The Weird and the Wonderful

Gulfood never fails to impress, and 2018 was no different as the largest and oldest annual food and hospitality event hosted five of the most pivotal days on the Middle Eastern industry’s calendar

Celebrating more than three decades of success since its inception back in 1987, Gulfood reaffirmed its position as the world’s largest annual food and hospitality event between 18-22 February, 2018, welcoming more than 90,000 trade visitors from as many as 150 countries through its doors over the course of the five days.

Marking a new era, its revolutionary change in layout, format and experience focused on aspects of accessibility and trading potential as well as the core range of foods & beverages that make up the globe’s primary commodity trading sectors: beverages, dairy, fats and oils, health, wellness and free-form, pulses, grains and cereals, meat and poultry, power brands and world food.

Taking place at the Dubai World Trade Centre in the UAE, more than 5,000 participating companies shared their expertise and industry thoughts cross 120 national pavilions, thus formulating the complete who’s who of relevant regional and global sector protagonists.

Over the course of the five days, the event showcased its now traditional and awaited functions, as well as a host of newly introduced forums, to ultimately ensure the best edition of the expo to date.

Day one - welcome!

His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and UAE Minister of Finance, opened Gulfood 2018, the 23rd edition of the world’s largest annual food and beverage trade show at Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC).

Spread across one million square feet of exhibition space, Gulfood’s status as the world’s first major food and beverage trade event of the year was respected as more than 90,000 food industry professionals and 120 exhibiting county pavilions took centre stage; consequently welcoming international heads of state, ministers, government officials and national trade associations.

The Gulfood Awards also took place on the evening of this first, much-anticipated day.

“The F&B industry in the UAE and wider region is thriving, which provides a diverse range of business opportunities for local, regional and international companies alike,” said Trixie LohMirmand, Senior Vice President, Exhibitions & Events, DWTC. “Gulfood continues to serve as the industry benchmark and is the ideal platform for industry professionals looking to network and explore new business avenues.”

Day two - Vive Le France!

His Excellency Ludovic Pouille, the French Ambassador to the UAE, stole the show on a day which focused on the notion of innovation, as he praised Gulfood as a “strategic gateway” for French food and beverage producers exploring increased export potential across the rapidly emerging consumer markets of the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

“This is my first Gulfood and I am very impressed with the show,” said Ambassador Pouille. “Gulfood is not only a UAE event, it is a worldwide event. We’re expecting almost 100,000 visitors from every corner of the globe with a focus on guests from the Middle East, India and Africa - hopefully most of these visitors pass through the four French pavilions. It’s very important for our companies to discover new markets and Gulfood is the place to achieve this. I am sure Gulfood will be a great success for us - we have 70-plus companies this year; next year we want to see more than 100.”

He continued: “The current total of French exports to the Middle East can only increase because when you speak about food, you speak about France. We already have established export markets in Saudi Arabia and the UAE but there are huge opportunities in other countries, specifically Egypt, the largest country in the region in terms of population, as well as Pakistan and India. These are all big growth markets and we look forward to increasing our export presence in each of them.

“Gulfood is a key vehicle to boosting our export targets in 2018; the show is a strategic gateway into new markets and increasing our trade levels across a geographically diverse spread of nations where we see growing consumer spending power.”

Day three - Innovation tops the menu

The word on everyone’s lips remained ‘innovation’ in the aftermath of day one’s awards and virtue of the Discover Zone’s growing popularity.

And with cutting-edge technologies and product evolutions topping the menu at this year’s Gulfood, two of the UAE’s leading food producers claimed three notable accolades at the Gulfood Innovation Awards.

On day one, the UAE’s Global Food Industries more than held its own against an international field of food innovators to claim gongs for Best Halal Food Innovation and Best Meat & Poultry Innovation, while Hunter Foods Ltd. FZCO took home the award for Best Organic Innovation. The two firms’ trio of gongs ensured the UAE’s top ranking on the night, notching more category wins than any other country.

This regional success was still reverberating around the expo two days later as local pride and international innovation continued to spark intrigue among the thousands in attendance.

Mark Napier, Gulfood show director, stated: “The UAE companies’ wins reflect the maturing food production landscape both domestically and across the wider region. It’s no secret that Arab Gulf states are working extremely hard to reduce their over-reliance on food imports and these wins show that when the right ingredients are in place, homegrown companies can more than compete on the international arena.”

Day four - Weird and wonderful

As the curtain readied itself to descend on the 23rd edition of Gulfood, industry professionals from all over the world embarked on a frantic penultimate day of product sourcing, networking and business generation meetings across 120,000 square metres - or 17 football pitches - of exhibition space.

And while more than 5,000 exhibiting companies’ products at this year’s Gulfood were conveniently split into eight sectors dedicated to core food stuffs and commodities, trawling the expansive halls and temporary structures to mine the latest innovative and on-trend health snacks, juices, meats, dairy goods, rice, grains and much, much more required careful planning.

Gulfood naturally obliged in listing the 10 weirdest and most wonderful pavilions to attend: Indigenously Rice; Lollypop Tree; Spreading Good; Brewer’s Best; Hydration to Lift Your Spirits; Meating Expectations; Guilt-free Ice Cream; Spicy Ice; A Root to Remember; and Pro Colombia.

Day five - Roaring interest

As the Ibrik Championship winners from the past five days were announced, the fallout and reviews from the event were already being expressed, and one immediate beneficiary came immediately to light in the form of Saudi Arabia.

As the country presses ahead with multi-industry economic diversification, a key pillar of its National Vision 2030, the head of the Saudi Exports Development Authority (Saudi Exports) revealed an ambitious target of non-oil products contributing 50 percent of the country’s exports by 2030.

With the Kingdom continuing to generate global headlines for a series of high profile socio-economic reforms being ushered in by its progressive, forward-thinking Government, the Gulf region’s largest economy is spearheading a plethora of industrial drives to decrease a longstanding over-reliance on oil revenues and Gulfood emerged as a crucial enabler in increasing food trade exports,

“This year we have about 50 companies at the Saudi national pavilion and another 65 outside in other sectors. That’s more than 100 companies, exhibiting more than 200 products. People are interested and want to know about Saudi products. There’s not even time for ‘Hello’, it’s just straight down to business,” enthused Faisal A. Alhammad, Manager, Export Promotion Department, Saudi Exports. “Gulfood is very important to us, and this is our fifth time with a Saudi pavilion. We have more than 100 companies and I hope in the future we can have 100 more. This is a great platform for us to increase our exports across the GCC, Middle East, Africa and Europe. That includes food and the whole range of industries.”