Exclusive: Extended Gulfood Manufacturing 2023 event review

As it nears its decade milestone, Gulfood Manufacturing has grown from strength to strength across equipment, systems and ingredients markets for the Middle East, as editor Neill Barston reports.

The ninth edition of Gulfood Manufacturing in Dubai delivered a host of key machinery advances, as major manufacturers from around the world assemble to showcase their latest equipment, systems and ingredients. (You can also view our exclusive video review of Gulfood Manufacturing here).

In a year that has seen the long-awaited return of Interpack in Germany, and an array of other major packaging and processing showcases, this Middle East showcase has maintained its status as the pivotal launch-pad for machinery and technology destined for the wider region. With a total of 3,000 exhibitors participating, Confectionery Production played its part as a media sponsor for the event, has spoken to a number of businesses at the show on their latest developments.

Notably, with MENA region’s food market recently valued at $383 billion, according to research from GlobalData, the corresponding demand for systems and equipment serving the market, including its confectionery and snacks segments, remains particularly strong.

Visitors from around the world took to the halls of Dubai’s World Trade Centre for the opening of the three-day industry extravaganza which attracted an engaging mix of major corporations and machinery firm, as well as independent businesses and organisations covering the sector’s full value chain.

The event also took place for the final time directly alongside ISM Middle East, providing a platform for more than 350 sweets and snacks businesses, with the show set to move to a new timeframe from September 2024.

Exhibitor reaction
Speaking to Confectionery Production, UK equipment manufacturer, BCH, believed there had been encouraging footfall for the start of the event, as the company showcased its lines such as liquorice extrusion machinery.

Lee Fish (above), technical sales and process engineer with the business, commented: “The response has been quite positive, as we have had a good response from visitors from both sides of our company, across food processing and confectionery.

“Gulfood is a show that has been developing well over the years, so it’s been a good one for us to do. You never know the results for it in terms of leads that you get, but the feeling we’ve had so far is that it will be a positive show.

“We’ve had customers from quite a few countries in the region, including Saudi Arabia, looking at our liquorice extrusion systems, which is an area of demand for us,” explained the engineering specialist, who revealed that the business is enjoying notably busy times, continuing to expand its Lancashire headquarters. Similarly, fellow UK equipment firm, Wirebelt, struck an upbeat tone in its assessment of the event.

Ben Thomason, consultant for the Kent- based group, said: “It started a little quietly, but it has been picking up in the afternoon, and if we keep it to that level across the three days with some good leads, then that is what we are looking for.

Wirebelt at Gulfood Manufacturing

“This is my fourth year here of being here. As a business, with us being dominant in Europe, we’re looking to expand into other areas – there has been some enthusiasm for

our range of products and people are recognising them,” he enthused, stating there has been a strong emphasis on its advanced hygienic line, offering features including being easier and quicker to fit than previous iterations of its portfolio.

As he continued, its systems have targeted confectionery and wider food market customers that are seeking high quality belting systems, which can help alleviate production issues that can lead to product recalls through its reliable and accurate technology.

For its part, ingredients group Kerry also proved among the more striking stands at this year’s show, offering a spotlight on its core range of applications for the industry, including for snacks and confectionery.

Leanna Mix, marketing director for the business, noted the opening day had proved a success for the business, as it reaches out with bespoke solutions for the sector.

She said: “We have been focusing on sustainable nutrition within our portfolio, but confectionery is still part of the business, as it’s something that people are always going to want.

“We look at creating local intelligence, and the sweets here in the Middle East have their own gorgeous identity. Many of them use a lot less processing steps in them than other locations, and are a lot more naturally based. So, we’re seeing a lot of interest in things like Turkish delight, because these are key for the region, so we’re making a real effort to customise our products.”

As she added, there are textural and flavour preferences that have been specific to the region, which the company is continuing to hone in on, but that a creation of new fusions has opened up possibilities for its applications. Also in the ingredients sector, Denmark’s Palsgaard attracted customers from around the globe to its stand. Peter Gruntvig Nielsen, marketing manager for the firm’s confectionery sector, explained that the company’s return to Dubai had proved worthwhile.

He added: “The organisers know what they are doing with it all, they have been very helpful, so we are pretty happy with it.  “It’s definitely a priority for us to be present here in this region, which is huge in terms of its potential. This is THE show for this region, so we have to be here.

