Packed with more space, more exhibitors and more special features than ever before, Gulfood 2010 looks set to welcome record-breaking numbers of visitors - and exhibitors from all over the world will be there to make the most of it.
As the region's biggest F&B trade show, Gulfood has long been a staple of the industry's culinary calendar.
Every year, exhibitors from all over the world flock to Dubai for the last week of February, looking to form new partnerships, establish regional distribution and cement old friendships.
But after a rocky couple of years surviving the economic downturn, this year's exhibitors are proceeding with caution.
Some companies are simply looking to form good, old-fashioned distributor partnerships, or make contacts in the Middle East.
Joanne Adirim, chief executive and corporate pastry chef at HannahMax Baking - an artisan company that develops desserts for the HORECA industry - explains: "Our goal is to develop business with foodservice distributors who sell into both the HORECA industry and retail stores."
Chocolate World sales manager Tommaso Santi adds that he will be seeking out local dealers who are not only able to "correctly represent our products, but also our philosophy".
Meanwhile others are looking to attract visitors from further afield.
Solia marketing manager Odile Lavail notes: "Gulfood is an international fair; so we will be searching for new distributors in markets such as India."
Diamond Meat Processing's Zenath Group manager of business development Mohammad Naseem will also be taking advantage of the opportunity to form partnerships further afield, primarily in North and Central Africa.
For some old hands, the show acts as an excellent platform to refresh existing relationships, as well as make new ones.
Andy Mannhart AG business development manager Jomy John explains: "We aim to get constructive feedback from existing clients, to improve our service."
A Ronai managing director Gavin Dodd agrees: "For our type of products it is very difficult to get anything tangible from any exhibition, but we hope that we will be able to continue reinforcing our message that we want to be a professional supplier to the hospitality industry. We will also be introducing our new sales executive, Lani Mandrea, who will be based in Bahrain."
Sodiko sales manager Hilde Vanholst notes that personal relationships are key to success in this industry, adding: "Honesty and trust are vital; the relationship between producer and customer is very important and makes a big difference when building business."
Other companies are seeking to launch new product lines with a bang. Heat and Control Pty Ltd marketing executive Amber Crowley reveals: "We will promote the latest processing innovations for the continuous food industry, specifically showcasing the Revolution Seasoning System (RSS)."
Similarly, Australian-based Capilano Honey will promote its new Snap ‘n' Squeeze line, while J V Overseas Trading Limited - part of a business conglomerate crossing various sectors, but primarily focused on tea - will promote its new umbrella brand SUPER, while Willemse & van Engelen Bakkerijimachines, a manufacturer of jelly- and confectionary-spraying machines, will be demonstration various models at its stand.
But hopefully for all these players, Gulfood will be the starting point for a more substantial regional focus.
Extrexport general manager Antonio Tena expands: "We are not in the region just for four days of Gulfood; we are here to stay. For instance, we are planning some culinary events organised by Extrexport with some local partners in Dubai and Kuwait for spring 2010."
Whatever their individual goals, exhibitors will undoubtedly be hoping for significant positive return from the Dubai-based trade fair.
As Orego Packaging Co's president of the board, Ali Karaarslan, comments: "Last year was all about crisis conditions; 2010 is going to be an attack period."
Many exhibitors remain bullish, looking to build on successful regional results from 2009 - such as Commodities International.
"Last year was our first foray into this market; we had some success and are hoping to build on that as the economy starts to rebound," explains managing director for Atlanta, Tony Burnes.
Alberto Grandi, owner of automatic packaging and packing machines manufacturer Grandi, agrees: "Business in the Middle East market is growing year by year. This is the reason why we expect to get great results from this exhibition."
Meanwhile American Food Service actually saw 10% growth in the Middle East, reveals director Gerard Chin-A-Kwie - and Bon Chef Inc. president Sal Torre says although the downturn may have affected the whole world, "we still managed to get some nice orders from Dubai".
Similarly, Sencha Naturals' highest single order was in the Middle East, with A Ronai managing director Gavin Dodd agreeing that 2009 was "a very good year", yielding slight growth in core product sales for the tableware company.
"We have a few concerns for 2010 as there are very few projects in the final stages of construction, which is when they buy our type of products," Dodd admits. "But we hope to see an improvement near the end of the year as things get back on track."
Saffron supplier Safinter faced a challenging past year, but is optimistic about the future. "Our business in 2009 was quite challenging due to the negative impact of the recession combined with a severe shortage of saffron, due to low production," explains sales and marketing manager Surinder Mendirata.
"But due to improved production methods and better weather conditions during the recently concluded November 2009 saffron harvest in Spain, the crop has been better than previous years."
However others are not going to count their chickens before they're hatched, and remain reserved with their predictions for the next 12 months.
Kassatly Chtaura managing director Nayef Kassatly comments: "2009 was an average year and we expect to do the same in 2010, with no major improvement."
As Friedrich Ingredients founder Reinhard Friedrich notes, "money is tight".
"We hope that business will improve in the region after second quarter, but most probably it will take a few more years to recover," he predicts.
Extrexport general manager Antonio Tena does not believe 2010 will be a fantastic year for the Middle East F&B industry, but ends on a positive note: "Those firms succeeding in these turbulent waters will be in an excellent position once the good winds are back."
With plenty of exciting offerings to draw visitors in, there is no doubt exhibitors will see a lot of interest; whether that will be converted into revenue-driving deals remains to be seen.
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