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Mon 9 Feb 2009 04:00 AM

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Food giant

As various international exhibitors perfect products and polish pitches in an effort to stand out from the masses, Caterer Middle East brings you a taster of what to expect from the region's biggest ever trade show: Gulfood 2009.

As various international exhibitors perfect products and polish pitches in an effort to stand out from the masses, Caterer Middle East brings you a taster of what to expect from the region's biggest ever trade show: Gulfood 2009.

It's that time of year again - all F&B industry eyes are on the UAE as Dubai prepares itself for the high point of the Middle Eastern food and beverage trade show calendar: Gulfood.

Since its inception in 1987, the show has grown exponentially in size and standing, becoming a rite of passage for suppliers, distributors, outlets and chefs who want to make it in the region.

However this year, the established exhibition faces it greatest challenge ever.

Gulfood 2009 will be the largest trade event of any kind ever held in the Middle East, covering around 80,000m² and hosting over 3000 companies. Quite a feat for organisers - and for exhibitors as well, who will be pushing out all the stops to ensure they stand out from the vast crowd.

Multiple choice

This year's exhibitor list for the show is vast, covering a huge range of nationalities and every F&B field imaginable.

Although this almost certainly means stiff competition for visitor attention, the exhibiting companies remain undaunted - and with every company boasting new product launches, exciting announcements and special promotions, it looks like it will be a food fight to the death.

Emirates Snack Foods has participated for several years at the Gulfood.

"This year we will again work with the novel concept that we successfully introduced last year, whereby we will be presenting our products in a real gourmet restaurant and bar, built right next to the Salon Culinaire," says corporate chef and food service sales manager Soufiane Raji. "Here we will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, prepared fresh on our stand by our company's chefs."

Global franchise Chipstix will be offering visitors their freshly-fried potato products seasoned with a choice of salt flavours.

"Though we are not currently introducing any new product line to the Chipstix range, we have introduced a new salt flavour called Butter, increasing our total flavours to 18," explains Chipstix Middle East business developer Lourize Odendaal, who believes the novelty of this innovative snack food will win over clients.

Claw Island Foods, a processor and packer of Maine lobster, crab and shrimp, is introducing its range to the region, offering Maine lobster and Jonah crab claws.

Italian firm LA Organic will entice visitors with its top quality Andalusian organic olive oils and balsamic vinegars, while Kuwaiti company Honest General Trading Co will feature a range of products including Indian pickles, poppadums, chutneys and pastes.

Traditional Singaporean food supplier Singafood Group will be promoting three brands at Gulfood: Bee Globe, King Ocean and Leo Satay. The company will also introduce two new items: the North Indian chicken kebab and Japanese mochi.

"We believe our satay and shark fin soup will be the main attraction," comments sales and marketing executive Richard Tan.

Halal-certified French export company Horizons is launching various products, including vegetable pastas and its innovative Ocean Pearl product - beads of jellied seaweed with a liquid centre.

With Spanish institutions IPEX and ICEX organising subsidised Spanish participation in Gulfood, dairy product specialist Lacteos Indsutriales Agrupados will be exhibiting for the first time, promoting its redesigned product Ken Presto, a vegetable cream.

Another first-time exhibitor is Australian company Coopers Malt, which will be showcasing various malt extractsand malt-related products.

Fellow Australian exhibitor Original Cereal Company, developed by John Downes - one of Australia's premier artisan bakers and foremost wholefood specialists - will also be present, promoting healthy cereal and cereal bars.

But visitors with a sweet tooth will not be disappointed either.

Monbana, founded by master chocolatier Louis Guattari in 1934, will introduce new lines including The Cube and chocolate bonbons, while the Alliance Chocolate Manufacturing Company, a privately owned producer of quality chocolate using cocoa liquor from West Africa and South America, will display products including chocolate-covered dates.

Fourth-time exhibitor IPSA, an Italian firm, is launching a new formula of UHT vegetable cream for whipping with sugar to create professional, long-lasting sweet decorations.

Bakery products manufacturer Antonelli Group is to launch a new line without sugar, reveals the company's Laura Guerrini.

Predicted trends: Time-saversDebby Kopczynski, director - international sales, Hatco Corporation

"The ‘grab and go' philosophy is a big trend in foodservice, as consumers are more time-pressed than ever before."

Michael Huijsmans, sales manager, Formax Inc

"Due to increasingly demanding schedules, more and more consumers are looking towards foods that offer convenience. This includes easy-to-prepare foods that are purchased in retail outlets as well as foods purchased at quick-service restaurants. As a result, we are seeing significant interest in products such as burgers, chicken nuggets, chicken popcorn, meatballs, shwarma and koftas.

Elizabeth Garrity, export manager, Asiago Food

"We're seeing increased interest in ready-made, easy-prep gourmet foods."

