This Just In

JD Events’ Plant Based World Expo is Rooted in the Future

Jeff Heilman, Senior Editor
JD Events’ Plant Based World Expo is Rooted in the Future

NEW YORK — Plant Based World Expo North America (PBW), the official tradeshow of the Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA), returned to New York City’s Javits Center on Sept. 8-9, with an expanded program including increased show exhibitor and buyer participation. Created by JD Events, the event’s third edition, like the plant-based foods industry itself, is experiencing major growth.

“More than an industry, plant-based food is a movement driven by a community of motivated, purposeful people around the globe,” General Manager Chris Nemchek, who was tapped by JD Events to lead the tradeshow after helping to launch PBW in 2019 as a consultant, said. “As more consumers seek to live healthier lifestyles and be more environmentally and ethically responsible, global demand for plant-based alternatives keeps rising, fueled predominantly by the younger generation.”

For Nemchek, PBW is personal. “Attending the 2019 Plant-Based Nutrition Healthcare Conference in Oakland, Calif., I learned how a plant-based diet can address chronic diseases,” he said. “As a diabetic, that spoke directly to me. With my wife’s support, I went 100% vegan. It has completely changed my life, along with my pride in participating in a more sustainable and ethical food system.”

According to the PBFA, U.S. sales of plant-based foods grew 6.2% in 2021 for a total market value of $7.4 billion. Outpacing total food retail sales by three to one, the market has grown a whopping 54% gain in the last three years. Rachel Dreskin, CEO of PBFA and the Plant Based Foods Institute, stated that “impactful conference sessions and so many meaningful opportunities for our members to connect with industry leaders and buyers” at PBW were keys to continuing success.

“That was by design,” Nemchek said. “We doubled the program from 2021 and brought in 20% more retailers, distributors, brokers, and food service operators to ensure those quality connections.”

The Javits Center fit the bill perfectly. Supporting wildlife including 300,000 honeybees on its 6.75-acre living roof and growing 40,000 pounds of roof-to-table produce on its one-acre rooftop farm each year, “the building ties wonderfully to our event and mission,” Nemchek said. PBW did its part, including avoiding 30,000-plus pounds of landfill waste by going carpet-less in the Expo Hall and donating leftover food to City Harvest.

Kate MacKenzie, Executive Director of the NYC Mayor’s Office of Food Policy, described the city’s plant-based focus in serving 230 million-plus meals to New Yorkers in need, along with school meal programs including Meatless Mondays and Plant-Powered Fridays. More than 24 staffers involved with menu design and food procurement for various city agencies attended the event.

Eve Turow-Paul, author and Founder of the women-led Food for Climate League, and influential Chef-restaurateur Spike Mendelsohn, food policy advocate and Co-founder of PLNT Burger, delivered the keynotes. There was abundant food for thought in tracks on retail, food service, and general industry topics and educational sessions presented in the Learning Garden Theater. Specialty areas included the Culinary Theater, where chefs demonstrated how to cook with plant-based ingredients, and the Start-Up Zone.

From chlorophyll-infused spring water, Italian prosciutto, and crunchy mushroom chips to pea protein-based bitterness blockers, high-quality pectins, and award-winning cheese snacks, the 100% plant-based product range was as diverse as it was innovative, and increasingly, tasty. From the multi-vendor Italian pavilion to exhibitors from Mexico, Peru, Brazil, South Korea, and The Netherlands, the international presence was another reliable barometer of where the trade show, which featured 232 exhibitors and a 20% attendance boost of 3,722 visitors, and the industry is headed.

“PBW had huge momentum coming out of our June 2019 launch, and despite COVID impacting the timing of the December 2021 show, we produced this latest event just nine months later with a 50% larger expo floor,” JD Events Founder & CEO Joel A. Davis said. “This being only our third PBW, we gambled by focusing primarily on growing the key retail and food service buyer categories while intentionally suppressing non-buying industry attendees. While risking less crowded aisles in favor of improving the exhibitor experience and ROI with a larger floor, our key buyer audience grew by 20%, on-site exhibitor renewals doubled over 2021, and the aisles were buzzing with business activity throughout both days. The quality over quantity approach proved to be a winning strategy.”

The next trade show is the second PBW Europe, scheduled for London in November 2022 at double the size from the October 2021 launch. PBW North America returns to NYC in September 2023, with trade show exhibits expected to grow by another 50%. This October, JD Events is launching Plant Based World Pulse, the only purely B2B digital plant-based news and information source which will complement the events and provide vital resources and data to the entire plant-based business ecosystem year-round.

“Serving a global shift in consumer behaviors and centered around human and animal well-being, planetary sustainability, and the celebration of diversity and inclusion, the mission-driven plant-based movement is booming,” Davis said. “This is just the tip of the iceberg. As innovation and investment pour into new and established plant-based brands, we see consumer demand increasing exponentially in the years ahead.”

Reach Joel A. Davis at

TSE Data Center