“We are promoting our AMP ingredients (reducing the volumes of cocoa butter required for chocolate, as well as improving viscosity), which have been shortlisted for the best ingredient innovation here, so we are hopeful regarding that,” adding that while the business had become established in terms of its presence for the region, he believed there remained significant room for further growth with its portfolio of applications across confectionery, bakery dairy and wider food markets.

Furthermore, Simone Bouman (below), VP sales and sustainable food solutions EMEA, at Corbion, observed that the business was experiencing a significant level of demand for its applications.

“This has extended to the Middle East, with a large volume of visitors seeking to learn more about its latest market offerings, including for confectionery.

“As a company we have focused a lot on product preservation, as well as textures, food safety and shelf life, which have been the big themes this year.

“When it comes to confectionery, we have looked at preserving textures, as well as sugar reduction, as well as enhancing the taste of products, which have been part of our overall presence here.

“For the MENA region, we have talked with customers here, and invent solutions, and for this region there’s still a lot of batch production with companies producing candies in batch cookers, rather than continuous lines, which are completely different and requires a different approach.”

Market sophistication
As far as ingredients for chocolate and cocoa are concerned, Cargill believed there had been an excellent response from visitors in the region to its stand.
Cem Beysel, product line director for the company’s Middle East, Turkey & Africa division, enthused that the stand, including its tasting experience booth, had been notably busy.
He said: “Gulfood is a show that we attend each and every year, as we think it’s important to be here, it’s a credible event with major customers visiting.
“We want to showcase our existing and new products. Accordingly, despite the costs involved, we still think it’s worth being here. We are operating in the region from Istanbul, and the Gulf region, Dubai, Saudi, Kuwait, Bahrain and Kuwait, is a sophisticated market where customers have the purchasing power, as well as demand for high-end products.

Cargill at this year’s Gulfood.

“So there is room for innovation, and we enjoy working with companies who deliver these solutions to consumers, making it a unique place.
“When we look into indulgence categories of chocolate and confectionery, taste is the main thing that customers are looking for, but on the other hand, there’s something known as ‘guilt-free indulgence’, so as people indulge themselves with good food, now, especially the new generation becomes more conscious about having less sugar, calories and fat, so that creates room for new products, which is what we are trying to achieve.”

He added that in other segments, particularly within sweeteners, the business is in the process of reformulating a number of products. For these, he said that its target was to maintain textures and flavours, without losing in the taste stakes, as well as examining how healthier profiles for ranges could be created.

Cargill’s teams were on hand to demonstrate new products recently at Gulfood Manufacturing, and are set to do so again at FIE. Pic: Neill Barston

Premium brand opportunities

Another especially prominent exhibitor was chocolate and cocoa business, Barry Callebaut, represented by its longstanding Dubai partner, EMF Trading. As previously reported, the major Swiss-headquartered confectionery group has recently delivered a new chocolate academy at the Burj Khalifa landmark building in Dubai.

This forms part of the global network of Barry Callebaut centres of excellence, which have made a notable impact for the business in raising its profile. Speaking to Confectionery Production, Marwan Ayoub, marketing manager of EMF Trading, enthused that this year’s event had been especially momentous.

“We carry all the Barry Callebaut brands here, as well as other chocolate and confectionery lines, from cocoa powder to decorations for cakes, so we do everything. “For Gulfood Manufacturing, with it being an industrial show, we have tried to reflect this with our stand.

This year, we have had lots of meetings with people from across the region, from India, Pakistan and Iran, which is something that pushes us to come back. It’s a real hub for business,” noted Ayoub, who asserted that the creation of the chocolate academy had made the business a ‘one-stop shop’ for confectionery requirements within the region. As the team added, the facility recently hosted the regional launch of Barry Callebaut’s Second Generation chocolate, a much-hyped line of premium chocolate inspired by artisan production principles that has been hailed as a ‘game changer’ for the company. Similarly, the team noted there was an encouraging level of interest in its newly released Van Houten brand for chocolatiers and chefs seeking high grade compounds.

Confectionery potential
As Hussam Yaccoub, vice president of sales, Middle East for Tate & Lyle discussed, the sector has held particular promise in the region, as it has continued to evolve rapidly.

