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Gulfood 2021: Meet Show Director Mark Napier A look at the significance of this year's edition of Gulfood, and how it can explore opportunities to accelerate the future of food.

By Dina Maaty

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Mark Napier, Show Director, Gulfood

Excerpts from an interview with Gulfood Show Director Mark Napier, as the competitive global sourcing platform gets set to welcome the world's leading industry players to set the food agenda for 2021 and beyond:

Tell us more about this edition of Gulfood.

Gulfood has been at the forefront of setting the global F&B agenda for more than three decades. Gulfood 2021, the show's 26th edition, takes on even greater significance following one of the most challenging years ever for the sector. It's the first major global, in-person trade sourcing event since the start of the pandemic and an opportunity for F&B players to make up for lost time and missed business opportunities to accelerate the future of food.

Last year, Gulfood was the only global F&B sourcing event to take place in 2020. As the most competitive global F&B sourcing platform and first live in-person event of 2021, the 26th edition of Gulfood is being met with great anticipation globally. Exhibitors can expect to meet buyers keen to fill their order books and get their year off to a strong start; visitors can expect to see the most diverse and innovative F&B solutions with manufacturers, eager to show they have their fingers on the pulse and have the product lines to meet evolving consumer demand and behaviours.

With participants from more than 85 countries, Gulfood 2021 presents an unparalleled opportunity to reconnect with the global F&B community, strengthen current partnerships and explore a range of new business opportunities.

Much has changed in the past 12 months, but the industry has responded with innovation in products and processes, determination and desire to stay ahead of the curve in a rapidly transformative industry. Alongside the multitude of business opportunities on the show floor, more than 70 high-profile industry thought leaders will gather to address the latest issues and offer precious insights on the best way forward for F&B at the much-anticipated Gulfood Innovation Summit.

One of the key topics under the spotlight on day one of the Summit (February 22) is food security, an issue that has made its way into the conscience of more consumers and risen up government agendas given the global challenges of the past year. H.E. Mariam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Almheiri, the UAE Minister of State for Food Security, will highlight the importance of the topic when she addresses the Summit on 22 February. The Minister will outline the UAE National Food Security Strategy that visualises the country ranking among the top 10 of the Global Food Security Index.

Elsewhere, it's a pleasure to bring back Gulfood's huge popular interactive features, including Tastes of the World – an unparalleled opportunity to engage renowned chefs and distinguished food change-makers who are revolutionising cuisines through new-age techniques and a drive for zero waste. Some of the leading lights who will take centre stage to showcase their skills include Gal Ben-Moshe, Israel's only Michelin Star chef, Gregoire Berger, head chef at Ossiano, Atlantis The Palm, Dubai; Matthijs Stinnissen, head chef, BOCA, Dubai; and Saradhi Dakara, group executive chef, New England Brasserie Company, among others.

Underlining the sweeping changes in the global F&B supply chain in the past 12 months, the Gulfood Startup Programme will once again provide a platform for entrepreneurs and disruptors to demonstrate the impact their breakthroughs will have on a reimagined industry.

How has the pandemic impacted the F&B industry, and what are some of the safety measures which will be in place at the exhibition this year?

The past 12 months have been one of the most challenging ever for all sectors, including the F&B industry. The pandemic has impacted global supply chains, from production and transportation, to processes and stock availability for end consumers.

However, the sector has responded in a robust manner with innovation, determination, and product and process transformation, all of which will be front and centre at Gulfood 2021.

Flexibility and adaptability have proved to be the key driving forces for the industry to successfully overcome the challenges posed by the pandemic. Businesses that embraced change and kept evolving will come through uncertain times with greater resilience and capacity to grow.

Technological advancements and the emergence of virtual meetings and conferences have helped facilitate business continuity. However, there is no doubting the value of physical, in-person meetings, which is why Gulfood 2021 takes on greater significance as the first in-person event for the industry since the pandemic started.

We have been extremely encouraged by the response of businesses across all our sectors and industry professionals are relishing the opportunity to meet in-person again, to reconnect and explore a range of new business opportunities after a year of missed prospects.

Dubai World Trade Centre has proved its capability to curate the safest face-to-face business environment and deliver world-class events with the highest safety protocols. This was validated as recently as December when DWTC safely welcomed tens of thousands of visitors for GITEX Technology Week, the only live tech event, globally, in 2020. Some 96% of visitors recorded a "safe' or "very safe' experience.

And exhibitor feedback points to Gulfood being a timely boost for the F&B industry to kickstart face-to-face meetings to spur a business resurgence.

Gulfood 2021 will be held under strict safety and hygiene protocols. Wearing of masks will be mandatory, with social distancing in place to ensure the wellbeing of all delegates. On-site registration will not be available; registration must be completed in advance via

What are the key trends you're expecting to see in F&B this year?

The F&B industry is in a constant state of evolution and development. The challenges of the past 12 months have given rise to multiple trends emerging across this sector. Some of the key trends that we expect will shape the future of food sector in 2021 include:

Transparency: Whether clean ingredients or ethical and responsible sourcing, consumer demand for transparency in supply chains has never been greater and that is set to continue beyond the pandemic.

Increase in home delivery and on-demand consumption: Omni-channel consumption has soared during the pandemic. Consumers now have more access to what they want to eat, whenever and wherever they want. Manufacturers are acknowledging this and are also bringing restaurant flavours to home cooking. Addressing convenience and demand for richer experiences will be key as we move through the pandemic.

Focus on immune health: The pandemic has taken the trend for prioritising immune health to new levels. With continued uncertainty surrounding Covid-19, we can expect more consumers to be on the lookout for foods that boost immune health.

Food security: The challenges of the past 12 months have seen food security rise up both government and consumer agendas and we expect the topic to be a key trend for 2021, particularly in the GCC. The UAE National Food Security Strategy visualises the country ranking among the top 10 of the Global Food Security Index.

Immediate food security goals include enhancing local food production and engaging partners to diversify F&B resources, while enacting policies and processes to reduce waste and improve nutritional impact.

This article was originally published on Hotel & Catering News Middle East and has been reposted on Entrepreneur Middle East based on a mutual agreement between the websites.

Related: Gulfood 2021 To Offer Businesses An Opportunity To Tap Into The Global F&B Pulse

Dina Maaty

Editor, Hotel And Catering News Middle East

Dina Maaty is the editor of Hotel And Catering News Middle East, the region’s leading source for hospitality and F&B industry news. She is a former Time Out UAE editor and Qatar News Agency editor and reporter.

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