Gulfood project manager Goli Vossough discusses the highlights and improvements expected at this year’s edition of the industry giant.
Looking back at Gulfood 2008, how successful was last year's event?
We were very pleased with the response to last year's exhibition thanks to the highest number of trade visitors to the exhibition - nearly 40,000 people attended.
Gulfood 2009 [will] become the largest trade event ever held in the Middle East.
In addition to the strong presence we experienced from the Middle East, there were also trade delegations from Canada, Egypt, France, Greenland, Iraq, Nigeria, Romania, Thailand, Vietnam, the UK and USA all conducting important business at the show.
What are going to be the highlights of Gulfood 2009?
This year there will be four exciting days of dedicated events and programmes, including the co-located Ingredients Middle East Exhibition, Restaurant and Café Middle East Exhibition, Emirates International Salon Culinaire, the renowned Dubai International Food and Safety Conference and a comprehensive programme especially for the beverage industry.
In bringing together the food and hospitality industry - including Restaurant & Café Middle East, which includes more industrial components such as ingredients, packaging, processing and labeling - the events will form a definitive trade platform and deliver a unique global offering.
What improvements or changes have been made to this year's show?
Following the success of last year's exhibition, Gulfood 2009 is expanding to become the largest trade event of any kind ever held in the Middle East.
The show will take place across more than 80,000m2, occupying the entire available space within Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre (DICEC) and also taking space within the additional venue at Airport Expo Dubai, creating a mega-exhibition.
For the first year Gulfood will also be co-located with Ingredients Middle East, an exhibition which caters for suppliers of raw material and ingredients for food, beverages and health food being held at Airport Expo Dubai.
The expansion of Gulfood will provide the space necessary to accommodate the hundreds of international companies who are currently on the waiting list and meet the demands for the Middle East's foodservice market, which is estimated to be worth more than US $30 billion annually.
Of this, the GCC accounts for almost $9.5 billion.
Due to the additional venue at Airport Expo Dubai, Gulfood has been able to welcome various new country pavilions such as Afghanistan, China, Egypt, India, Korea, Pakistan and South Africa.
What is the interest level for this year's show? Is the demand still there?
We are sold out for this year despite increasing the total floor space. Gulfood 2009 will welcome more than 3300 international companies keen to establish and build upon the region's reputation as an important trading hub. With more than 90% of food items in the GCC imported, new opportunities for producers and distributors are extensive and this growing market has attracted 80 government sponsored country pavilions specialising in the food and hospitality sector such Bulgaria, Iceland, Montenegro and Russia among others, as well as representation from government trade bodies and export associations.
Which exhibitors will have a major presence at Gulfood this year?
Many of the world's leading food companies will be in Dubai for the exhibition, with millions of dollars of business being done. From within the GCC we will welcome back the likes of Salehia and Sunbulah from Saudi Arabia, Juhayna and Seclam from Egypt and from within the UAE we will have Al Ghurair Foods, Al Islami and RAK. Major brands back again are Electrolux, Lamb Weston, Nestle, Sadia, San Pellegrino and many more.
What are the highlights of the conference programme running alongside Gulfood this year?
The fourth Dubai International Food Safety Conference - organised by Dubai Municipality - will be a unique meeting that will provide numerous opportunities to exchange knowledge between scientists in different research areas as well as with international policy and regulatory decision makers.
The three day conference will be held during February 24-26 and will comprise of five plenary sessions on the main theme of "Food Safety in Light of Food Security"; eight symposia on different topics; poster sessions and technical sessions.
Three pre-conference workshops will complement the main conference, making this one of the most comprehensive meetings on food safety in the region.
Some of the international names taking part this year include Dr Aisha Abushelaibi from UAE University, Dr Pete Snyder of the Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management Minnesota and Dr John P Zoller of Intertek, from Germany.
What can we expect from the Salon Culinaire this year?
The Emirates Salon Culinaire 2009 - organised by the Emirates Culinary Guild, the UAE's association of professional chefs - is a culinary extravaganza that includes seminars, competitions and demonstrations for chefs.
Taking place over four days, professional chefs from the UAE hospitality and food industry will compete against each other to highlight the service and food concepts currently prevalent within the region's hotels and restaurants.
Twenty international chefs - all of whom are approved by the World Association of Chefs' Societies - will form the salon's expert judging panel.
They will include some of the world's most distinguished chefs, such as the WACS World President Chef Gissur Gudmundsson from Iceland, the President-Mentor of the Singapore Chef's Association Chef Otto Weibel from Switzerland, the WACS Continental Director for Africa and the Middle East Chef Arnold Tanzer from South Africa, as well as others.
Special trophies will be awarded to individuals who have attained excellence at the competition in their particular field such as gastronomy, baker/pastry, or artistic. This year there is also a new award designed to encourage the development of Arabic cuisine.
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