Gulfood 2008 will be the lucky thirteenth time the event has been held, cementing its position as an industry stalwart and must-see event.
Gulfood is returning to Dubai bigger and better in 2008, with a larger exhibition, more exhibitors, new products and an expected increase in visitors.
Last year more than 37,000 people from the hospitality and food manufacturing industry visited the show, with buying delegations from more than 30 different countries.
We have an impressive growth of 20% in 2008.
Although 80% of the visitors were from the GCC and wider Middle East region, a large number of visitors travelled from Asia, Africa and Europe to attend - hotel and resort management employees made up 9.9% of the total visitor numbers, and a further 7.1% managed restaurants, bars, clubs and cafes.
Highlights of this year's show include the popular Salon Culinaire, which pits chefs from across the region against each other in a competition of skills, and the food safety conference, which runs concurrently with the exhibition.
The show will also feature a restaurant and café show with products for setting up new outlets, according to Gulfood project manager Elly Habt.
"[The restaurant and café show] is designed to meet the needs of all the restaurants and cafes setting up in the region whether it's flooring, seating, lighting, cutlery, chinaware, tableware, or whatever they may need," she said.
"We have an impressive growth of 20% in 2008 compared with last year, which now means we occupy the entire venue at Dubai International Exhibition Centre, and which also means that this will be the biggest ever Gulfood.
"With this continuous growth we have reorganised the layout of Gulfood into different sectors, so we have processing, packaging and labelling equipment together in hall two, as well as beverage and beverage equipment which will be in hall three.
In beverages we also have a beverage opportunity workshops running alongside Gulfood - it's about marketing and branding and how to best operate working in the region, so that complements the new beverage hall well.
Described by Nestle Waters Department general manager UAE Ahmed Elleissy as "the leading food and beverage exhibition in the region", Gulfood is set to be a hotbed of big deals, new products and exciting ideas.
Hotelier Middle East takes a look at what is in store.
Several companies are exhibiting at Gulfood for the first time, including Yung-An Tea Co Ltd, Bartech, and Zarrin Ghazal.
Zarrin Ghazal chief executive AM Ebrahimi said his company would be exhibiting ice-cream producers Daity.
"Daity is one of the biggest producers of ice cream in the Middle East, and even in the world, so in order to find its right place in the international market we decided to exhibit at Gulfood," Ebrah-imi said.
The company will be showcasing three flavours at the show, including Amiral (vanilla ice cream with chocolate coating and minis) and Rushin (vanilla-cocoa ice cream caramel with choco-late coating).
Other companies which are new to Gulfood in 2008 include International Dairy Ingredients, Ambrosia Oils, Fruitfina, Erie Europe and Baarssen Retail Vers BV.
Visitors to Gulfood 2008 can expect to see plenty of new products available from exhibitors.
Bio Extracts will be seeking to increase trade awareness of virgin coconut oil products this year, Beer Mania has plans to launch a new alcohol-free cherry beer, while Original Candy Company will be launching its new 20-25g Foodservice pack for Chocca Mocca Chocolates - pitched as "perfect for the hotel industry".
Friesland Foods sales exports Alex Hoogers said the company would be launching several products in its food service and industrial packaging collection, including 25kg butter - salted and unsalted - 15kg butter oil and 20kg butter ghee.
According to HD Sheldon and Co vice president Douglas Dunn, the company will showcase new products from Hatco, Cecilware, Wolf, Vulcan, Dormont and Kold Draft on its stand.
"We are returning [to Gulfood] because it is a great gateway to the gulf markets," he added.
ADF Foods Middle East and Asia Pacific country manager Deepankar Gautam agreed.
"We are entering new segments, and Gulfood gives us the biggest platform to showcase our products to the region," Gautam said.
ADF will be launching a range of frozen breads - naan - and snacks and olive oil-based Arabic pickles through Gulfood. We will also be displaying our flagship range of Arabic pickles and frozen parathas."
A number of new product ranges will be on display at A Ronai LLC's stand, according to the company's Gavin Dodd.
Most of the visitors passing by our stand in Dubai are potential clients.
"We will be launching a number of new ranges at the show including our new range of glass plates and bowls from 3D Glassware in Turkey," he said.
" As 3D's strategic partner in the Middle East we will be holding nearly 10,000 pieces of glass in our warehouse in Dubai Investment Park.
