In an interview, Johannes Schmid-Wiedersheim, Director of IFFA, talks about the industry’s desire for face-to-face encounters, the new direction in terms of alternative proteins, and the current booking situation at the world’s leading trade fair.
Mr. Schmid-Wiedersheim, preparations for IFFA 2022 are already in full swing. What is the current registration status?
Surprisingly good. At the early booking deadline, at the end of March, more exhibiting companies had already registered for IFFA than at the same time for the previous event. The market-leading companies from Germany and abroad are back and we are seeing an increase in demand for exhibition space of around plus ten percent. This is a really pleasing situation and shows once again that IFFA is the “place to be” when it comes to the issues affecting the industry.
And it’s a sign of how much exhibitors and visitors alike want to see face-to-face meetings and an international exchange of ideas again. Everyone finally wants to meet their business partners and colleagues again, see innovations and shape the future of the industry together. After all, the meat and protein industry has come through the Corona crisis comparatively well. The companies therefore have many ideas and sufficient funds for investments. A recent survey of visitors to past Frankfurt trade fairs showed that over 80 percent plan to attend another attendance event in the near future. And all this together is an excellent starting position for IFFA 2022.
IFFA 2022 will also show process technology for alternative proteins for the first time. How did this come about?
Last year, together with our trade show advisory board of experts and exhibitors, we decided to expand the spectrum of IFFA and include process technology for plant products and meat from cell cultures in its range. We have now officially taken this step for IFFA 2022. This is not a completely new topic for IFFA, as more and more plant-based projects have been developed here for years. In the meantime, consumer demand for alternatives to meat and fish has increased significantly, and a market for vegetarian and vegan products with high growth rates has established itself all over the world. To meet this demand, manufacturing capacities have to be created or converted.
IFFA’s nomenclature has always represented all process stages of the meat industry, from processing to packaging to sales. Very similar processes and technologies also apply to products made from alternative proteins, and many of our exhibiting companies are already operating successfully in this segment. So it is only logical for us to broaden IFFA in the future and open it up to alternative protein sources in addition to its traditional focus.
What can IFFA offer the meat and protein industry?
The processes for processing and packaging meat products and alternative proteins are very similar. I am sure that the entire protein industry can benefit from the expertise and innovative power of the companies represented at IFFA. Modern plant technology can help to increase production volumes, implement new product ideas, reduce costs and make food safer. This is an important topic because plant-based foods are also susceptible to spoilage.
So the focus topics of IFFA 2022 are significant for the entire industry. It will be about automation and optimization of production. Concrete and effective steps towards greater sustainability are also very much in demand – here, energy efficiency, the saving and recyclability of packaging materials, and food waste reduction are key areas of innovation. New packaging designs and trends in ingredients and spices are also in focus. In addition, we are planning various accompanying events at IFFA that are specifically geared to the interests of individual visitor groups. Together with our partners, such as the VDMA, the German Butchers’ Association and the Association for Alternative Protein Sources BALPro, we are working on attractive formats and content. We want to be the leading global business platform for all players in the protein industry.
What is your assessment of the development of the trade show business against the backdrop of the pandemic?
The pandemic has of course presented the international trade fair industry with huge challenges. But the many postponements and cancellations also had significant consequences for all exhibitors and visitors. Large trade shows are simply very effective for initiating business, comparing products and networking. They are also showcases for the current topics and innovations of entire sectors of the economy. Fortunately, the pandemic situation is easing in the foreseeable future and trade shows and congresses are already being held again in many European countries. We are therefore very pleased that the new Corona Protection Ordinance of the State of Hesse clearly states that trade fairs are an independent, professional event format and thus clearly move out of the prohibited zone.
In addition to the regulations on hygiene, distances and access control, there are thus no further restrictions on the maximum permissible number of visitors. This is an encouraging signal for a new start in the trade show business, which our exhibiting companies also urgently want. Clearly, no one can say how the pandemic situation will develop worldwide, but we are looking ahead optimistically and working to enable live and very safe exchanges as a partner to the industry.
Mr. Schmid-Wiedersheim, thank you very much for the interview.
For more info, visit www.iffa.messefrankfurt.com/frankfurt/de.