Reflections from Plant Based World Expo 2022 by ECP's CDPO Karyn Knox.
I had the immense honor of representing the Educated Choices Program at the Plant Based World Expo North America in NYC on September 8th and 9th by participating in a panel discussion called “Feeding Growing Minds: A Food Service Journey Schools.”
Joining me on the panel were Amie Hamlin from the Coalition for Healthy School Food, Stephen O'Brien from the NYC Department of Education, and Jonathan Deutsch, Ph.D., CHE, CRC from Drexel University. In our action-packed hour of discussion, my fellow panelists discussed school food regulations, their challenges in creating healthful menu changes, and the amazing success NYC schools have had in integrating more plant-rich items into their offerings. They also discussed the exciting developments that can occur when the student body and faculty work together and create a food service experience that inspires them to participate actively.
In this discussion, I shared the unique role education plays in inspiring positive dietary changes in the school setting and beyond. By sharing research findings from our Living Lab and our approaches to most effectively empower students to make healthful and sustainable food choices, I was able to not only demonstrate the importance of our work to representatives from schools and other public venues but also help them understand the best ways to discuss and promote new plant-forward menu items to their customers to ensure successful initiatives!
Our panel discussion was one of several that took place throughout the exciting two-day event designed as a B2B industry expo highlighting hundreds of plant-based companies and allowing food service industry decision makers to connect directly with the brands that can meet their needs. Other vital discussions included one offered by Myco Technology representatives titled “Plant-Based 2.0”, illustrating that, much like we have found among our participating students, health proves to be the #1 driver for positive dietary change and meat reduction among adults. They made the point that in order to get a larger population of consumers to adopt plant-forward diets or to include alternative proteins in their weekly menus, we must work together to make the options healthy, educate the public about their benefits and then market them accordingly. In addition, conversations took place surrounding the topics of inflation and its impact on plant-based foods and their position in the market, the need for healthy manufactured food products to meet the needs of school systems looking to make a change, building truly sustainable food systems, and prioritizing diversity in the movement.
Throughout the event, cooking demonstrations were offered to highlight the ease of creating extraordinary plant-forward renditions of favorite foods from all over the world. Chefs like Palak Patel from Dash & Chutney, Fran Costigan from Rouxbe Cooking School, Amy Riolo, Charlise Rookwood, and Fabrizio Facchini were there to showcase the many taste and texture benefits of cooking with plants.
The sheer volume of delicious plant-based protein products, fungi-based protein creations and non-dairy chocolates, cheeses, ice creams, and milks being sampled made for a culinary journey through the expo room that I admit I made several times! In addition, plant-based food ingredients, supplements and beauty products were featured to offer a well-rounded representation and education for buyers in attendance about how vast the options are and how easy it is to make positive changes that their customers will embrace. During my rounds of the show floor, I had the pleasure of connecting with many of our partners and sponsors who were in attendance. Companies like Nowadays, Miyokos, Eat the Change, Clean Machine and VegNews were all present and played key roles in showing the strength and diversity of companies dedicated to creating a healthier, more sustainable and just food system. I was also introduced to some new brands (that are now new favorites), such as Fable, Mind Blown Seafood, and Nuts for Cheese. There was truly something for everyone!
The general excitement of the growth of this movement, as well as the desire for collaboration among brands to keep moving our shared mission forward, was palpable on both days. With an attendance of over 3,700 people, up roughly 20% from the year before, it is evident that the demand for plant-based products is growing exponentially, and I look forward to seeing how much the show grows again next year!
In the meantime, ECP has been asked to become an ongoing partner of the Plant Based World Expo as a result of the valuable insight that we brought to the discussion and the positive response we received afterward. Stay tuned for more information regarding our involvement with the PBW Pulse. We are excited to see what the future holds for this partnership!