GERMANY, Frankfurt. In our interview, IFFA Director Johannes Schmid-Wiedersheim discusses the sector’s wish for personal encounters, the reorientation towards alternative proteins and the current registration status for the world’s leading trade fair.
Extremely good. By the early-booking deadline at the end of March, we had received more registrations for the coming fair than at the equivalent point in time of the previous IFFA. The market leaders from home and abroad have signed up again and we see an increase in demand for exhibition space of around 10 percent. This is really encouraging and once again shows that IFFA is the ‘place to be’ when it comes to subjects of topical interest to the sector.
And it is an indication of just how much both exhibitors and visitors are looking forward to a resumption of personal encounters and an international exchange of ideas and experience. All want at last to see their business partners and colleagues again, as well as discover innovations and jointly shape the sector’s future.
On the whole, the meat and protein business came through the corona crisis relatively unscathed. Accordingly, the companies have lots of ideas and sufficient funds for investments. A recent poll among visitors of past fairs in Frankfurt revealed that over 80 percent of them are planning to attend a physical event in the near future. Altogether, this represents an excellent starting point for IFFA 2022.
For the first time, visitors to IFFA 2022 will also be able to see process technology for alternative proteins. How did this come about?
Schmid-Wiedersheim: Together with our advisory council of experts and exhibitors, we decided last year to expand the IFFA product spectrum and to include process technology for vegetable products and meat made from cell cultures. Now, we have taken this step officially for IFFA 2022. However, this subject is not completely new for the fair because more and more plant-based projects have been developed here over the years.
In the meantime, consumer demand for alternatives to meat and fish has risen significantly and a rapidly growing market for vegetarian and vegan products has come into being worldwide. Naturally, this also calls for the establishment or transformation of manufacturing capacities. The IFFA nomenclature has always covered all process stages of the meat industry, from processing, via packaging, to sales.
The processes and technologies for products made from alternative proteins are very similar and many of our exhibitors are already working successfully in this segment. Thus, it is only logical for us to put IFFA on a broader footing and to open the event up for alternative sources of protein alongside its traditional themes.
The event will be held from 14 to 19 May 2022 in Frankfurt/Main, Germany.
What can IFFA offer the meat and protein business?
Schmid-Wiedersheim: The methods for processing and packaging products made from meat and from alternative proteins are very similar and I am sure that the entire protein business can profit from the expertise and innovativeness of the companies represented at IFFA. Modern plant and machinery can help increase output, implement new product ideas, cut costs and make food safer. The latter is an important subject because vegetable products are also liable to spoil. Thus, the main themes of IFFA 2022 are important for the whole sector and they will revolve around product automation and optimisation.
Also much in demand are specific and effective steps towards greater sustainability whereby major fields of innovation include energy efficiency, the reduction and recyclability of packaging materials and cutting food waste. New packaging designs and trends in the case of ingredients and spices will also be in the spotlight.
Additionally, we are planning a variety of accompanying events catering for the interests of individual groups of visitors. Together with our partners, including the German Mechanical Engineering Association (VDMA), the German Butchers’ Association (DFV) and the Association for Alternative Sources of Protein (BALPro), we are working on a number of attractive formats and their contents. Our aim is to be the leading global business platform for all players in the protein business.
How do you see the trade-fair business developing against the background of the corona pandemic?
Schmid-Wiedersheim: The pandemic naturally posed a huge set of challenges for the international fair and exhibition business. The numerous postponements and cancellations also impacted heavily on all exhibitors and visitors. Big trade fairs are simply very effective for cultivating business, comparing products and networking. They are also showcases for the latest topics and innovations for whole branches of business.
Thankfully, the pandemic seems to be easing with fairs and congresses now being held again in many European countries. We are therefore very pleased that the new Corona Regulations of the State of Hesse clearly state that trade fairs are an independent, professional event format and thus clearly no longer in the prohibition zone.
Beside the rules for hygiene, distancing and admission checks, there are no further limits on the number of visitors permitted. This is an encouraging signal for the resumption of the trade-fair business, and also something wanted very much by our exhibitors. Naturally, nobody can say how the pandemic is going to develop worldwide. Nevertheless, we are looking ahead optimistically and working as a partner of the sector on the resumption of extremely safe person-to-person exchanges of ideas and knowledge.