It is arguably the world’s largest food and hospitality exhibition. The 21st edition of on-going Gulfood, taking place from February 21-25 at the Dubai World Trade Centre, is buzzing with newer and interesting developments in the food sector.
Last year Gulfood completed two decades of existence, attracting over 4,800 exhibitors from 120 countries. The visitor number touched the 80,000-mark.
This year the exhibition expects to draw more than 90,000 trade visitors from over 150 countries, while there are 5,000 participating companies from over 120 countries, 1,400 new exhibitors and 117 national pavilions with five new countries being represented including Belarus, Costa Rica, Russia, New Zealand and Mauritius.
“That’s of course no mean feat,” says exhibition director Mark Napier, while pointing towards the billion dollars’ worth of trade that happens during the course of the show.
There is much more to Gulfood alongside the staggering exhibitor and visitor numbers.
This year on the sidelines of the exhibition the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry stressed on the emirate’s strong potential to emerge as a leading halal food hub. This is in line with its vision to become the ‘Capital of Islamic Economy’, the important initiative from His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, to establish the emirate as the centre of the Islamic economy, creating several opportunities in the halal food industry.
In fact, the UAE’s vital role as an international centre for Halal food trading is evident from the fact that the third edition of the Halal World Food – the world’s biggest annual Halal food sourcing trade event as part of Gulfood – features over 800 certified suppliers.
The show also highlights rising interest for specialty food.
In this context, Najib Lawand, general manager – market development, Food Innovation Australia Ltd – an Australian government initiative to support the food and agri business to be more innovative in product development and reach newer markets – says, “This is the first time we are exhibiting at Gulfood and the response has been very positive. We are showcasing to buyers the high quality produces from Australia. There are 70 brands exhibited across multiple categories mostly in the specialty food category.”
“Our research findings conducted with the likes of Spinneys, Choithrams and Lulu Group indicate that Australian specialty food – including health and organic food variants, honey, nutraceuticals, condiments and chilled fresh fruit juices with 75 days of shelf life – is seeing strong demand in the UAE. There are several reasons behind this interest. One of the benefits of Australian products is that all ingredients that we use are grown in Australia offering provenance and traceability. In addition, the UAE, particularly Dubai, sees rapid influx of expatriates. These people are accustomed to specialty food that we deal in, pushing up the demand for our products. We see great potential for our specialty products not only in the UAE but also in Qatar and Saudi Arabia. We have also seen a lot of interest from Iran.”