with their product offerings to include those products that support the movement to more nutritious snacks. While nutrition seems to be at the forefront of today's trends, variety is a close second. Consumers like choice, and concessionaires are challenged with meeting this need by offering as many choices as reasonable.

"When guests are thirsty, they're turning to alternatives to bottled water and soft drinks. Fresh-squeezed lemon shake-ups are a refreshment that all ages can enjoy," noted Bo Wilson, eastern regional sales manager for a Cincinnati-based manufacturer and provider of concession products. "In addition," he said, "they can be paired with souvenir cups, for an eye-catching presentation that will draw in additional customers.

Those who stand out in the concession industry are the ones who focus on quality, said Western Regional Sales Manager Chris Petroff, from the same company. "They offer the customer a unique experience. And people are willing to pay premium prices for a premium product."

One of the items that's currently trending for outdoor events is kettle corn. It's a delicious mix of popcorn, sugar and salt. "Kettle corn is as popular as ever," Petroff said. It's perfect for outdoor events, as patrons can watch as the corn is cooked inside the large kettles.

Meanwhile, one of the biggest changes in the concession industry today are government regulations on nutrition. For example, some locations are beginning to require trans-fat-free oils, which affects how some vendors make kettle corn and fried foods like funnel cake.

At the heart of every successful concession stand is the large group of customers that demand the old standbys. You can't beat the traditional concession stars: popcorn, cotton candy and funnel cakes remain popular no matter what the current trend. They remain some of the best sellers and best profit makers for event concessionaires. There's a nostalgia that's associated with concession foods and people want to capture that experience. Plus, these items are all popular and profitable, making a winning combination for the vendor.