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Brief Published: 6 Mar 2020

Companies Digitally Recreate Cancelled Show Expo West

Following the last-minute cancellation of mega US food trade show Natural Products Expo West – originally scheduled for March 3-7 in Anaheim, California – brands are scrambling to recreate the benefits of attendance in a digital environment. Over 80k attendees were expected, yet up to 60% cancelled in the week before the event.

Companies Digitally Recreate Cancelled Show Expo West

US-based snack brand HighKey launched a virtual meeting room where would-be attendees can find sales sheets, request samples and schedule meetings. LinkedIn is also a hotbed of virtual meetings, with brands uploading product-demonstration videos as an alternative showcase – these include LA protein-shake company Koia, Oregon-based frozen-food company Rosti and San Diego juice company Suja. For businesses that already made the trip to Anaheim, private Facebook Groups connect attendees and exhibitors for in-person networking.

Retailers and business service providers are also encouraging exhibitors to send in pitches. Amazon Physical Stores invited participants to send email pitches of the products they'd be displaying, while online food entrepreneur bootcamp Foodbevy is giving all attendees a free month-long membership. On March 10, US food-trade publication Nosh will host a live-stream pitch session where would-be exhibitors can introduce their products to an industry audience.

Given the huge financial investment required to exhibit at the show, the live-streaming service is a clever move to help small companies cope. To that end, Expo West organiser New Hope has set aside a $5m rebate fund for small organisations to mitigate financial losses incurred from the show's postponement. While this doesn't replace the time invested by attendees, it underlines the fact that event organisers must be scrupulous when navigating in this uncertain environment.

Stay tuned for our coverage of Expo West 2020's would-be launches, publishing on March 13.