What started as a spin-off of Gulfood is now a behemoth in its own right. Covering 19 exhibition halls and with over 1,500 companies showcasing their products, Gulfood Manufacturing has become the place to be for machinery, equipment, and ingredient suppliers.
Visitors from over 100 countries made up the 35,000 people who attended Dubai World Trade Centre for three days at the end of October and they were given an insight into the future of food production.
For the exhibitors it was a chance to reach out to new clients from across the world, and to release their latest products into the public eye.
Exhibitors also came from across the globe, with the Irish food board Bord Bia fulfilling its mission to help its local F&B industry by bringing a number of different companies to the show.
Claudia Saumell, Bord Bia director, Middle East markets, said it was a chance for these companies to expand into new markets with the aim of increasing their exports.
“It’s been very positive,” she said. “All the companies were busy and had stands that were full constantly. But all of them say it’s not the volume of visitors but it’s the quality of visitors.”
Saumell added that while some were looking to expand, others were using Gulfood Manufacturing as a chance to strengthen relationships with customers they already had in the region.
Such was the case for Glanbia Ireland, whose general manager for the Middle East and Africa, Kieran Duggan, said while they hadn’t met a raft of new customers, the time was well spent reengaging with old ones.
“It’s a great networking opportunity,” he said. “It’s building the projects that we’re working on with companies in the region.”
As the largest dairy processor in Ireland, Glanbia has been taking advantage of the removal of the milk quota system in 2015 to expand into more international markets, with Gulfood Manufacturing being a key foothold for them in the region.
The importance of Gulfood Manufacturing to Irish companies was highlighted by Billy O’Meara, the operations manager at Clara Fields, who said that its strategic analysis of markets around the world found that the Middle East was the perfect fit for its products, and Gulfood Manufactuing the best trade show to attend.
“It has the customer profile we’re looking for,” he said. “And we’re here because of Brexit. We really need a different market from the UK. We’re heavily exposed at the moment as 90-95% of our business is in the UK.”
For brands looking to move away from a reliance on the UK, the Middle East has proven popular. Joe Guiney, sales and marketing director at C.P. Ingredients spoke highly of how the show went for them.
He said: “Last year was very successful but we heard things might be a bit quieter, a bit more relaxed this year… We were absolutely flat out! It’s been a fantastic experience, we’ve been inundated with enquiries.
“It’s a critical market for us, it’s a market that’s been growing for us. It’s a market that understands our products, it understands the concept of what we’re selling. It’s a very frank and open area to do business in and they’ve got a wonderful attitude to opening up you in terms of exploring solutions together.”
Kells managing director Robert Mosse said the company was also hoping to expand further in the region, and add to its current distributor in Jordan.
The Irish flour supplier is known for its bakery premixes for the likes of sponge cake and pancakes, but Mosse said it had identified the trend for healthy food as an area in which it needed to grow.
“It’s one big area we’re trying to push so we have protein bread mixes in wholemeal and white, and also reduced sugar cakes,” explained Mosse.
Of course it wasn’t just Ireland that was encouraging its manufacturers to head to Dubai. Food processing technology firm Fruittech attended the show at the invitation of the Austrian Chamber of Commerce.
With a focus on small capacity food processors, CEO Grubmair Stefan was positive about the company’s initial reception, saying that it was “surprisingly good” and was excited about upcoming projects in both the Middle East and Africa.
“At the crossroads of innovation and focusing on future trends” is how Lesaffre International brand content manager Stephan Beague described Gulfood Manufacturing, also calling the show “very attractive” for the brand.
He added: “To participate is very important for us because we are developing our position in the Gulf with a new facility aiming to serve our customers to help them meet their own expectations and help them face their own challenges daily.”
For Lesaffre the opportunity to interact with their distributors in the region face-to-face makes the show worthwhile alone.
Resom global technical manager Alexander Atanasov spoke about how this year’s show was “much better than last year” with the brand making some great contacts over the three days.
Showcasing its new integrity tester, Atanasov was keen to extoll the benefits it has to the F&B industry due to not using any chemicals, and said Gulfood Manufacturing was vital to help Resom move into the Middle East and North African markets.
Robert Greimel, the CEO of Zaltech, also cited the wide range of attendees as one of the reasons why the spice mixture producer has been attending Gulfood Manufacturing since its inception.
“We really appreciate the show,” he said. “We get more professional customers here. One reason to come here frequently is people are coming from India to Africa – people can easily visit Dubai.”
While the act of spinning off Gulfood Manufacturing from its parent event may have been seen as a risk, it seems to be working out for the exhibitors and attendees.