Gama spoke to Mark Napier, Show Director, Gulfood, ahead of the 2021 edition of the Middle East tradeshow.
What are your expectations for this edition of Gulfood?
For more than three decades, Gulfood has been at the forefront of the global industry and the 2021 edition is no different. Gulfood was the only major global F&B sourcing event to take place in 2020 and, as a result, this year’s show takes on greater significance with global F&B players eager to make up for lost time.
As the most competitive global F&B sourcing platform and first live in-person event of 2021, the 26th edition of Gulfood has been met with great anticipation globally. Industry professionals have acknowledged the importance of the show in providing unparalleled business opportunities and a great opportunity to make up for missed prospects of the past 12 months. Participants from 85 countries will be showcasing the latest products and solutions across 20 exhibitions halls at Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC).
Running from 21st – 25th February, Gulfood gives the global F&B community an unmissable opportunity to reconnect, strengthen current partnerships and explore a range of new business opportunities. Exhibitors can expect to meet buyers eager to fill their order books at the only place to get their year off to a strong start. Visitors can expect to see the most diverse and innovative F&B solutions with manufacturers eager to display their awareness of current trends through updated product lines.
Gulfood 2021 will underline the show’s endearing appeal for setting the global agenda with more than 70 high-profile industry thought leaders primed to tackle the latest sector shifts and provide invaluable insights at the much-anticipated Gulfood Innovation Summit. Running from 22nd – 24th February, the Summit will attempt to unpack the way forward for the industry from east to west, north to south, through a series of panel discussions and presentations.
Food security has entered the conscience of more consumers and raced up global government agendas amid the challenges of the past 12 months, and it will be one of the key topics under the spotlight on day one of the Summit.
As the platform to reconnect the global F&B industry, we are confident visitors will find our interactive features both engaging and pertinent for the industry’s future. ‘Tastes of the World’ is returning, giving participants an unparalleled opportunity to engage with renowned chefs and distinguished food change-makers who are revolutionising cuisines through new-age techniques and a drive for zero waste.
Some of the leading lights that will be showcasing their skills include Gal Ben-Moshe, Israel’s only Michelin Star chef, Gregoire Berger, head chef at Ossiano, Atlantis The Palm, Dubai; Matthijs Stinnissen, head chef, BOCA, Dubai; and Saradhi Dakara, group executive chef, New England Brasserie Company, among others.
Meanwhile, a Flour Kitchen; Pastry Lab; Business Bites workshops and courses; Future for Food Zone; Gulfood Start-Up Programme; Innovation Awards, and the UAE National Brewers Cup Championship will cater to all F&B needs and interests during an exciting five days at DWTC.
We are upbeat heading into this year’s show. DWTC has a proven track record of curating the safest face-to-face business environment and delivering world-class events with the highest safety protocols. This was recently validated with the success of GITEX Technology Week, the only live in-person tech event globally in 2020. Held in December, the event welcomed tens of thousands of visitors, with 96% of local and international attendees recording a ‘safe’ or ‘very safe’ experience.
Those protocols have been further intensified to account for product sampling and food handling, which are vital elements of a global F&B event 2021. Under strict guidance and coordination with Dubai Health Authority (DHA) and Dubai Municipality, Gulfood 2021 will provide the safest possible business conditions.
How should manufacturers and retailers respond to the health and economic crisis of 2020? What are the longer-term implications of the pandemic for the sector?
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected multiple sectors across the globe, including the food and beverage industry. Global lockdowns restricted people movement, impacting manufacturers, retailers and restaurants, which directly disrupted the global supply chain.
The pandemic has triggered an industry rethink on how best to maintain business continuity and put food on the tables of end consumers in such circumstances. Governments, decision makers industries, and businesses that embraced innovation and proactively managed risk have been successful in minimising the impact of the pandemic.
Agile manufacturers who listen to the consumer and stay abreast of their ever-evolving habits will come out of the pandemic with greater resilience and a competitive edge. Demonstrating a commitment to the highest standards of health and hygiene in all facets of operations has taken on even more importance.
Industry players who have optimised new technologies, from automation to AI and beyond, will continue to operate successfully. The emergence of contactless payments, online grocery purchasing, and delivery apps have indefinitely changed the way we shop and eat.
What other key trends do you expect to shape food & drinks innovation in 2021?
The past year has been an eye-opener for all and a game changer for many. It has taught us to value, respect and be ready to overcome the next big challenge. However, it has also provided opportunities for the sector to grow in new directions. Some of the key trends that we expect will shape the future of food sector in 2021 include:
- Food security: The challenges of the past 12 months have seen food security rise up both government and consumer agendas and we expect the topic to be a key trend for 2021, particularly in the GCC. The UAE National Food Security Strategy visualises the country ranking among the top 10 of the Global Food Security Index. Immediate food security goals include enhancing local food production and engaging partners to diversify F&B resources, while enacting policies and processes to reduce waste and improve nutritional impact.
- Transparency: Whether clean ingredients or ethical and responsible sourcing, consumer demand for transparency in supply chains has never been greater and that is set to continue beyond the pandemic.
- Rise in home delivery service and on-demand consuming: Omni-channel consumption has soared during the pandemic. Consumers now have more access to what they want to eat, whenever and wherever they want. Manufacturers are acknowledging this and are also bringing restaurant flavours to home cooking. Addressing convenience and demand for richer experiences will be key as we move forward.
- In touch with immunity: Recent global developments have taken the trend of prioritising immune health to new levels. With continued uncertainty surrounding Covid-19, we can expect more consumers to be on the lookout for foods that boost immune health
Gulfood, the world’s largest annual food & beverage trade show, spans more than 1 million sq ft of exhibition space, and each year welcomes over 98,000 attendees from 193 countries. In 2021, the 26th edition of the event will be held between 21st and 25th February. Exhibitors must provide hand sanitiser to visitors before the food sampling commences in a designated area within the exhibition stand. Live cooking demonstrations are permitted however food must be served on individual plates and food is to be consumed at the stand; all live cooking demonstrations must observe 2 metres social distancing. Wearing of masks will be mandatory, with social distancing in place to ensure the wellbeing of all delegates. On-site registration will not be available; registration must be completed in advance via www.gulfood.com.