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Informa Markets pivot takes trade show experience virtual

Faced with a virtual freeze of cross-border business travel for more than a year, the world’s largest exhibition organiser, Informa Markets, has pivoted to a virtual, online extension of its 24 Asian regional food and hospitality-related trade shows. 

Traditionally, tens of thousands of Food & Hospitality industry professionals attend high-profile events like Food & Hotel and Hotelex across Asia to learn about new products ranging from kitchen equipment and hotel amenities through to fresh foods and liquor.

Prior to the pandemic, Informa Markets was developing an international wholesale marketplace called Saladplate for sourcing food, beverages and hospitality products globally. Development was accelerated so the marketplace could go online just as international travel was beginning to be wound down.

Since then, Saladplate has grown to draw brands and products from more than 140 categories linking buyers from more than 90 countries with more than 2000 suppliers all over the world.

The business model has been adapted throughout the pandemic moving many features of physical trade shows online instead. For example, early this year during an online Sourcing Festival, Saladplate organised a product-tasting event where suppliers were invited to send products to a central location from which its staff led sample-tasting activities for prospective buyers, before introducing the parties in online meetings. That single initiative created more than 700 qualified leads.

In another initiative, Saladplate teamed with the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) to organise a Japan promotion, including online product demonstrations. During the coming weeks, Saladplate plans to continue its virtual journey by replicating more of the features of physical trade shows onto its 24-seven digital platform, launching PremiumMatch and PremiumReach, which build on the success of the sample-and-meet concept.  

PremiumMatch promotes brands and products directly to foodservice distributors in key Asian markets, while PremiumReach adds a tactile experience to companies who connect digitally, with Saladplate staff overseeing tastings during times when suppliers may not be able to attend trade events due to cross-border travel restrictions.

“PremiumReach is designed to take your brands and products where it matters – into the hands of the most qualified buyers – while simplifying every step of the way from logistics to distributions, from physical promotions to post-event follow-ups,” said Dave Chan, founder of, VP – digital business & advanced analytics, at Informa Markets.

Saladplate has also built strategic alliances with national industry associations and government agencies including those from Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, Sweden, the UK, Canada, Spain, South Korea, Finland, and the Worldchefs organisation. More alliances are being pursued.

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