This month’s feature is a special edition conversation following the announcement of the launch of Plant Based World Conference & Expo EUROPE, taking place in October of 2020. Read the full press release here.
Jonathan Morley is the Managing Director of Plant Based World’s expansion to the European market. He brings to this role a career of trade show management experience and a passion for empowering people to live their healthiest life. In this conversation Jonathan discusses his background, how he came to join the Plant Based World team and what excites him most about the opportunity to launch this unique event in London next year.
TPBW: You are relatively new to the plant-based space, but you are no stranger to the trade show/event industry. Can you share with us a bit about your trade show background and what types of events you have worked on?
Jonathan: I worked in the global head office of Reed Exhibitions, which was the largest exhibition company in the world, from 1998-2005. That job involved a lot of travel and touched on all commercial aspects of the company including buying trade shows and assisting Reed companies around the world with strategic planning.
I have worked in most sectors of the business. Food and catering would be one. I have worked in aerospace, manufacturing, biotechnology, finance, security… pretty much everything. If I had to choose a favorite sector to date it would be the health space. After leaving Reed I went to work at PriMed which is a medical education company running lots of smaller educational events for healthcare professionals, mainly Doctors and Nurses. The main focus was keeping the audience up to date, primarily in the management of long term diseases and conditions.
What is it about working on events, particularly trade conferences and expos, that gets you out of bed in the morning?
It seems that all the talk in business these days, and really for the past twenty or so years, has been around digital communication. Yet, the best format in pretty much every sector you can imagine for doing business is trade shows and conferences, and that is something that has not changed at all.
I love the buildup to the event, the sales process and particularly the event itself when you get a sense of this community that is coming together. The feeling that you have played a role in creating this annual gathering is something that is hard to beat!
How did you first connect with the vegan/plant-based movement on a personal level?
I was European CEO of PriMed for 8 years and spent those years running conferences teaching medical professionals the latest in long term disease management. These conversations revolved almost entirely around pharmaceutical treatment of chronic conditions. I personally appreciate pharmaceutical companies and the role they can play in helping people lead full lives despite illness, but at the same time I became increasingly more aware of the conversation around preventing and potentially reversing disease through lifestyle, and diet is a big part of that.
The discussion around plant-based continued to grow and doctors began asking more and more how long we can go treating patients and prescribing drugs for diseases that could be preventable through diet. That, combined with multiple members of my family choosing to switch to a vegan/vegetarian diet, is really what introduced me to the concept of plant-based eating. I also came to realize right away the challenge that people were having making this switch and finding foods to eat that could fit into their lifestyle.
What inspired you to professionally engage with the plant-based market and what excites you most about launching Plant Based World in the UK?
I began to look at it in more detail to better understand how someone could successfully eat this way. It was clear that not everyone has the time and money to shop for the best ingredients and cook for multiple hours a day, so there had to be a better and more accessible way. At the time I was not aware of many good, manufactured products on the market yet that someone could take home and cook or order in a restaurant. It was then that my former boss at PriMed, John Mooney, directed me to check out the upcoming Plant Based World Conference & Expo in NYC. I was blown away by the number of products available that were replacing animal products and the by the quality of those products.
This, combined with the general buzz of the expo, made me feel like we are well on our way to solving the problem of people being able to eat this way. As a trade show guy, the idea of bringing an event like this to the UK was very exciting and I wanted to be the guy to do it. I sat down with Joel Davis and his team at JD Events and I suppose I must have sold my trade show qualifications pretty well, because he asked me to do it!
The thing that excites me most is the buzz I am getting in response to presenting the idea to key players in the UK and European market. We have interest from overseas and even many companies from the NYC show that want to come over. These products are really fantastic and I am looking forward to seeing people’s reactions when they see them all come together next year. It’s really all about bringing these innovative new products to a new market, that’s what I am most exited about.
Many companies in this space are startups, mom and pops and small shops that are just getting their business off the ground. What advice would you offer to those newer companies that have little to no trade show experience? What value does participating in a trade show like PBW offer their growing business?
It is very important when participating in a trade show to set your objectives. Who are you trying to see? What are you trying to accomplish? Are you looking to talk to the big players and are you ready to engage in a business discussion with Tesco and Sainsbury? If so, you are going to need to manage your appearance and preparation to be in line with those goals, and that’s something we are here to advise on.
Or do you want to extent your reach and engage with smaller retailers? In that case you are going to be talking to an awful lot more people, offering samples and giveaways and you have to be prepared to be rushed of your feet and have a lot of people to talk to. Take good notes, use the technology available to capture leads, and do a thorough follow up.
Also, a unique aspect of the Plant Based World model that we are bringing from NYC to London is the Community Day on Saturday, which welcomes in a general public audience and gives companies an opportunity to get in front of influencers, bloggers and consumers and expand brand awareness that way. For companies looking to connect with this audience, what is something unique and special you can do to get their attention?
These are all things we are here as show management to advise on, but you can see that an awareness of your objectives is important for your getting the most out of what the event has to offer.
Thank you Jonathan for taking the time to answer our questions, and for dedicating your trade show expertise and passion to progressing the plant-based market. We cannot wait to cross the pond to bring this community together in London with you next October!