The future of food events

12 March 2021, 09:33 AM
  • Food and drink trade shows and exhibitions have been upended by Covid-19. As the world returns to a new normal, we look into how events are responding
The future of food events

Trade shows, awards, exhibitions – the food and drink industry used to be full of events. Since Covid-19 hit the UK, the sector has been forced to move online or postpone, banking on a return to in-person events in the near future. We round up some of the biggest shows on the horizon to find out how they’re responding to the pandemic and planning for the future of food events.

The cautious approach

For some events, foreign travel restrictions are the biggest hurdle to returning to normal. After a year of online events, Montgomery Group, which is behind trade events including International Food & Drink Event, IFE Manufacturing Solutions and Speciality & Fine Food Fair, is looking forward to the return of physical trade shows. “Food, drink and hospitality professionals know better than anyone that online can’t compare to the power of face-to-face interaction,” said Lori Hoinkes, MD of Montgomery Events.

Its first event of the year will be the Speciality & Fine Food Fair on 6th-7th September 2021 at Olympia London. “We’re so happy to have the support and continued trust of brands who understand the value of these events for kickstarting business and bringing together the food, drink & hospitality community in a way that’s safe, secure and compliant with any remaining restrictions,” Lori added.

The International Cheese and Dairy Awards is also banking on the return of travel in the autumn, with new dates on 21st-23rd October. “With the very positive position regarding the UK’s vaccination roll out after the postponement of many events in the UK over the past year, the International Cheese and Dairy Awards are delighted to be able to commit to a firm date in October for our prestigious event, with a much greater degree of certainty,” said chairman Ian Luxton.

The plant-based exhibition and conference Plant Based World Europe has also postponed its show to 15th-16th October 2021 to accommodate international travellers. “The events sector is known for its adaptability, problem solving and agile nature, finding solutions to clients and customers’ needs. Our show embodies this, as we continue to respond to changes with new strains of Covid-19, the vaccine rollout, latest guidelines, and travel regulations,” said Abigail Stevens, marketing and content manager at JD Events.

“The events industry is about people, so it is only natural that our sole priority is to hold Plant Based World Expo in a safe environment,” Abigail added. “These additional months will prove crucial, allowing for more of the public to be vaccinated and better rapid testing for attendees, exhibitors and press to feel more confident to attend.”

A summer to celebrate

Other events have chosen to go ahead this summer, after the government’s lockdown exit plan said large indoor and outdoor events should be able to resume from 17th May, with limits on capacity, while all events will be allowed by 21st June.

The Source will be one of the first trade shows to take place on the 8th-9th June in Westpoint, Exeter. To meet government rules for numbers allowed at such events, Hale Events, the show’s organisers, are adding an outside exhibiting space.

“We are delighted that government regulations will allow this trade show to happen,” said Mike Anderson, MD of Hale Events. “In order to enable plenty of social distancing and comfort for our exhibitors and visitors we are extending this popular trade show. Catering and Show Features will be outside in 2021, alongside a brand-new outside area for exhibitors, which will extend the show and enable more people to take part, and to attend.”

UK Food & Drink Shows confirmed its “irreversible” plan to go ahead this July when restrictions are even more relaxed. “The past 12 months have been difficult and damaging for so many businesses, ours included, but we’re delighted to be on the road back to normality as part of the government’s irreversible plan to unlock the UK,” said Andrew Reed, managing director for events and exhibitions for William Reed.

The group has collaborated with the Association of Event Organisers (AEO) to develop industry-wide AllSecure Standards designed to provide the highest levels of hygiene and safety, allowing shows to operate effectively and safely according to government and local authority guidance.

“We now look forward to the summer as a time of great celebration and optimism, of new ways of thinking, new products, new attitudes and a new start for our industry. We can’t wait to once again welcome exhibitors and visitors to our doors,” Andrew said.

International events

UK food and drink businesses also often join events abroad. This year, with restrictions on international travel still in place, events have pushed their dates back in hopes that more will be able to attend.

Fiere di Parma, in agreement with the Italian Food & Drink Industry Federation, has confirmed the dates of Cibus for 31st August-3rd September 2021, taking into account the vaccine campaign and air travel restrictions. It comes after the 2020 edition was cancelled due to the pandemic.

Alimentaria has taken a more cautious approach. Although organisers Fira de Barcelona are working on a special edition of Gastronomic Forum Barcelona that will take place from 18th-20th October, taking into account international mobility restrictions, the group has chosen to hold its major Alimentaria & Hostelco event from 4th-7th April 2022. The show was previously scheduled for May 2021.

The managing director of Alimentaria Exhibitions, J. Antonio Valls, said: “We want to commit to Alimentaria in 2022 with a size and participation that will once again boost international business. Any national company which would have liked to participate in Alimentaria & Hostelco this year now has the opportunity to do so at Gastronomic Forum Barcelona.”

While there are many new approaches to how trade shows in 2021 and 2022 will be run, the overriding message is clear: physical events are back on the menu this year.

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