Similarly, Lapasion Internacional, also a supplier of pastry and bakery products, will present a range of alternative sugar-free products alongside new versions of its traditional Borrachitos, Borrachos and Bombonchitos.

Another innovation comes from Asia Farm F&B, introducing its Creamy Ice Pop to the region - an ice cream-like product which does not require freezing during storage, shipping or displaying, but only when about to be consumed.

Beverages are also set to be a hot topic, with Spanish company Grupo Medios Personales launching a new liquid coffee concentrate at the show.

Coffee Planet will also be on hand, "introducing the future of Coffee retail, a step ahead of the stale and tired existing coffee retail model currently used by every other coffee brand," says business development director Robert Jones.

"This will include the brand new Coffee Planet kiosk and cart - and there will be opportunities to franchise these concepts."

The variety of tableware on display at this year's show is set to impress, with Italian firm Vetreria di Borgonovo introducing a new line of stemware and promoting its existing collection of pressed glass, and Reem Asia Trading launching new collections in fine bone china, flatware and buffetware products.

Meanwhile French company Solia will launch a new range of gold and silver mini dishes, along with lunch tray concept Odyssee, and the new Sph'air and Fluid' plate collections.

Bahraja Trading has exhibited at Gulfood for over ten years, and returns once again with its impressive array of tableware ranges.

"This year, we will be launching an exciting new line from Turkey, Kiliza Copper Art, which uses a lot of copper, brass and stainless steel," reveals chairman Paresh Shah.

The world's second-largest glass manufacturer Libbey Inc is exhibiting for its second time. "We are returning because we believe there is great growth potential in the Middle East," explains international Sales Manager Guy Salloum.

Meanwhile, first-time exhibitor Dalebrook Supplies will be demonstrating an innovative RFID-enabled melamine product range.

"RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) is our new and exciting automatic identification method relying on storing and remotely retrieving data using RFID tags," explains export sales manager Kiki Hodges.

"Until now, these tags have been applied to the underneath of tableware. Dalebrook has taken this technology to a new level by hiding the tag within the product during the manufacturing process, making it totally invisible and much more robust as far as wear and tear.

"RFID will monitor product freshness allowing you to adjust holding times and will alert the chef when an inventory is running low," Hodges adds.

The equipment section is also well kitted out, with a variety of new launches from around the world.

Kitchen equipment supplies company Palux will launch its custom cooking solution, the Palux Maitre, while cooking solutions provider Tecnoinox will be showcasing its TECNO90 series, a professional modular cooking line for big hotels and restaurants.

Sancassiano, an Italian specialist in baking solutions, will experience the show as an exhibitor for the first time after being impressed as a visitor to last year's Gulfood.

Meanwhile baking equipment manufacturer Silikomart is launching a new collection of 60x40 trays and a range of silicone moulds that can be used in all kind sweet and salt creations.

Al Bayader International, which has been taking part at Gulfood since the early nineties, will launch a new range of products manufactured in Qatar, including the latest variety of absorbent foam (EPS) trays available in different colors and sizes.

Food Freshly AFC is introducing its 3PPP concept: using pre-sanitising, preservation and packaging to extend shelf-life of fresh-cut convenience products, while Integrated Packaging Systems (IPS) will present new brands from Japan - Fuso-Nasa, an expert in tea packaging, especially for high-end packaging; and Takasago, a leading company in the flavours and fragrance industry.

Others are looking to build on existing reputations.

Name-badge manufacturer Corporate Insignia Limited has had great success in the past at Gulfood. "We offer a fantastic looking product, coupled with the fact that you can add and change names as required, which makes it a fantastic offering," points out general manager Gary Millerick. "Compare it to a cheaper, plastic badge which you need to replace every time staff turnover occurs - it makes good economic sense."

Special promotionsLim Kay Kheng, sales and marketing manager, Chee Seng Oil Factory

"We will be giving away samples of our speciality oils in sachets, including our Garlic Oil; Ginger Oil; Chives Oil; Szechuan Pepper Oil; Chili Oil; Spicy Sesame Oil and of course Pure Sesame Oil."

Alain Hospenthal, international sales manager, Victorinox

"We will be distributing paring knives to visitors at our stand. These are made in Switzerland and their cut is laser-tested. Everyone who tests a Victorinox pairing knife is a returning customer, guaranteed."

Federica Lacerenza, Rocam Relly

"We will introduce our Artemide range of trolleys and a line of buffetware called Eros. We are offering a special promotion for the dealer who buys all the exhibited samples - a crazy discount!"

Janet Güttich, export sales, Bohner Produktions

"We propose special offer for the direct sale of our ex-trade show devices. Furthermore we offer special conditions for bulk buys."

