The 20th anniversary of Gulfood: What to expect

The world’s largest annual food and hospitality trade show celebrates a significant milestone in 2015. Once again it shows its credentials as a global gateway for foodservice trade, says Michael Jones

According to the organisers of this year’s Gulfood, the largest annual food and hospitality trade show in the world, attendees may detect something of a party atmosphere in the air as the event celebrates its 20th anniversary.

“The event always has an incredible buzz, but this year will be even more special,” says Mark Napier, Gulfood’s exhibition director. “We’re looking forward to a unique and memorable celebration of the show’s achievements over the past two decades together with leading industry decision-makers, celebrity chefs, key exhibitors, customers, media and national trade bodies.”

Held on 8-12 February 2015 at Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC), Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Gulfood highlights Dubai’s strategic role as a key-trading hub for the global food industry.

The growth of the show over the past 20 years has been staggering. Inaugurated as a biennial event in 1987, the first edition of Gulfood featured 65 exhibitors and 1,600 visitors. In 2015 Gulfood will see 4,800 exhibitors attend from 120 countries with 86,000 visitors from over 170 countries, and the waiting list from exhibitors continues to grow says Napier.

“This year, in order to cater to increasing demand, we are building an additional 23,000m², purpose-built temporary structure – the largest-of-its-type regionally – as part of the 127,000m² exhibition space. The branching off of food and beverage processing industry solutions into a dedicated show, Gulfood Manufacturing, has also helped us accommodate a record number of finished food exhibitors in 2015,” he says.

Gulfood 2015 will play host to a rising number of international heads of state, ministers and government officials, as national trade associations look to seal lucrative bilateral trade agreements and join the debate at a series of food industry conferences and summits scheduled throughout the show.

“A landmark celebration, such as the 20th anniversary of Gulfood is an opportunity to reflect on the show’s growth in both scale and stature over the past two decades and to reiterate the role Gulfood continues to play in brokering significant partnerships and business deals between companies, corporations and countries around the world,” said Trixie LohMirmand, senior vice president, exhibitions & events, DWTC.

Gulfood is also a significant contributor to Dubai’s burgeoning reputation as a worldwide destination of choice and a keystone of Dubai’s 2020 tourism vision, which aims to double the emirate’s annual visitor numbers from 10 million in 2012 to 20 million in 2020. According to a recent report by analysts Euromonitor, the number of F&B outlets in the UAE is expected to double in the next four years, making foodservice equipment a particularly pertinent sector at Gulfood 2015.

“People may not be aware that Dubai is aiming to nearly double its hotel room inventory to 164,000 rooms by 2020 to cater for an expected 20 million visitors when Dubai hosts Expo 2020. Consequently, there is a huge market for leading international companies specialising in advances in kitchen design, technology and production efficiency. Gulfood is the leading platform for these suppliers to meet and network with local, regional and international hoteliers and developers – it is a very exciting proposition for the industry,” says Napier.

That of course, makes the event of great interest to FCSI and its membership. “Gulfood has successfully reinforced its position as the number one event in the region. Attending this show is a must if you want to be part of the foodservice industry market in the Middle East, a rapidly developing region. Since 2010 in particular, Gulfood has grown massively in terms of its visitors and audience base with a greater spread of international and local companies,” says Sabine Wagner, executive director, FCSI Europe, Africa and Middle East.

Based in Lebanon, Roger Obeid FCSI agrees. “Gulfood is the place to be to mix and exchange business cards. The growth of the event is easily estimated to be greater than 15-20% each year, while last year 2,700 companies were on the waiting list to get a booth. FCSI’s strategy is to enhance its image and therefore we select a few international events where we do consider our presence is important. So, Gulfood is about networking – making new opportunities and consolidating old ones – and getting information, especially for members residing or dealing with this area,” he says.

“The location and the reputation of Gulfood is attracting more and more people from all over the world,” says Serdar Sağlamtunç FCSI. “To open the doors, FCSI must bring brand power to the hospitality field so the hotels, restaurants and institutions are aware of the importance of the professional advice that will foster the awareness, recognition and reliance.”


Three key reasons to attend: 

1) Top chefs

The annual Emirates Culinary Guild International Salon Culinaire is a serious draw for top professional chefs, pastry chefs, cooks and bakers in the Middle East every year. A showcase of the region’s best culinary talent and expertise, it is held in Za’abeel Pavilion and this year’s Salon will see more than 1,300 professional chefs evaluated by a panel of 25 renowned experts, mandated by the World Association of Chefs Societies (WACS) to judge culinary events across the globe.

“The Emirates Culinary Guild International Salon Culinaire is now one of the world’s largest single entry competitions for chefs. It offers suppliers the chance to meet and consult leading regional and global chefs,” says Napier.

2) Insightful conferences

The Gulfood Conferences play a significant role in connecting key regional and international industry players in a focused environment to share knowledge, experience and expertise. The Franchise Conference, the Food Marketing Masterclass, the Halal Investments Conference and The World Food Security Summit look set to bring together ministers, government officials, policy makers and thought-leaders, as well as regional and international corporate visionaries and industry veterans to address key topics relevant to the food industry.

3) Major industry awards

Thousands of food and beverage products and services are introduced every year at Gulfood. The Gulfood Awards, now in its sixth year, presents an opportunity for best-in-class excellence to be recognised and rewarded. The 10 awards bestowed on winners celebrate both people and companies behind the region’s leadership and innovation in the food and drink industry are judged by an international panel of independent industry experts. The awards take place on 10 February 2015 at the five-star Conrad Dubai, where over 1,000 attendees are expected.

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