NEW YORK — Plant Based World (PBW) North America — a 100% plant-based–focused event for foodservice and retail professionals, distributors, investors and manufacturers — drew more than 200 exhibitors and 3,178 attendees to its 21,500-square-foot exhibit hall in New York City’s Javits Center Dec. 9–10.
With the plant-based sector poised for rapid growth and a need to bring plant-based products to a mainstream audience, JD Events first launched the show in 2019 before COVID-19 hit. While it was highly successful — so much so that the show organizers decided to launch a European version — JD Events restructured the event for 2021 to position it to meet the needs of this rapidly growing market.
Joel Davis, CEO, JD Events LLC, and Benjamin Davis, VP Content, Plant Based World Expo, believe in the future of the plant-based industry these show serve. They say it is unique in that it is a merger of not only a fast-growing industry with massive financial opportunities for all involved, but also an enormous social responsibility to shift habits of consumption that can no longer be ignored even by legacy brands and major corporations.
“We find that many of our attendees enter our shows for professional reasons and leave feeling a deeper connection to the social cause and movement we represent,” they said. “It’s a special thing to witness and be a part of, with so much room to grow on all fronts!”
Trade Show Executive recently caught up with Joel Davis and Benjamin Davis to learn more.
How did the inaugural Plant-Based show fare in 2019, and what changes did you implement for this year’s show?
In 2019 we had 125 exhibitors taking on 12,500 square feet of exhibit space. The show in 2019 was also open to the public, as well as roughly 1,500 business-to-business (B2B) attendees.
In early 2021, we did not know what the climate for events would be later in the year, so we strategically made the decision to shift to a 100% B2B audience. The restructure allowed us to focus on an event that would bring the most valuable audience to our exhibitors, and also know we could control the crowds to run the event as safely as possible. Our exhibit floor grew by 65% and our B2B audience doubled.
What specific COVID-related protocols did you put in place to ensure safety and ease any concerns attendees and/or exhibitors might have?
Regarding COVID-related protocols, we held the event at the Javits Center in New York City, which has many safety measures in place, including a mask mandate and vaccination requirement. We also had protocols regarding food sampling to ensure the sampling experience at the show was safe and hygienic during COVID.
To what do you attribute the phenomenal growth of PBW?
The plant-based market is exploding. Bloomberg Intelligence recently projected plant-based sales would reach $162 billion by 2030, so we entered the market at the right time with this show. JDE also has a nimble team that prides itself on exceptional customer service and stays abreast of industry trends. So we are able to quickly pivot when needed to ensure the show is serving the industry and its growth.
Tell us about the London show you launched this fall — how did that come about?
Plant Based World Europe took place Oct. 15-16 in London with more than 100 exhibitors and 2,063 attendees. Plans for Plant Based World Europe, which was originally scheduled for October 2020, began immediately following the success of the 2019 New York event.
In Europe, plant-based products were going through a time of unprecedented growth and innovation, so launching in Europe as soon as we could was critical. Ultimately, the show was rescheduled for October 2021 and was a huge success.
How will you continue to build on the success you had with both of this year’s shows?
Plant Based World North America is scheduled for Sept. 8-9, 2022, at the Javits Center and Plant Based World Europe is scheduled for Nov. 30-Dec. 1, 2022, at Olympia in London. We are projecting that both shows will double in exhibit space, and we are also excited to expand our conference programs and announce new show features to bring even more value to our attendees.
Any advice for other trade show organizers based on what you have learned from your experience over the past two years — particularly from this year’s successes?
Don’t give up! In the past two years we have become pros at rescheduling our shows and thinking strategically about when and how to hold our events. And listen to your customers. Every show in JD Events’ portfolio has sent multiple emails and surveys, and found different ways to keep our communities engaged. We considered many things over hiatus from our shows, from virtual events and new digital products, and found what works for each brand.
Given your recent experience, what do you think the near-term future looks like for trade shows in general, and your shows specifically? What major challenges and opportunities do you see for the coming year?
JD Events has held three trade shows in the Q4 2021 — it was the first time we held shows in over two and a half years. Seeing our communities gather in-person, face to face with handshakes or fist bumps was so rewarding, and the importance of what we do as the congregators of these industries truly resonated.
We are hearing that our attendees are busier than ever before, which will challenge us to provide unmissable experiences over the two days of our events. The past two years have also challenged us to think more creatively, be more nimble than ever before and fight for our events to happen. With that mindset, the sky’s the limit.