“The show has been very interesting for us, it’s a very good gateway to demonstrate the solutions that we can bring to the market, especially in the areas of sugar and calorie reduction, and providing healthier, tasty food, so the reaction has been really good here. The interaction we have had with people has been phenomenal,” observed the VP, who added that he is relishing his role, having arrived at the business earlier this year.

“It has been a personal joy being part of the business, gaining a lot of learning, and I hadn’t imagined just how diverse and interesting Tate & Lyle is as a business. And given the diversity of the region here, we are in a unique position to provide industry solutions,” added Yaccoub.

Equipment developments

This year’s Dubai show did not disappoint in the equipment stakes, despite being in the shadow of this year’s Interpack, which saw the lion’s share of full machinery launches.

Among key players, TNA showcased its latest range of equipment for the confectionery and snacks packaging and processing industry.

Bindu Panicker, communications manager, felt there had been some “really busy days.” She said: “We have some really good leads that we may be converting into business, and we’re very happy with that.

“We consider this as an important show for us to be at in the region, which is why we have enhanced our presence here – last time we were at the back of the hall but have moved to a more central location. It’s been a really good move for us.

“Sustainability and digitalisation are our two main themes, and we have gone with complete digital branding for the show, which has allowed us to be more dynamic,” explained the marketing specialist, who noted that among the highlights of its stand stood the Robag 3e snacks processing line, with its auto-splice system that also formed an integral part of its appearance at this year’s Interpack event.

“For us, it has been about coming to the market with our complete solutions, and we have done a lot of projects in this region that are of that nature. This year, we are getting an especially large amount of interest in our potato chip line, with a number of enquiries coming through from Saudi Arabia in particular,” added Bindu, noted that the heightened level of interest from Dubai’s near neighbours was likely linked to the creation of the new Saudi version of the show that is set to take place next autumn.

Gulfood Manufacturing 2023. Pic: Neill Barston

Commenting on its extended facilities with a fresh manufacturing site in Sydney, she concluded: “Our new site in Sydney al- most triples our capacity, which we have
developed with consumer demands changing so fast, we need to deliver shorter lead times. One of our primary objectives for the site is in handling gummies within the sector, and we can now build more, and build faster.”

Increasing demand

Elsewhere in the show, Italy’s Cama packaging group also enjoyed a notable reaction from an eclectic range of visitors to the event, attending from around the world.
Renato Dell’Oro, regional sales manager, noted: “It’s been amazing and very busy here, and we now have many projects to study now, so it’s a good opportunity for us to explore the local market here.

“For this region, confectionery, as well as snacks and bars are all relevant to the area, as well as date-based products are popular, and we do a lot of Maamoul cake packaging here, so we have been busy for confectionery in this region,” he added, revealing that top loading packaging systems were among the most requested of its systems in the UAE. Meanwhile, from the UK, MacIntyre Chocolate Systems was among this year’s UK pavilion, showcasing its core Refiner Conche processing system, which came under the spotlight at this year’s World Confectionery Conference.

George Johnston, sales manager, ex- plained that as a regular exhibitor, the event offered a valuable chance to engaged with new and old contacts in the Middle East.
He said: “This year we’re releasing some new concepts – we have our refiner conche which has been around since the 1970s, and we’re combining that with a horizontal conche that we are calling the fusion 6000, which will allow you to refine quickly, pass through to a horizontal wet conche, that enables an almost doubling of refining capacity.”

As he noted, the outlook for the business in the Middle East was particularly promis- ing, due to the fact that its parent company has maintained a well-defined footprint in the region.

Strong order pipeline
For its part, Germany’s Theegarten-Pactec posted a strong showing at this year’s event. President and CEO, Markus Rustler (below), detailed that the business was making the most of ‘the huge success’ of Interpack earlier this year, which delivered much-needed momentum for the industry.

“Gulfood has developed very nicely over the years, the amount of visitors has improved, and the quality is also good, with people coming from the Middle East, as well as India and Eastern Africa, which are all key markets for us.

“The German Pavilion has been moved to its present location, but from speaking to other exhibitors, this year’s show has been better than last year, so we’re very happy.”
As he stated, the business is keen to push forward with its research and development in the wake of Interpack, which proved a welcome re-set for the industry amid nota- ble tests to the sector.