Isa Malaika, export manager, Gulf Food Products

"We will be offering 5% discount off our standard international price list terms."

Peter Hatter, managing director, Black Rock Grill

"We have a great show discount, with 20% off orders placed at the show."

Robert Jones, business development director, Coffee Planet

"On the stand will be our Roastmaster, who will be giving demonstrations and teaching what to look for in a good cup of coffee - obviously ours - which is roasted by him in our very own facility in Dubai."

La Marquise International will be launching three new brands this year, with sole distribution rights in the region, says Ali Shafqat, in charge of business development - a range of chillers and freezers; a range of almonds; and a non-alcoholic malt beverage line.

The various country-focused stands are always a big draw for visitors and this year's offerings promise to surpass expectations.

The Trade Commission of Chile will bring 10 companies, exhibiting products including seafood, vegetables, pulps, concentrates, fresh fruit and frozen fruit.

"There is an increasing number of Chilean companies interested in the GCC and Middle East markets," comments Trade Commission of Chile consul Jean-Paul Tarud-Kuborn. "Our task...is to support them in bringing their products to this market and and to help them find appropriate partners."

The Austrian Federal Economic Chamber - Austrian Trade will present a stand comprising 20 Austrian companies across two stands, in the equipment and food pavilions.

Sopexa, the French food marketing board for the Middle East is handling the French presence, this year boasting 64 exhibitors on the 741 square meter French pavilion, bringing together an excellent selection of high quality food items including cheese, seafood, chocolate and various delicatessen products.

Why Gulfood?

For some companies, Gulfood has been a key marketing tool right from its inception, as United Food Industries Corporation export and product development manager George Garcia explains. "Gulfood is of the highest importance in our exhibition list, being in the same region where we originate and absolutely belong," he says. "We are proud to showcase our company and products being 100% GCC produce."

Gulf Food Industries (GFI), a member of Kuwait Food Company and a major player in the production of canned food, boasting brands such as California Garden and Mazraa, is also a long-term Gulfood exhibitor.

"The main incentives for us are the opportunities for exposure, meeting with suppliers and boosting branding," says California Garden marketing coordinator Ahmed Al Hamamsy.

Cooking solutions provider Convotherm Elektrogeräte is looking to make contact with the end-user, explains marketing manager Claudia Bußmann.

"As we have already demonstrated through our co-operation with the Emirates Culinary Guild, we intend to get in touch with the end users, i.e. the chefs. For this purpose, Gulfood is very important," she comments.

Of course, the show is also a prime opportunity to demonstrate progress and unique products.

Frozen gourmet desserts supplier Sweet Street Desserts comes to the show for the third time, this year boasting "a bigger booth and a much greater selection of products", assures business development director Europe and Middle East Yannis Toutziaridis.

Desserts on display will include the new ‘Pipables' range - a selection of six different flavours of ready-to-serve frozen mousses.

There are also significant developments in the equipment arena. Turn-key restaurant equipment provider AMI Restaurant Equipment is opening new offices in Dubai, Bahrain and Riyadh during the first half of 2009.

"This year, we are focusing on our technical services division offering design, installation and after-sales services for complete restaurant equipment packages," says president Victor McGrady.

Heat and Control, which makes processing and packaging systems for french fries, vegetables, meat, industrial and commercial products, is launching an updated product handling system and energy efficient processing equipment - and taking an unusual approach.

"This year we will not exhibit equipment," reveals marketing executive Lisa Johnston. "Instead we will have extensive videos and presentations - specific to Gulfood and the Middle Eastern market - displayed on audio-visual systems."

Other exhibitors have learned from past experiences and bided their time; for example, Lapasion Internacional returns to the show after an absence of several years.

Predicted trends: HealthJose Manuel Ruiz, sales manager, InterOliva

"After two years of investigation, Internacional Olivarera (InterOliva) has developed a unique olive product in the market at the moment, with less than 0.12% sodium, meeting EC regulation 1924/2006 for Low Sodium Foodstuffs. Being a typical Mediterranean, healthy food, olive consumption in growing up every year."

Franz Ernstbrunner, project director, The Austrian Federal Economic Chamber - Austrian Trade

"Organic products will become more important in the future. Soya drinks will be consumed more and more rather than milk products."

Corry de Wit, managing director - European Office and activity manager - Gulfood, Southern United States Trade Association (SUSTA)

"We see more demand for sugar-free products, organic products and healthy food products."

S H Siadat, general manager, Baqer Mohebi Establishment

"Food's role in maintaining health is better understood than ever, while health needs are seen as more and more important."

"We came to Gulfood once before, in 1990, and on that occasion it was difficult because we were not prepared to sell [in the region]. Now we are ready technically and professionally and that is the reason we have come again," explains marketing manager Ernesto del Rio Bayonesta.