"We will have a total of 36 different place settings for people to view, including Florencia, Japonica and Fernoir patterns which will also be new for Gulfood.
Capitalising on the boom in the outdoor catering market, Cambro's Paul Micallef said the company would be launching a new insulated container with heated doors at the exhibition.
"The insulated containers by Cambro are renowned by all the hotel and catering professionals, and are widely used to transport hot and cold food for up to four hours without the need for electricity," he said. "The advanced version of the insulated container is equipped with a heated door so that customers can prolong the heating time and are able to open and close the doors without losing the heat or cold.
"Also, storage equipment made of plastic - such as polycarbonate, which is almost unbreakable, and polypropylene, which is a cheaper version - is becoming more popular. Cambro leads the market with a full range of storage equipment for the kitchen.
Churchill China Dining Out export business development manager Glenn Ewart said this year's Gulfood would be the company's fourth appearance at the show.
"We have seen the show grow from strength to strength, bringing customers not only from the region but from across the globe," he explained.
"This is a key reason for Churchill attending as it is now truly a global event that has one of the largest Chef competitions anywhere with the Salon Culinaire.
"Gulfood for us is a multi-layered event where we will show ranges and new items in a table setting environment to attract new visitors and customers. However just as important is being able to meet with our existing customers whose support has given Churchill a 30% growth for 2007."
A perceived gap in the market for halal duck products is driving Silver Hill Foods' product display choices at Gulfood 2008, according to UK sales manager James Pearton.
"Having identified a gap in the market for high quality halal raw and cooked duck products, the intention is to introduce Silver Hill Foods product range and build brand awareness and a loyal customer base for our products," he said.
"Silver Hill Foods will be launching a comprehensive range of award winning halal certified cooked and raw products, suitable for both retail and foodservice. All our products are hand produced, and our cooked product range is slow cooked in order to produce a finished product that is succulent, tender and full of flavour.
Trends to watch
With many hospitality projects that have been delayed expected to fall into place across the region in 2008, Churchill's Ewart said hospitality trends would vary across the diverse planned outlets.
"The main message remains the same: quality, quality, quality - that's the food, the ingredients, the presentation, the service, and the dining experience," he explained.
"Trends come and go but it's this underlying message that has to be back bone of any outlet. For example, there is a trend to move to more tapas or grazing style cuisine with smaller portions but more of them.
Churchill have responded to this trend by launching a miniatures range, which is supported by one of the finest chefs in Dubai, Patrick Lannes of Le Royal Meridien and Grosvenor House Hotel. We took our Alchemy shapes and pared them down aiming it at this trend of cuisine.
As Hatco Corp international sales director Debra Kopczynski explained, there is an increased demand for attractive equipment with "front-of-house appeal".
"Foodservice equipment must not only be functional and reliable, but it must attractively showcase the food being presented," she said.
"Hatco specializes in heated merchandisers that allow operators to attractively display products in a safe and quality food holding environment. The trend for ‘grab and go' food will expand, as busy consumers continue to be pressed for time. Hatco offers many merchandising solutions that address this growing trend, which is happening across all market segments."
For Chef Middle East product development manager Bruce Woolner, the company sees a need to continue developing products to give hotels and restaurants the edge in an increasingly competitive industry.
"Far eastern products are on the increase," he said.
Where:Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Size:20% increase on 2008. Show now occupies entire exhibition centre.
Highlights:Restaurant and Café Middle East show, Emirates International Salon Culinaire, Dubai International Food Safety Conference, Beverage Opportunity Workshops.
These offer two things; they are generally healthy in contents, and they give a twist by [being] incorporated into other cuisines. We are currently developing a range of Japanese products ourselves to offer to the market.
"We see the future being in convenience style products, though there are many who still see this as poor quality replacement.
They are therefore reluctant to change - probably thinking that it will downgrade their product - but the quality of semi-finished/finished products ready for use on the market today can offer a high quality consistently.
Woolner predicted the increasing costs of labour, real estatate, skilled labour and the rising cost of living would force hotels towards convenience products such as portion controlled ready-made desserts, finished sauces, ready-to-cook vegetables and other similar items.
Flavour Makers export and food service manager Peter Caddy agreed with Woolner that convenience was becoming king in the industry.
"Trends in hospitality seem to be following the domestic consumer objectives of convenience, healthy eating, speed of preparation, authentic flavour profiles and contemporary flavours," he explained.
