No industry was spared when the coronavirus outbreak took over the world - the food & beverage industry included. But while many other industries were able to move their operations from the physical into the digital environment, foodservice providers were left paralyzed; after all, most food-related experiences require face-to-face interactions.
It would, however, seem that the food & beverage industry has since found a way to overcome the physical restrictions of the global pandemic - namely, virtual food expos. Although it may leave some of you wondering how exactly does one recreate the tasty and interactive in-person experiences we all miss, an increasing amount of foodservice suppliers have chosen the digital route of expanding their offerings to the market.
What Is A Virtual Food Expo
Virtual food exhibitions are B2B gatherings where foodservice manufacturers, suppliers or distributors can virtually meet and explore mutually-beneficial business opportunities. The visual side of things looks exactly the way it does during in-person events: online food expos also consist of auditoriums, lobbies, exhibit halls, trade show floors with fully customizable & branded virtual booths and stands.
Lead generation and audience interactions are also enabled depending on your choice of virtual event platform. Many are equipped with powerful engagement and networking features that empower vendors to interact with participants in real-time; some even offer Augmented Reality 3D product demos to further enhance attendees' digital experience.
Still don't believe it's possible? Watch the video below to see the preview of the Restaurants Canada Show 2021 virtual food expo we hosted earlier this year:
RC Show is a trade show and conference with thought-leadership content and networking events. With 20,000 industry professionals in attendance, RC Show is Canada's largest foodservice and hospitality event bringing the industry together to shop, taste, learn, connect and grow their business.
RC Show 2021 was a resounding success, and not only because it was different and hosted online (and is still available to access on-demand as a part of the Restaurants Canada’s #FeedingTheRecovery campaign) - this year, it was focused on helping food businesses to recover and get back on their feet after the 2020 crisis.
RC Show also collaborated with Nextech AR Solutions to delivery immersive, augmented reality experiences for attendees unlike anything seen in the industry before - including human holograms and AR-enhanced exhibition booths:
Why Host a Virtual Food Expo?
Trade shows and expos are crucial revenue and sales channel expansion drivers for food & beverage businesses. Suppliers, manufacturers, distributors and restaurants rely on food expos to grow their customer base and introduce their products into new markets. The good news? Everything mentioned above can be achieved in a digital environment. The bad news? There isn't any. Let's take a closer look at what makes hosting virtual food expos so appealing - coronavirus pandemic or not:
Online food expos organizers are no longer limited by geographical barriers and can now truly reach anyone, regardless of where in the world they are. Because attending a virtual food exhibition no longer requires attendees to book time off work and travel to the live venue, people are more likely to sign up; especially those who were previously unable to attend in-person.
The digital format also supports creating winning business partnerships that last long after logging out of the event, empowering food show exhibitors to strengthen their distribution channels and seek new suppliers, manufacturers or distributors.
Increased Brand Awareness
Since the pandemic forced us to fill the void of social gatherings with virtual experiences, you'll find that many businesses shifted their focus from brick-and-mortar establishments to enhance their online presence. More than ever consumers shop for their groceries online, and that's where your business should be too to take advantage of the unexpected surge in Internet traffic.
Organizing an in-person food exhibition is draining - both on resources and budgets. Virtual food expos can easily be hosted at a fraction of the cost compared to their live counterparts; not only that, with strategic planning and sponsorship packages, virtual events have the potential to yield a much better return on investment than live events.
Activity & Performance Analytics
Tracking attendee activity is impossible in a real-world environment; you can't exactly have one of your staff members following participants around to see which booths they're visiting or leaflets they're browsing. You can, however, choose a virtual event platform provider that will indeed track user behavior during the online food show. After the event, you'll be provided with large quantities of actionable data that'll allow you to analyze the event's performance and follow up with attendees post-event via retargeting campaigns on Facebook or Google.
Who Can Benefit From Hosting A Virtual Food Expo?
The answer is simple - anyone involved in the foodservice & hospitality industry. Whether you're looking to expand your supplier, distributor or customer base, virtual food expos empower you to do just that.
Online food exhibitions look and act very much the same way live food exhibitions do. Exhibitors and vendors can set up stunning virtual booths to showcase their marketing collateral, product information or even immersive 3D product demos to capture and convert as many leads as possible.
Participants can also virtually "wander" around the exhibit hall, watch live or on-demand webinars in the auditorium or interact with speakers / booth visitors / potential customers in real-time thanks to integrated video conferencing tools and live chats.
Networking and connecting with like-minded individuals isn't lost in the digital setting, either. Depending on your virtual platform software, you can pre-book and schedule video calls with anyone who picks your interest. After logging in, participants are able to easily view or search the list of exhibitors and other participants, making finding relevant networking opportunities effortless.
Are You Ready To Take Your Food Expo Online?
Virtual food expos are changing the way that foodservice providers do business. Unlike traditional food expos where physical presence, geography, weather, time and event duration could limit your reach, a virtual food show is accessible to anyone with WiFi access.
Everyone involved in the food industry knows food & beverage shows help strengthen & establish global sales channels, find new business opportunities or partnerships and drive revenue. Online food exhibitions deliver on these same benefits in a viable format that extends reach to venues and locations that physical food shows simply cannot serve.