F&B show organisers see more silver linings in 2021


Despite the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to the F&B industry across the Asia-Pacific region last year, several positive trends have emerged according to the region's F&B tradeshow organisers.
COVID-19 made it painfully obvious how the industry had shortcomings, said Martyn Cox, event director, Hospitality, Food & Beverage – Singapore, Informa Markets. Informa is the organiser of the FHA-Food & Beverage & FHA-HoReCa shows in Singapore.
These are transparency spanning across labelling, ethical and environmentally friendly food sources, plant-powered nutrition, animal welfare and the supply chain.
However, he added the pandemic quickened manufacturers and suppliers' progress to adopt more sustainable and transparent practices. The pandemic has also emphasised food safety, focusing on improved process monitoring, new labelling guidelines, and supply chain traceability to reduce food recall.
Meanwhile, Christopher McCuin, managing director of Montgomery Events Asia, noted that the global lockdowns and mass gathering restrictions have sped up implementations of digital solutions. But while opportunities to network online are excellent, experiencing live shows are still important. The ability to smell, taste, touch and once again interact with potential buyers whose face lights up when they taste new F&B offering is second to none, said McCuin. Mongomery Asia organises the annual Speciality & Fine Food Asia in Singapore.
Moving ahead, we will continue to see an overall proficiency increase in the digital capabilities of the F&B trade show industry with more interactive virtual elements. A mix of offline and online is no doubt here to stay, he said.

COVID-19 vaccine rollouts and other challenges

But while vaccines are becoming more available, both organisers still feel that it will take more time before things go back to pre-COVID 19 days.
Market recovery hinges on the resumption of international travel, which directly affects the volume of trade show attendees in Asia and across the globe said Informa’s Cox. “The recent rise in COVID-19 cases is concerning, but great to see that more vaccines are approved and being distributed at an accelerated pace.”
He added that whilst phased administration of vaccines would help resume more activities safely, health testing for large-scale events is critical. It would be something that event organisers will have to discuss with local government agencies and relevant industry partners and stakeholders.
Meanwhile, Cox sees another positive trend: “Recovery from fatigue from over a year of trying to stay afloat will lead to injected creativity and innovative offerings,” he said.
Montgomery Asia’s McCuin said even as COVID-19 vaccines being rolled out, it will still no doubt be some time before a majority are vaccinated. Until then, trade shows will need to prepare and incorporate online elements through alternative mediums when planning their programmes to maximise reach and help their communities.
“Working as ‘partners’ with the entire value chain has never been more vital, and I believe that has happened and continues in force,” McCuin said. “At the end of the day, the customer is king, and as trade shows, we survive and thrive when their businesses are doing well.” (image from pixabay)

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