Virtual matchmaking: A promising online alternative to physical trade fairs

Because of the global pandemic, many physical activities were cancelled in 2020. This included trade fairs. To continue matchmaking activities, the Centre for the Promotion of Imports from developing countries (CBI) offered an online alternative. This was for European importers and Central American producers/exporters of speciality coffee, cacao, and fish and seafood. 

Central American suppliers ready for the European market

Before the B2B online meetings, CBI experts trained and prepared:

  • 8 cacao producers;
  • 23 speciality coffee producers; and
  • 7 fish and seafood producers.

To prepare for the meetings, the Central American producers and exporters completed their profiles and product offers. Sector experts then promoted the exporters and their products to European buyers. This resulted in 23 registered buyers in the coffee sector, 9 in the cacao sector and 14 in the fish and seafood sector.

Via the platform B2Match, buyers and sellers of speciality coffee and cacao products scheduled meetings and discussed business. Online B2B meetings for the fish and seafood sector took place through Skype and Zoom. In total, 63 meetings took place through the B2Match platform and 21 through Skype or Zoom.

Successful online meetings

Everyone appreciated the meetings, especially considering the circumstances. The online B2B event was a fast and cost-effective way to discuss pricing, volumes, quality, certificates and potential deals. It was also a great way to make new contacts. One speciality coffee importer shares her experience:

“There were definitely a couple of interesting supplier leads. It was an interesting mix of company styles, a bit of everything from larger exporters to small-scale producer-exporters or producer groups. The majority of the meetings were definitely worth my time. I would be interested in participating again in the next edition.” Sofie Nys, Sustainable Purchasing Manager at Sucafina Specialty.

In all 3 sectors, orders were placed as a result of the online B2B meetings. Mr Juan Pablo from Nahua in Costa Rica said, “the buyers we met with were very professional, focused and no time was wasted. We even received some first orders.”

View the B2B online meeting results infographics for:

Lessons learnt

To successfully set up an online B2B meeting event, planning enough time to prepare is essential. Just like at a physical trade fair, it is important for exhibitors to be ready for the visitors. That way, everyone can focus on discussing business.

During the event, it is important that a support team is ready to assist where needed. This could be for technical issues or to remind participants about their upcoming meetings.

Meet Central American fresh fruit and vegetable exporters and producers

The online B2B meeting event was an effective alternative to physical trade fairs. It provided the chance to meet new business contacts from across the globe quickly and cost-effectively. The online B2B events for the speciality coffee, cacao, and fish and seafood sectors are finished. But, for fresh fruit and vegetables, you can still schedule meetings with Central American exporters and producers.

The online B2B event took place as part of the Connecting Central America initiative. The European Union (EU) funds this initiative. And the Central American Economic Integration Secretariat (SIECA) coordinates it.

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