Why a pandemic is the perfect time to launch a global food event

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While we’re all confined to our homes, a pandemic is the best time to launch a global food event. Enter Plant Based World Europe.

In February 2020, I handed in my notice for a job I loved. I took the difficult decision to say goodbye to friends and colleagues to pursue a different career path, and enter the live events industry.

Flicking through RightMove rental ads and tying up six years’ worth of hard work, I pondered the experiences that awaited me in my new role. Ready and willing to upheave my life 177 miles south of the place I called home, I found myself jittery with that trepidation and excitement we all feel when making such a significant life change. In March 2020, however, the world as we knew it changed forever.

Entering a new team and starting a new role remotely is a unique experience, and not a particularly pleasant one. Relationships take a little longer to develop, the induction process features endless telephone calls, and to this day, I still do not know the tea preferences of my colleagues.

Regardless of that, the events industry (the industry I chose to move into) in particular was one of the hardest hit in recent months. The UK government was slow to roll out Covid-19 guidance for businesses beyond ‘locking down’ the country, which left many industries such as mine in the lurch. Within the first four weeks of my role as marketing and content manager at Plant Based World Europe, we had to make the difficult decision to postpone the show six months into April 2021. These were certainly unprecedented times; but I took comfort in the knowledge that even the most experienced of events marketers had never handled a situation like this before. We were all in this together, learning on the job.

The appetite for plant-based business is there, and buyers are hungry for the next big innovation.

Without an imminent event on the horizon, I benefitted from additional time to keep my eye on what was happening in the industry our event serves: the plant-based food space. Anybody who has a keen interest in this industry will know that it is growing at an unprecedented rate, which is why our show Plant Based World Conference & Expo was developed in the US in the first place.

plant based world expo
Photo: Plant Based World

The sheer volume of product launches, coming out of start-ups, meat and dairy companies, supermarket private labels and the foodservice sector is so high, it is impossible to keep up. These product’s performance almost always exceeds all expectations, too. From KFC’s Quorn Chicken Burger, which sold 1 million patties in its first month, to Sainbury’s vegan cheese, which exceeded sales expectations by 300% in 2017, more and more businesses are tapping into the market and including plant-based options in their portfolios. The appetite for plant-based business is there, and buyers are hungry for the next big innovation.

Despite the foodservice industry also taking a significant hit when a nationwide lockdown closed eateries up and down the country, I quickly learned that the food trade was safe, as food will always be a necessity. In the wake of the coronavirus, many independent retailers pivoted their businesses to create safer shopping experiences for customers, including limiting customers in-store and introducing home delivery options. Elsewhere, supermarkets limited numbers and created one-way systems to facilitate social distancing.

Shoppers habits changed as a result: fewer food shopping trips, a rise in supermarket loyalty and an increase in total basket spend. In terms of the content of their shop, the consumption of plant-based products saw a rise. I would argue that this was helped by public awareness of the link between how Covid-19 came about, and the role the consumption of animal products — wet markets in Wuhan — had to play in it.

Throughout the pandemic, consumers have increased their grocery spend and turned their attention to plant-based foods. Plant-based food manufacturers have delicious, innovative, shelf-ready products that can meet this demand, but they need an event to get in front of the right buyers.

Enter Plant Based World Europe.

Now, seven months into a pandemic that has flipped industries on their head, we are starting to get some guidance from the government on how to ‘restart’ the country. The events sector, which contributes some £70 billion to the UK economy, has been told it can start to launch events in the spring of 2021. Plant Based World Europe will be one of the first to go ahead.

It’s positioned to be the single most important event for this industry in the continent.

The trade show and conference will feature some of the biggest brands in the plant-based food space, launching in London’s Business Design Centre on April 8 and 9, 2021. With brands like Beyond Meat, Quorn, JUST Egg, Moving Mountains, Follow Your Heart and many, many more bringing their latest innovations to the show, it’s positioned to be the single most important event for this industry in the continent.

The growth of this market, the rising consumer demand, the constant innovation, and the opportunities it presents for businesses are endless. This is exactly why it’s the perfect time to introduce a 100% plant-based trade show and conference in Europe. And I hope to see you there.

Check out Plant Based World Expo’s announcement to bring the event to London.

Abigail Stevens
Abigail Stevens
Abigail (like so many others) ditched meat and dairy during her time at university whilst studying journalism. Soon after she joined the world’s oldest vegan charity and began marketing their vegan certification. Abigail worked alongside brands from start-ups to multi-million-pound corporations at a time when the vegan product landscape was drastically changing. Today, Abigail is the Marketing Manager for Europe’s first 100% plant-based trade show and conference, Plant Based World Europe, taking place in spring 2021.