Energetic Plant Based World Expo 2023 Showcases Successful Quality Over Quantity Strategy

October 17, 2023

Reflecting a rapidly growing industry projecting no sign of slowing down any time soon, Plant Based World Expo (PBW) North America returned to the Javits Center in New York City for its annual edition, held Sept. 7-8. This year’s PBW attracted 3,168 attendees, including an uptick in qualified retail and food service buyers compared to years prior and approximately 200 exhibiting companies showcasing hundreds of new plant-based food brands across 25,000 square feet of exhibit space.

Touted as North America’s only 100% plant-based trade show and conference designed exclusively for food service and retail professionals, distributors, investors and manufacturers, PBW’s fourth edition preceded the release of a recent study conducted by Ernst & Young projecting substantial global growth in plant-based protein sales by 2035. According to the report, global plant-based meat sales are anticipated to soar from $16.5 billion in 2021 to $139.4 billion by 2035, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.5%. 

As the official trade show of the Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA), the annual event combines a targeted educational conference with an expansive expo showcasing hundreds of innovative plant-based food products and brands from around the world, along with plentiful tasting and networking opportunities.  

Attendance matters

Attendees had the chance to sample new plant-based products, hear from knowledgeable and inspiring speakers and attend exclusive networking opportunities, while exhibitors from global companies showcased plant-based products, handed out samples, met with buyers and kept the showfloor buzzing for two days. 

“The positive energy and excitement was palpable from the minute the show floor opened,” said Ben Davis, PBW content chair and strategic advisor. “We’ve gotten fantastic feedback from buyers, exhibitors and sponsors. Overall, exhibitor satisfaction has increased, and more than 50% of exhibit space has already been reserved for the 2024 show.”  

Plant Based World 2023

While the show’s attendance and size were down from last year, when 3,722 attendees and 232 exhibitors spanned 33,000 square feet of expo space, Joel Davis, founder and CEO of JD Events, which produces the show, explained that the dip had to do with audience dissatisfaction with the buyer vs. non-buyer mix in 2022, which was improved dramatically in 2023 via a highly effective quality-over-quantity strategy.

“In past years, PBW was open to all stakeholders in the plant-based movement, including influencers, suppliers, consultants, etc.,” Joel Davis said. “Based on exhibitor preferences in 2023, we focused on delivering more of the core audience of retail and foodservice buyers and less of the non-buyer categories.”

He continued, “We denied somewhere between 500-1,000 non-buyer attendees who would’ve been allowed to attend in prior years and grew the core buyers, thereby doubling the percentage of retail and foodservice buyers for exhibitors to meet on the floor and improving exhibitor ROI.” 

Exhibitor experience

On a bustling showfloor, exhibitors and buyers expressed enthusiasm about their experiences, citing positive interactions and the impressive array of innovative product discovery opportunities.  

“The quality of the people we talked with this year has been exceptional – they are decision-makers and stakeholders,” said Exhibitor Henrik Lund, CEO of Naturli` Foods. “I loved the Hosted Buyer Lounge, where PBW arranged meetings with the exhibitors and buyers. PBW is one of the best places to showcase plant-based products.” 

Food trends seen on the expo floor included:  

  • Healthier plant-based snacks and prepared foods using sustainable ingredients such as hemp, jackfruit, acai, algae and seaweed. 
  • Global culinary creativity and chef-crafted products from countries including Italy, Brazil, Denmark, Peru, France, the UK, Thailand, Australia and Canada. Products included plant-based cheese with truffles from Italy, plant-based croissants from France and organic certified and vegan Dutch stroopwafels. 
  • More collaborations and training opportunities between food service institutions, chefs and product manufacturers.
  • Mushroom-based meats, snacks and jerky from MyForest Foods, Green Wolf Foods, Popadelics and Myco Technology.
  • New plant-based seafood products from companies such as BeLeaf, Jinka and Mind Blown Seafood. 

