Mark Napier, exhibition director, Gulfood. Mark Napier, exhibition director, Gulfood.

Gulfood, the world’s largest annual food exhibition, returns to Dubai World Trade Centre from February 26 to March 2, 2017.

The 22nd edition of the show is set to attract more than 5,000 local, regional and international exhibitors in a newly evolved format and lay-out featuring over 1,000 new-to-market products on display.

Mark Napier outlines five things not to miss at this year’s event.

Segmented layout

This year’s show has evolved with exciting new developments in layout and format to improve visitor experience and boost trade potential for exhibitors. With the focus on finished food and beverages, the evolutionary change to a ‘segmented’ format puts the spotlight on eight of the biggest commodity trading sectors with dedicated halls for: beverages; dairy; fats & oils; health, wellness & free-from; pulses, grains & cereals; meat & poultry; power brands and world Food.

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This format enables visitors to get straight to business in their target sectors, allowing them to acquire deeper market insight while boosting trade potential for exhibitors who are eager to open up new supply routes.

Virtual supermarket

This innovative concept is sure to be a big draw at Gulfood 2017. Designed to look like a supermarket, the interactive feature will present virtual versions of the stand-out products and cutting edge innovations including all finalists at the Gulfood Awards 2017.

The Virtual Supermarket will enable visitors to gain insight into the future of grocery shopping. Using the touchscreen technology, visitors can browse through scores of products, broken down into three major sourcing categories (innovative products, organic/free-from and halal), with the virtual shopping experience giving consumers everything from price check through to product knowledge and payment, without touching the item until collection.

Food banks

Leading the way in innovation at Gulfood, the UAE will highlight projects and infrastructure that are crucial to the F&B Industry. With a prominent display across a 64-metre pavilion Dubai Wholesale City, the region’s first fully integrated wholesale trading city, will showcase its aim to serve as a global one-stop shop for traders. Wholesale City will help Dubai cement its position as a global F&B hub.

Gulfood will also announce details of how it is contributing to the UAE Food Bank, an initiative decreed by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to reduce food waste and feed those in need. Announced in line with 2017 being the ‘Year of Giving’ in the UAE, it will collect excess food from hotels, supermarkets, restaurants and farms. We wait to see how Gulfood will play its part.

Cooking up a storm

The world’s largest single-entry chefs’ competition, the Emirates Culinary Guild International Salon Culinaire, is a renowned competitive platform for the region’s culinary talent and this year will be no different. More than 1,000 of the region’s top professional chefs, pastry chefs, cooks and bakers, will go stove-to-stove in a series of competitions, judged by a panel of experts from the World Association of Chefs Societies (WACS). Visitors will also converge at Halal World Food — the major global trading platform for international F&B businesses looking to capitalise on the growing halal sector.

New faces

With global tourism on track to hit 1.5 billion by 2020 and greater consumer awareness of foods from around the world, more countries are keen to show what they can offer, and Gulfood is the ultimate platform to do that. Several nations will make their debut at Gulfood 2017, as part of the 5,000 exhibitors from 120 countries. For the first time, Gulfood visitors will be able to see on the best F&B products from Finland, Malta, Somalia and Azerbaijan.