Gulfood Manufacturing presents a different side to the F&B industry: Group director – Portfolio Management, Exhibitions, DWTC

by Dina Maaty | Published 5 months ago

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Major global flavours and ingredients influencers set the tone for ‘food production reinvented’, which takes centre stage at Gulfood Manufacturing 2019. Mark Napier, Group Director – Portfolio Management, Exhibitions, Dubai World Trade Centre, tells us more about the exhibition.

Can you please tell us more about this year’s Gulfood Manufacturing exhibition, and the key differences between Gulfood and Gulfood Manufacturing?
Gulfood Manufacturing presents a different side to the F&B industry: this is where the industrial side of food and beverage production is showcased, so here you have the machinery, equipment and ingredients, that all go into a food processing plant.

Visitors here are the food manufacturers themselves, who are looking to do things faster, more sustainably and more profitably – that’s the real difference between the two events.

Gulfood, which will take place in February for its 25th edition, is for finished food. Gulfood Manufacturing has grown out of it, but is now of some significant scale in its own right, with some 19 exhibition halls covering over 80,000 square metres of surface area and almost 1,600 exhibiting companies from over 40 countries.

Many machinery and equipment manufacturers come here to showcase their products because they see food production in the Middle East and wider MENA region as a massive growth market for them. So, it’s a really important export opportunity, and it’s really part of our economic diversification and food security plans in region.

At exhibitions of such scale, how do you achieve synergy and what challenges have you faced?
Dubai is just a fabulous place to host exhibitions as it connects East, West, North and South, and the infrastructure here is amazing. With Expo 2020 coming up next year, our hospitality industry and hotels are booming, it’s a wonderful place to stay. Middle Eastern hospitality is very famous, so I think people enjoy coming here for a leisure destination.

Gulfood Manufacturing 2019

The most important aspect for exhibiting companies is the business that they do, as the business that they transact on the floor of the exhibition is what makes them come back year after year, meeting customers from all over the world.

We’re expecting over 35,000 visitors from over 120 countries to join us at the fairgrounds this year. They’re all investing significant sums into improving manufacturing plants, and their food and beverage processing facilities.

Our exhibitors make great business, and Dubai is an easy and enjoyable place to transact.

What are some key aspects of this year’s edition and what would you say are the focus areas being introduced?
From tomorrow, we have FoodTech Summit, where global experts will be talking about major issues and trends that are shaping the F&B manufacturing landscape: clearly sustainability, artificial intelligence, technology and automation, which are all big themes.

You’ll see many of the packaging companies that are joining us here today placing great focus on what they’re doing to help F&B producers react to consumer demands for more sustainable, environmentally friendly and lower carbon footprint products by showcasing machines, ingredients and technologies to help manufacturers do just that.

What are some new features that you would like to highlight?
We have about 200 companies who are new to the Middle East, and we do have every major ingredients and machinery manufacturer of note participating on the floor of the exhibition.

What you’ll see is new are the latest launches, innovations and the way that they have reshaped and recast their solutions in order to help manufacturers address the problems that they have.

As the show has grown in scale and reputation, it has moved from being possibly the region’s biggest industrial fair to now being recognised on a global stage; it’s such an attractive event that we have food and beverage producers travelling to the fair from as far afield as South America and China.

It really has become a global event and if you have a look at how busy the fairgrounds are, it really is packed indeed. I’m sure we’ll see a huge increase in attendance by the third day when we close, too.

Why would you tell visitors from all over the world to come to Dubai and attend these exhibitions here?
Everybody who’s in the business of selling machinery and equipment knows that these are large and significant capital expenses; exhibitors themselves will know that this is a fair that produces outstanding returns on marketing spend and there’s a very simple dynamic there.

What’s different about this show is that you have buyers coming here with real budgets, real business needs and an intent to invest in the short, medium and long term.

If one considers that the global population will grow by two billion over the next 30 years, and one billion of that growth is going to be just in Africa, we’ll see that there are a lot more mouths to feed. We need to manufacture and produce more, but we also need to be more efficient about how we produce, and produce in a more sustainable way.

These are all trends underpinned by strong market dynamics: large population growth, a part of the world that’s looking to diversify its economy, and is very concerned about food security and production, and they have significant budgets to invest in reshaping that economic environment.

What’s your outlook in anticipation of the Expo 2020?
That really is the fair of all fairs, isn’t it? Expo 2020, from how I’ve seen this event shaping up, is something that all of us who live in the region are going to be exceptionally proud of.

I think everybody is getting very excited about the enormous footfall that’s going to be generated by the Expo 2020, but also the amount of future investment that it’s going to draw into the region.

As wonderful as it is to have so many new hotels built, to be attracting over 25 million visitors to Expo 2020, as proud as we are of the event, I think the lasting legacy is of how many new investors and how many new people will be brought into the region to see how a fabulous place this is to be, what a fabulous place it is to set up a business in: this market is fantastic, conducive and somewhere that I want to expand my operation to.

I think that will be the lasting legacy of Expo 2020, but I’m certainly going to enjoy the six months to the fair and I’m sure many of our exhibitors and visitors who come and join our events will extend their visits so that they can take in the fabulous pavilions that are there at the world’s biggest fair.

Anything else you’d like to add?
You’ll see some of the new things happening around the event this year such as our new Private Label and Licensing Middle East, a fair which has a good connection with Gulfood Manufacturing in that it covers third party and contract manufacturing, and a good connection to other events we have such as yummex Middle East, which covers the sweets and snacks market.

This is where companies can come in and look at either licensing or third party production so that they can expand to meet consumer demand. We have over 120 exhibitors from 40 countries that are joining this inaugural edition. I can’t tell you what the visitor attendance is as we’re on the opening morning of the show, but it’s absolutely packed in the walkways.

There’s a very strong hosted buyer programme; there’s a meeting programme that has over 840 scheduled appointments taking place over the next two days between buyers and the exhibitors.

Moreover, we have a strong conference programme where the COO of Carrefour is explaining how they’re addressing the private label market, so I suspect that anybody that’s taking a look at that is certainly going to see how one of the biggest and most important retailers is forming its business and partner strategy in order to be able to address this enormous new market segment.

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