The focus on particular ingredients and their changing uses is also an important trend to watch, according to Nordex Food AS area export manager Jacob Olesen.
"Over the last few years, consumption of white cheese has changed significantly," he said.
"Traditional consumption - for breakfast - has dropped, while catering and industrial use has increased dramatically.
"Our main challenge in the catering segment is to convince users such as catering companies that our products offer so many advantages in the production of finished products that it is worth paying a little extra.
Due to the relatively low labour costs in the region, many users accept a further reprocessing of our cheaper standard products. To overcome this challenge plenty of information, further product development and tailor-made solutions are needed."
Another focus of the industry was health and wellness, according to Baqer Mohebi Establishment's Stanley Crasto.
"In recent years, the health and wellness trend has become mainstream within the food sector," Crasto said.
"People are now much more aware of the deterioration of their health due to busy lifestyles, bad eating habits and insufficient exercise. In response to this, the health and wellness product sector is becoming increasingly successful.
"Increasingly aware of the benefits, consumers are attaching more and more importance not only to the quality of their food but also to its nutritional aspects.
For many in the region, Gulfood 2008 represents the exhibitors' best chance of showcasing their products and services to the region, according to Quantum ApS's Esben Nielsen.
"This will be the second time Quantum is exhibiting at Gulfood," Nielsen said.
"The response at Gulfood 2007 was very positive and we managed to meet a lot of our existing contacts, [and] we made a lot of new contacts. Most of the visitors passing by our stand in Dubai are potential clients, whereas at exhibitions such as ANUGA in Cologne it may only be one in 10 at best.
Other exhibitors such as Monika, The Russell Partnership and SYMPAK France agreed, saying that the show provided them with an unparalleled access to the Middle Eastern hospitality industry.
Returning to the show for the third time, Herfy Food Service's Mourhaf Kallas said the company had a lot on its plate, as it would use the show to meet customers, suppliers and potential franchisees.
"We want to show our new line of meat products and Maamoul new products - Finger Maamoul and Choclate Mamoul," Kal-las explained.
"As well as, we want to meet with suppliers who can supply Herfy with its needs from raw materials. And we looking for a franchisee who can represent us in Dubai, as we already have franchisees in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and Bahrain.
According to Detpak sales executive Ayaz Malik, Gulfood 2008 is "the region's largest and most important industry event of the year, and a strategic platform for buyers and sellers to conduct direct business face-to-face".
"The exhibition is a showcase for manufacturers, distributors, and suppliers from around the world, representing all of the key sectors within food and hospitality trade," Malik added.
"Gulfood has been a good platform for us to introduce our current and new products to existing and prospective clients. Hence we keep returning to this show every year, and again in 2008.
"Gulfood 2008 will provide new regional enquiries from the GCC and North Africa. This exhibition is a platform for business development across a wide range of new products. It also allows existing customers to view new products.
With so many new products, special deals and genuine decision makers all in one spot, Gulfood 2008 looks certain to live up to its organisers' prediction of "the biggest and best Gulfood ever".
Ayaz Malik, Detpak.
There is a greater [push] to embrace green or environmentally friendly packaging systems. Detpak offers paper and paperboard products that are fully recyclable, manufactured from raw materials that are sourced from renewable resources.
Ahmed Elleissy, Nestle Waters.
With the increased focus on health and well-being, consumers are focusing on healthier products. There is an increasing trend of higher bottled water consumption.
Bram Gunter, Codrico.
We foresee a growth in natural ingredients where modified food ingredients are replaced. People like clean labelled, natural products of a very high quality.
Carlos Ferrandis, Zumoval.
In our oppinion, there are a couple of things that are very important in the hospitality industry: firstly healthy and fresh food, and secondly the application of sanitary certificates in food processor machines.
Alex Hoogers, Friesland.
People will always be interested in innovative ideas like new designs, new packaging and new products for use either in house, in food service or in industry.
Dirk Geleit, Westmeats Export.
The usual meat products are still very popular (tenderloin, striploin and cube roll), so our objective is to educate about the other primal cuts, which can be used to add value to menus without having to have the high cost of the popular products.
Jeffrey Johnson, Michael Foods Inc.
Labour saving foods are becoming more important internationally, following the US and European trends from some years ago, as wage rates and labour shortages become more prevalent. Food safety, natural/organic products and pro-biotic products are growing rapidly in interest.
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