Gulfood Manufacturing and Yummex return for major sector showcase

Gulfood Manufacturing returns after a two-year break due to the pandemic, and plans are shaping up strongly, as Neill Barston discovered in an exclusive interview with show director Mark Napier

With the coronavirus pandemic of the past 18 months having cast a major shadow over the prospect of holding live events, the return of Gulfood Manufacturing in Dubai this November is particularly welcome.

Last year’s planned edition was among the many leading international trade fairs that were unable to be staged due to health and safety considerations, yet the UAE has led the way in enable a return to physical shows this year. As for Gulfood, there has been a notable sense of expectation around its return after two years, offering a major showcase for some of the most impressive technological breakthroughs across packaging, processing and wider systems for the food sector, including for confectionery and bakery markets.

The last edition of the event in 2019, placed a huge spotlight on the potential for greater levels of automisation, AI and robotics delivering advanced production methods that offered some key inspiration for sector leaders. With multi-billion investment in equipment and technology being placed into the UAE region, there was a clear sense of anticipation surrounding the last show, which attracted a total of 1,600 exhibitors.

This year has seen major sector businesses as diverse as Cargill, Tate & Lyle, as well as machinery and systems firms including GEA, Cama, Aasted and Theegarten-Pactec among many others from around the world set to once again participate.

Similarly, the companion Yummex sweets and snacks events attracted a blend of major global brands including Mondelez and Hershey, joining regional manufacturers eager to tap into the Middle East’s fast-evolving confectionery sector as it continues its positive growth trajectory.

As event director Mark Napier (below) reveals, there is a similar level of anticipation surrounding this year’s sector showcases, including a separate private label segment event, which are all set to attract a truly global audience between 7-9 November –  see our exclusive video interview with him, as well as Denis Steker, of Koelnmesse, here.

“We have very high expectations for the 14th edition of this year’s events. We’re excited to be providing this live, in person platform for all of the major players across industry to come together again in a safe environment for three days of networking and most importantly, deal making. “Yummex is the number one sweets and snacks event for the Middle East region, it has a proven track record of meeting the demands of a growing market.

For us at the Dubai World Trade Centre, having hosted hosted 56 in-person events over the past year, we know that we can conduct such trade fairs in a safe manner, and we’ve seen people realise that the best business is done face-to-face,” explains the show director, who notes that both visitors and exhibitors alike have continued to value the opportunity to explore and experience both equipment and systems, as well as finished products which can only truly be best done through attending physical shows.

Reflecting on the pandemic, he adds that lack of being able to stage Gulfood Manufacturing in 2020 was a ‘big disappointment’ which he felt would make this year’s revived event even more special. While final details of the shows are being brought together, the trade fairs have garnered a strong reputation for their education seminars majoring on topical manufacturing themes covering everything from new technology, areas for key investment, and examination of sustainable operating practices.

This year’s Gulfood Manufacturing is anticipated to be just as engaging in terms of its speaker programmes forming part of its overall showcases. “This is a great opportunity for the confectionery sector to reconvene, and explore how consumer behaviour has been shifting in recent times. “In this part of the world, face-to-face business is critically important, and now that we are back, have seen huge interest in seeing our shows return,” adds Napier, who says that despite the broader pandemic conditions that have posed multiple issues for manufacturing sectors, he notes there continues to be a renewed sense of optimism within the region.

“For Gulfood Manufacturing, it will be the number one show in 2020/2021, because nothing else has run, and we’ve been the only part of the world that has been able to pull this off, delivering across 14 exhibition halls. Yummex alone has exhibitors from 33 countries and 250 global players, so it’s become a very powerful show in its own right.”

As Napier added, the pandemic has seen ‘a different demand pattern’ for confectionery and snacks within the region, as well as within the wider global market, and he believed that there would be a diverse array of innovation on show. As he explained, the event has typically attracted a strong mix of major international confectionery brands (over 250 key businesses are expected),  combining with a wealth of regional players.

“The concept behind Yummex, is that international suppliers can meet the whole regional marketplace – they are joining us here to meet customers and prospective customers from some of the most important growth markets, with the chocolate market here being one of the most important in the world. Many people that I talk to, have told me that Africa is such an important developing market as well. With global populations set to rise from 7billion to 9billion by 2050, 1 billion of that is coming from the African region, so there’s going to be a lot more consumers of snacks and confectionery, which is something that buyers are aware of, with Dubai being a gateway to the whole of that market,” enthused the show’s director.

He added that the significant growth trend had been supported by major infrastructure projects between the UAE and Africa that underscored their longstanding relationship, which in turn made trade events within Dubai particularly notable for the region.

Dubai Expo 2020

Notably, the combined events will also be held alongside the newly rescheduled Expo 2020, celebrating global innovation, technology and culture, which is anticipating a total of 25 million visits across six months, opening at the start of October.

Denis Steker, senior vice president international, Koelnmesse, who is working on the global event’s German pavilion said: “We’re really excited about the Expo – our perspective is very much on delivering the German pavilion, but we have just had a big tour through the venue and it is fantastic. It is all there, just waiting for a big audience from all over the globe. It shows the world that we are getting back to a new normal. “For us, it’s a good exercise to learn a lot on how we can contribute to these kinds of shows and how to manage them.”



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