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Fri 15 Feb 2008 04:00 AM

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Meeting market needs

Gulfood project manager Elly Habt talks to Caterer about its biggest ever show.

Gulfood project manager Elly Habt talks to Caterer about its biggest ever show.

What are going to be the highlights of Gulfood 2008?

The first thing is that 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 2008 will be the biggest Gulfood ever.

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 beverage opportunity workshops running alongside Gulfood - it's about marketing and branding and how to best operate in the region, so that complements the new beverage hall well.

There is also the new Restaurant and Café Middle East exhibition running in hall one, designed to meet the needs of all the restaurants and cafés setting up in the region whether it's flooring, seating, lighting, cutlery, chinaware, tableware, or whatever they may need.

With the use of the additional Sheikh Rashid Bin Maktoum halls this year, we will have European pavilions, as well as the North American pavilions. It's going to be easier for buyers to find and source their needs - it's a lot more visitor friendly in terms of the layout.

Gulfood is also helping to drive the maturity of the market and bring the more specialised buyers to the market in the Middle East, so we are bringing new specialised buyers in specific sectors.

Are you expecting a big turnout for this year's show?

It's been overwhelming. Despite the increase of 20% in the show size we still have a very long waiting list for the show, and companies are still queuing up and calling everyday for space at the show.

What we have seen this year is an increase in interest from South America and Eastern Europe. We already had visitors from Brazil last year, but it doubled or even tripled its size this year because of the importance of the halal meat exported from Brazil to the Middle East. We have new pavilions from Uruguay and Ecuador, which is exciting because we have not had those countries here before.

Many chefs are looking forward to the Salon Culinaire - what does this year's competition have in store?

This year they are going to have a chocolate workshop, which will be new. Again it will be all the young chefs competing, and there will be more than 1000 chefs taking part.

They will have 25 international judges at this year's contest, and they will be running competitions from the World Association of Chefs Society (WACS).

They will have a lot of the same competitions as last year, but what is important this year is that the judges will choose six chefs under the age of 23 who will then qualify for the WACS Congress, which will be held in May in Dubai this year. There will be 25 countries competing at the congress.

They have entrees from the Maldives, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Sri Lanka, as well as others from around the region.

What will be the highlights of the conference programme running alongside Gulfood?

The conference has improved tremendously this year, it has literally grown from 150 attendees in previous years to an expected 600 people involved in this year's event.

The speakers are coming in from all over the world - from the US, Canada, New Zealand and across the region. It is all about industry issues: food safety and the new regulations in the region; what can be improved in the regulations, and for everyone in the industry, the food safety side of things will be one of the most interesting topics on the conference programme.

What trends do you foresee among the companies that will be exhibiting?

The Restaurant and Café Show will see a lot of new exhibitors coming in there, particularly in terms of the technical stuff. Most of the other exhibitors will see 98% of people returning, which is why it is a sell out again and there is also a waiting list again this year.

Because it is such an important show it is difficult for companies not to attend now because they need to maintain their presence. They need to be there, and they need to show their face, because the market is booming so much that if you miss out one year you will be forgotten the next.

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