Plant-Based World Expo North America welcomes those in the industry with an in-person convention on December 9 & 10 at Javits Center in NYC. Plant-Based World connects businesses seeking to develop, source, and distribute plant-based products. Attendees will listen to leading innovators, network with companies across the supply chain, and sample new cuisine.
Nicole Astra: Welcome to, Talking Plant Protein. I'm Nicole Astra and my guest today is Benjamin Davis, VP of Content for Plant Based World Expo. Welcome to the show.
Benjamin Davis: Thank you so much for having me, Nicole.
Nicole Astra: Benjamin, first, how did you get into the plant based space?
Benjamin Davis: It was a two step process for me. First was a personal journey. I went from being a three meal a day meat eater, this is around 2016, 2017, to pretty much fully vegan by the end of 2017.
Nicole Astra: Wow.
Benjamin Davis: And experienced that drastic shift within myself on many levels of my own experience.
Benjamin Davis: Then I came back east to spend some time living with my folks for a bit, as I was trying to figure out a next step in my career, and went into my dad's office. Actually my dad's company, JD Events, produces trade shows and has for the majority of my life, and brought this new passion for plant based eating into his office and developed a project to come up with a new trade show idea for plant based and vegan food. This was back in 2018, 2019. It turned out to be great timing to bring an idea like this into the marketplace. That's the very short version of the story.
Nicole Astra: Yeah. My second question was going to be why Plant Based World Expo and you did answer it there, but how was it getting it off the ground?
Benjamin Davis: To answer the why a little bit, what I found in the research phase of this project, where the JD Events was looking to invest in new areas for live events and trade shows, was that there were a lot of small vegan consumery events out there, the VegFest and things happening in gymnasiums and smaller scale stuff. Then there were many large food expos that were by no means focused primarily on plant based, but had it as a part of it. We approached it from this angle of this category deserves its own home and space now, and also it needs to be professional. It needs to be high level networking and buying opportunities. That was the process of seeing what was needed.
Benjamin Davis: We launched at the Javits Center, the first one in 2019 in June, and it was a great success and we were certainly ready to bring it back in 2020. It's just been punted down the road a little bit here to just a few weeks from now in December for round two. We're very excited.
Nicole Astra: When you went back in person in October in London, what were some of the highlights for you?
Benjamin Davis: Well, the main highlight about being in person for a food show is the tasting of the food of course. That was the biggest thing was so much has happened in this industry over the last couple years, and you have so many buyers, both on the retail and food service side that we invite to our event who are looking to actually have an experience and taste the food. These folks got to walk around the aisles, trying all of the leading brands, trying all the new startups, getting to see which ones are winning awards and being really appreciated by the audience. Of course, we'll be doing that again on the expo floor in New York here coming up in December.
Nicole Astra: These are exclusive debuts, am I right?
Benjamin Davis: Many of them are.
Nicole Astra: Yes.
Benjamin Davis: A lot of the companies that are exhibitors are going to see this as an opportunity to really showcase what their company is all about. We saw that in London, when you have a company like Beyond Meat, for instance, that's a very popular attraction of the bigger food shows because they're the plant based guys and everyone wants to try it. At our show, they're up and they're right next to plant based meat brands all up and down the aisle. It forces everyone to step up their game a little bit to come out with something new and to showcase that.
Benjamin Davis: Along with the expo floor, we of course have the conference program where in London, for instance, we had three executives from the Nestle Corporation come and present their own research and data to our audience about the unsustainable aspects of the food system and how plant based is a major aspect to the solution. We've turned this corner where there's such a huge business opportunity intersecting with this social responsibility that we're all becoming aware of, and industry leaders like Nestle using their voice and platform to not only push their own portfolios and advance their business, of course, but also to highlight the social necessity here and to take a leadership role. All of that's really exciting and we're going to be super pumped for round two here, coming up in New York.
Nicole Astra: Wow. You mentioned professionalism and you have quite a lineup and very well known names attached to you. Tell me what you're most excited about, besides being back in person for the event next month.
Benjamin Davis: Being in person and seeing everyone in the community is really that main thing that we are excited about, as you touched on. The biggest thing for me that I'm looking forward to is seeing how the conversation has evolved over what's now two and a half years since our first event. To summarize that a little bit, I feel like that first event was very much about the champions of the plant based movement coming out to make a statement to the industry that we're ready to be taken seriously. We were able to provide that home at the Javits Center in a mainstream city, but a lot of the conversation and the dialogue in the conference was, why plant based? Let's make a case, let's show the numbers, let's convince the bigger companies that they need to pay attention. That's not the world we live in anymore. Now everyone wants to get their hands in plant based for their mission.
Nicole Astra: Everyone is in on the game, yes.
Benjamin Davis: It's a mission. Whether you're a mission driven startup or a Nestle or a Kellogg's, you're getting involved in this. Now we get to have champions from all of those camps come and stand on stage and speak and share their strategies, share what they're excited about. I'm looking forward to, as the content developer, getting to actually absorb the content that we've been programming for the last couple years and learn from the speakers as to really what's shifted and what's coming down the pipeline.
Nicole Astra: Someone who invests in this space as well, I want to thank you because it's having those big players and those startup players in the same conversation that really propels this movement forward. I want to invite you back. We would love a recap after everything comes to fruition for your event. We're so grateful for your time today. Thanks for joining us on Talking Plant Protein.
Benjamin Davis: Absolutely, Nicole. Thank you so much for having me. Looking forward to staying in touch.