How hospitality trade fair Horecava created a live streaming experience with post-Covid strategic benefits

Jeroen Doucet
Published in
5 min readMay 19, 2021


Lockdown is hard on many businesses but few are as hard hit as restaurants, bars and the event industry. So you can imagine the mood at Horecava, the largest Food & Beverage trade show in the Netherlands. Not only were they unable to organise the trade show in any physical form, but their visitors and exhibitors were struggling to keep their primary businesses going. Horecava partnered with Ex Machina Group to create Horecava Tastings, a multi-sensory experience that visitors and exhibitors loved. The strategic benefits will carry into the post-Covid world.

Horecava is a Dutch annual hospitality trade fair held in Amsterdam since 1957. It is the largest hospitality fair in the Netherlands. Every year in January over 75,000 professionals (2020) from across the industry come to Amsterdam to learn about new trends, meet each other and sample new products. Major suppliers plan their marketing strategies around this event, to launch new products, build new relationships and strengthen existing ones. This is where distillers introduce new spirits, where kitchen equipment manufacturers show their machines and where new products for fast serve are presented.

Covid-19 posed a double challenge to the Horecava team. Not only were large gatherings such as trade shows not allowed, their visitors and exhibitors were particularly affected by the Covid-19 measures. Cafes and restaurants had been closed for the better part of the year and consequently their suppliers saw demand dry up. Sentiment and budgets were at an all time low.

How could Horecava create a concept that would bring the trade fair experience to remote attendees?

The Horecava team had to fundamentally rethink how they could serve visitors and exhibitors. Bar and restaurant owners seek to be inspired and to sample new products with their peers as an important frame of reference. Suppliers to the F&B industry want to present their products in a compelling context, providing an integrated experience at scale that goes well beyond the core products. This is the essence of what trade shows bring to the marketing mix. The Horecava team had 2 months to get this venture off the ground.

Horecava partnered with Ex Machina Group to create The Horecava Tastings, unique live tastings using an interactive streaming video app and a tasting box. Earlier Ex Machina Group had successfully developed The Tasting Games, a B2C gamified tasting experience. This provided a tried and tested platform for order taking, tasting box logistics and an app-based interactive experience.

The customer journey was straightforward and frictionless:

  • Horecava invited qualified F&B professionals from their visitor database to take part in the Horecava Tastings
  • The professionals ordered a tasting box online for € 10
  • Three days before the tastings the participants received the tasting box delivered to their door
  • The box contained a flyer with instructions to download the app and get ready for the live tasting event
  • The live tasting is a 45–70 minute experience where the presenter guides the participants through the products, asking them interactive questions about the products as they sample them
  • If the participants answer questions correctly, they gain points and the winner receives a prize.

“The hospitality industry is all about experience. The Tasting Games provides a multi-sensory experience in which the visitors stay engaged”

— Florentine Rijkmans, Exhibition Manager Horecava, RAI Amsterdam

Horecava exhibitors could take part in a themed tasting — like the vegan tasting — so the product was part of a line-up of Vegan products. Or they could have a private tasting that dealt exclusively with their product. The exhibitors could make their products available in sample size, submit the questions they would like to ask and Horecava and Tastings Unlimited produced the tastings.

Results exceeded expectations

  • Within 10 days Horecava sold a full roster of Tastings for leading brands including Coca Cola, Nestlé and Garden Gourmet
  • Within days all tasting boxes were sold to qualifying F&B professionals
  • No-show percentages were well below physical events
  • Viewing times for the tastings were 223% higher than regular live streams
  • Participants rated the tastings the highest of the entire virtual conference
  • Exhibitors received a detailed and enriched database with 100’s of sales leads that attended the tastings

Horecava Tastings was a very successful format for its virtual conference, but more importantly it allowed the conference organiser to fulfill high engagement online events throughout the year. The digital platform and the interactive format allowed Horecava to collect users’ data and build usage data. This data can be useful in different ways to optimise the sales funnels of exhibitors in order to:

  • Identify which visitors to invite for high engagement events
  • Qualify the value of leads for post event follow up
  • Create online audiences for retargeting on digital media of exhibitors

Effectively Horecava Tastings adds digital marketing techniques and accountability to the physical event.

Horecava Tastings were born out of necessity, but turned out to be a strategic step forward in transforming a venue-based publisher into a digital marketplace and experience facilitator. This opens the door to tapping into exhibitors’ growing digital budgets and diversifying revenue streams. Interactive multisensory tastings are a valuable format for innovative organisers of trade fairs in the hospitality industry that seek to serve their visitors and their exhibitors in the post-Covid world.

Want to know more?

Interested what live interactive video or tasting can do for your company? We have a case video, case study and detailed benchmarks available for qualified companies. Check out for more details or contact Branco Scherer directly.

Jeroen Doucet is Chief Strategy Officer of Ex Machina Group and leads its professional services department ComingNext.TV. Ex Machina develops interactive video apps for television, on social media platforms and stand-alone. Its clients include NBC, Amazon, Fox Sports, Channel 4 UK, ZDF, Viacom, Heineken, Starcom, GazProm Media, EA and Twitch.



Jeroen Doucet

Innovating the medium formerly known as television. My day job is Chief Strategy Officer for ExMachinaGroup. Amsterdam based, but often in a hotel near you.