Connecting the community


Plant Based World 2023

Many exhibitors and buyers said they were pleased with the expanded one-to-one meeting opportunities via the Hosted Buyer Program and the Food Export International Buyers Mission, which allowed for more meaningful and valuable conversations between buyers and sellers. Combined, the two programs resulted in approximately 400 meetings between 40 key buyers and 100 exhibitors over three full days, according to show officials.

“Our focus this year was to deepen our relationships within the buying community, to grow the buyer audience and to facilitate real meaningful connections between buyers and sellers at the show,” Joel Davis said.

He continued, “Also new [this year was] the growth of international country pavilions on the expo floor. Whereas in 2022 we had only one pavilion from Italy, in 2023 we had pavilions from Italy, Brazil, Denmark and Thailand along with growth in participation from many other countries including Peru, the U.K., Canada and more. We expect these and more countries to organize pavilions in 2024. The international growth is very exciting and has great potential.”

Plant Based World Expo will return to Javits Center Sept. 11-12, 2024. 


Don’t miss any event-related news: Sign up for our weekly e-newsletter HERE, listen to our latest podcast HERE and engage with us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn!

Add new comment

Partner Voices
One of the most iconic names on the Las Vegas Strip just got an upgrade. Mandalay Bay has everything that your business needs from a refreshed convention space designed to inspire productivity and creativity, to an impressive selection of world-class restaurants and amenities. If you're looking for a venue that's both inviting and innovative, you have to be here. New Wave Experiences Mandalay Bay continues to invest in a new wave of enhancements both in the convention space and within the resort as a whole. New restaurant openings including Orla by Michael Mina, drawing inspiration from the award-winning chef’s childhood in Egypt and with flavors and décor inspired by the spices found in markets common to coastal Mediterranean towns, as well as Caramá by Wolfgang Puck, bringing the essence of Italy and spirit of Wolfgang into one concept, are recent additions. The Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas also experienced a recent remodel of all 424 rooms. Swingers, a high-end, adults-only golf and entertainment concept will debut in Fall 2024. Enhanced Technology Creating a truly effective conference venue requires careful thought into what a business needs: the right technology, capacity, and inspiration to bring ideas to the next level. As part of the resort’s refresh, Mandalay Bay implemented state-of-the-art technology upgrades, installing cutting-edge Cat6A Ethernet cabling throughout the convention center. This advancement doubles the frequency of data transmission, enabling lightning-fast speeds up to 9400% faster. The convention center now boasts 11 dynamic digital walls, spanning up to 24' x 13', strategically positioned for brand placements, sponsorships and targeted event messaging. Additionally, attendees can benefit from 20 double-sided 55" mobile flexible display units, facilitating effortless navigation to meeting rooms and events. RFID locks were installed on all meeting room doors, and over 200 motion detection cameras have been placed throughout the space. Refreshing New Design & Fine Art The newly remodeled convention space provides a bright and vibrant atmosphere that complements Mandalay Bay's tropical-inspired brand. Featuring white-washed walls and ceilings adorned with bold floral patterns in cerulean and coral tones, the space is complemented by warm walnut accent walls. In addition to the redesign of all pre-function spaces, meeting rooms and ballrooms, Mandalay Bay's 1 million square feet of exhibit space has undergone a rejuvenation, including new paint, covered pillars and relocated strobe lights. Sustainable Spectacles Mandalay Bay is committed to Focused on What Matters and creating more responsible meetings. Refillable water stations all available around the resort, cutting unnecessary plastic usage from single-use bottles. The Mandalay Bay campus’ recent upgrades represent a bold step forward in redefining the Las Vegas experience. With a focus on innovation, sustainability, and unparalleled service, Mandalay Bay sets a new standard for excellence in business hospitality. Whether you're seeking cutting-edge conference facilities, world-class dining options, or simply a luxurious retreat, an unparalleled meeting experience awaits.