“There have been a lot of projects this year since Interpack, with order books filling rapidly, so we are back on track after Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine, so everything looks promising at the moment.”

Though he acknowledged that challeng- es persisted with regards to inflation and currency exchange in territories around the world, he explained that the wider pressures on supply chains with regards to component supplies had begun to ease, which pointed to further improvement in the market.

In terms of its wider sales, the CEO noted that it was encouraging that the business continued to enjoy take-up for its packaging systems, including noting buoyant demand in Africa, which he said had increasingly shown demand for automated solutions against a backdrop of shortage of labour, as with many locations around the world.
Meanwhile, for its part, French-based machinery maker Dumoulin, also reported a considerable improvement with its appearance in contrast to previous years.
Julien Mouron, area sales manager, said: “We haven’t been at Gulfood since 2017 – it wasn’t very successful then, but we have done much better this time.
“Historically speaking, the coating machines relate to sugar dragees and later came chocolate ones that are developed for products like Maltesers, as well as chewing gum.

But recently we have seen demand for products including jelly beans, for which there are a lot of alternatives,” explained the regional sales director.
He added that while costs for its flagship models may well have risen in recent years, as with any major manufacturer, the company is trying to meet demand from all segments in devising a budget-friendly series of equipment.

As he asserted, that MENA region had presented key opportunities in helping meet demand for an ever-more elaborate range of customer products, with some promising leads for the business.

Regional growth
Also impressed by this year’s proceedings, Wouter Tanis, chief commercial officer for Tanis Confectionery, felt there were some promising developments to have emerged from this year’s showcase, with interest in its core machinery for gummy production.

He said: “This is my first time visit- ing the show and to Dubai itself, and it’s somewhere that my dad and grandfather had been previously, as there are a lot of opportunities out here.

“It’s somewhere that we were are really trying to develop the company – candy is made everywhere in the world, and maybe we could have a piece of that here.
“It’s an amazing city, with a lot of technology here. I liked it though I’ve a lot more to discover about it.

“I think there are a lot of business people here, and its different culture, which makes it interesting. They are looking for other kinds of flavours for their candies – there are many factories in the region, and the market for gummies here is new. There has been a big market for biscuits out here but the confectionery market is evolving, so let’s see what happens with it. I hope we have a bright future here.”

Meanwhile, Sahib Dhiman, director of equipment group Latini, which has its base in Chicago, US, reported a strong show, amid a period of notable growth for the business, which is in the process of evaluating expanded production facilities to meet market demand.

The senior executive noted that there had been a perceived general upturn in the confectionery market, including for machinery within gummy manufacturing, which the company has responded to with its own machinery lines.

Significantly, he explained that enhancing the automation levels within its confection- ery making and packaging machines across candy, toffee, chocolate and gum segments.

The response this year has been pretty good, it feels like the visitor numbers have increased and at Gulfood we have always had productive enquiries. It’s been a busy year with exhibitions in Tanzania, Germany and exhibitions in India as well, as well as Pack Expo in the US.

“So, we try to make sure that we’re everywhere, offering reassurance to our customers around the world,” commented Dhiman, on a rewarding 2023.

“It’s good to be able to showcase our new developments as a business – there’s been a lot happening in the Gulf region, and with prices of imports to the region
increasing, people are looking to set up their own production facilities,” added the director, who explained the company has a dedicated service team in the region that had made a significant difference to its operations.

Boom year
On the checkweighing and product inspection side of the equipment sector, Ishida also noted it had gained significant interest in its present genera- tion of systems. Matt Eastham, general manager for the Middle East, reflected positively on this year’s event.

“It’s been another boom year, which is something we seem to see every year here, and it never fails to materialise. We have our existing customers, as well as new customers coming through, so there seems to be a lot of activity in the region at the moment, especially with places like Saudi Arabia, which has been evident at the show.”

Moreover, he added that there had been significant interest in its recently-launched tray sealing system, as well as equipment developed for the snacks pro- cessing segment, in addition to demand for its core checkweighing systems that have set a strong industry benchmark.

Indeed, with key equipment and ingredients businesses represented from around the world, the event smartly drew together the best of the entire value chain to offer an ever-expanding range of solutions for a region that has continued set the pace for global industry developments.


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