Veteran exhibitors know the benefits of appearing at the show - but what convinced the new arrivals to exhibit?

One new company to the show is oven and combi-steamer producer Weisheu. "We heard that Gulfood was the most important show in the Middle East, and we are looking for contacts in that part of the world," explains director of international sales Patrik Hogh.

French firm Chancerelle International, a provider of high-quality MSC-certified canned fish, is also a newcomer. "In 2008, we began a partnership with a company in Dubai and had a chance to supply different multiples in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Dubai. The exhibition is an opportunity for us to meet our partner and our customers and to adapt our offering," says export manager Richard Barbé.

Juan Luis Galván, export manager from cheese producer Consorcio de Jabugo (Quesos Canal), says that from an international point of view "the Middle Eastern market is one of the most interesting to expand into".

But it is also an extremely competitive market, as tea producer Alokozay International is well aware.

"We have been trying to get a stand for a couple of years but we could not," says business development executive Zeena Singh. "Fortunately this year we got a stand to exhibit. We believe that Gulfood will give us immense exposure to our company and its products in the world market."

Alimentary ambitions

Naturally, at such a large show, there are a multitude of guest expectations and exhibitor ambitions flying around.

Dalebrook concept manager Martin Chudleigh says the company's aim is "to gain a better understanding of the needs of the HoReCa sector in the Gulf markets and generate valuable contacts".

The Centrale Marketing-Gesellschaft der Deutschen Agrarwirtschaft (Central Marketing Organisation of German Agricultural Industries, or CMA) will provide a joint stand for 25 German firms.

"Our exporters want to get in contact with decision makers," says senior manager - non-EU markets Dr Tim Schäfer.

Energy drink producer X35 Energy returns to Gulfood is returning in the wake of "an overwhelming response" last year, says the firm's Shireen Abdul Karim.

"Last year, X35 Energy signed 10 new international distribution agreements. This year we are planning to launch a unique product called Diamond Ice - a non-alcoholic vodka.

"We hope that exhibiting this year will help the company with its goal of distributing in 35 countries in the first three to five years, a goal taken from the name of our product," Karim explains.

Many companies will of course be looking for distributors in the region, as Chinatown Food Corporation managing director Sunny Koh explains.

The company hopes to catch a distributor's eye with its new products, including toaster flat breads, fresh frozen sesame balls and microwavable rice balls.

"We had a distributor who imported our Roti Prata, but we stop exporting because of the growing number of cheap imports from India and local manufacturers," says Koh.

One obvious advantage, for all exhibitors, is the exposure and the opportunity to promote the brand itself, as well as new and existing products.

At Unilever Foodsolutions, a firm specialising in sauces, dressings and bouillons, marketing officer Necip Camcigil explains: "We want the industry to become more familiar with our company, our people, our products and services."

Another company looking to boost the brand is San Pellegrino, who for the first time will have its own stand at the exhibition, reveals area manager - MENA and Russia Sandra Husseini.

"San Pellegrino always participated in Gulfood exhibition with the UAE foodservice distributor Horeca Trade, then last year the participation was with Nestlé Water's stand," Husseini notes. "But [The company's] participation this year is in order to reposition ourselves as the leaders in the market with the best premium still and sparkling Italian water."

The Expat Deli, an online directory dedicated to fine foods and beverages, may be another first timer exhibitor, but it still has ambitious hopes for the show.

"We launched our concept at Fine Food Melbourne in September 2008 and since that time we have been developing our site to include a broader range of products and services," explains director Kath Sutherland. "The time is right for us to now enter the international market and Gulfood will be our platform.

"The Expat Deli has a clear and dedicated plan," she adds. "To become the world's most dynamic and frequently-used internet hub, servicing the fine food and hospitality industries."

Competitive spirit

There is no doubt this year's show will be an impressive affair, bigger and bolder than anything that has gone before.

However the scale of the show means organisers will have a monumental task on their hands to keep things running smoothly. Similarly, the size may not help all exhibitors; the volume of companies, products and special announcements may drown out smaller efforts.

On the other hand, this show has the potential to be better than ever and could provide a major business boost for those involved - no mean feat during times like this (economically speaking).

Ultimately, at 2009's Gulfood, the proof will be in the pudding.

See next month's Caterer Middle East for a comprehensive round-up of top show news and products.

Predicted trends: Unique styleRanjan Salis, director, Renarte Hospitality Supplies

"Today's customers are looking for unique products, but buyers are now more concerned about a product's longevity rather than just the ‘wow' factor".

Domenico Salari, commercial director, Clabogroup

"High-tech performances, beauty and practicality are the three most important market trends we are seeing."

RELATED LINKS:How suppliers can crack the Middle East market, Stand & deliver

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