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The shows must go on

What news of food industry events in the year of few shows?

2020 has not been a good year for baking-related, or any other B2B trade shows and conferences. The pandemic has not only meant cancellation or postponement of live events around the world but has damaged events companies and prevented the industries they serve from learning, networking and doing business at real-world events at a time when up-to-date knowledge and economic stimulation have been most needed. Baking, food & drinks and packaging shows will help revive and stimulate their sectors going forward, but the format of those events will certainly be different from before with a host of hygiene and distancing measures at least with less human interaction likely although the face-to-face element of the trade show will not disappear.

Some show organisers have decided to replace their event with more digital version. These include October's Food Matters Live, which is now planned as a virtual experience event this year with a plan to go hybrid in 2021. The hybrid model whereby there is a combination of live and remote engagement is the most likely format in the post-lockdown world. For now, show organisers will be adopting those measures and standards that will best restore confidence.

Nicolas Trentesaux, director of SIAL Network, made a statement recently about SIAL Paris 2020 in October. "The French government has already given the go-ahead for the resumption of events from early September. This is good news for the food industry. Although most companies have continued to operate, they have nonetheless been weakened by the crisis and urgently need to reconnect with their commercial networks around the world. We are therefore actively continuing to prepare for the major events of the second half of the year. This still leaves us several months to closely monitor how the pandemic evolves and – we hope with all our heart – as it gradually disappears," he said.

According to current information, südback is due to take place in October at the trade fair in Stuttgart. "The planning is in full swing," said a spokesman. "Of course, there will be security measures in place. One change, this year, for example, will be that all tickets must be purchased in advance, as there will be no on-site sales." Other measures include 1.5m separation of seating in conference areas, 1.5m physical distancing in the halls as indicated by floor markings, transparent partitions at every counter, plus disinfectant and & sanitation areas provided throughout the trade fair grounds.

PPMA 2020 in the UK also remains scheduled. However, a show spokesman cautioned, "We are of course subject to Government guidelines regarding social distancing measures and the NEC being used as a temporary overflow 500-bed Nightingale hospital,"

Other early returners include All4Pack Paris 2020. Elise Eeckeman for the event, said that the show is due to go ahead in November, for which the team is currently preparing a series of on-site safety measures. "The event will scrupulously comply with the official rules in force and make sure to adapt to them as they evolve," she explained. "We are reviewing every opportunity to offer our visitors and exhibitors the most enjoyable experience possible whilst securing flawless health and safety conditions: the rigorous management of footfall, the adoption by all attendees of health and safety measures to prevent the spread of the virus, the disinfection and ventilation of spaces, etc."

Eeckeman also confirmed that access to the Paris Nord Villepinte exhibition centre will be regulated by the measures introduced by the Ile-de-France regional authority from mid-May, when France gradually came out of lockdown.

Messe Düsseldorf’s first trade fair in corona times is scheduled for September and the concept is currently discussed with the authorities. How it will look like in February 2021 is not predictable as of now.

Meanwhile Interpak has been moved to 2021. Messe Düsseldorf's A. Sebastian Pflügge said its first trade fair since lockdown is scheduled for September, but what the situation will be in February 2021 is not predictable: "The core of our digital services in preparation for the show is our data base 'exhibitors and products'". Companies can upload their news on products and innovations to their company profile on the event website and, in the months before the show, visitors can use an intelligent matchmaking tool to make appointments at the event. Pflügge stressed, "It is a tool for getting informed and prepare for the show, not a digital substitute or virtual trade fair. The baking industry is one of our eight core target groups and therefore targeted with all (marketing) measures. We will ramp up these for interpack 2021 in September."

Events of the future are unlikely to be restricted to only three days but provide services before and after the event. Matthias (Tesi) Baur, Founder and Senior Consultant in International Business, Exhibitions and Digital Transformation at MBB-Consulting Group, identifies these as matchmaking, product showcasing and educational content or content in general as part of a hybrid model: "These are three aspects of an event can be delivered without being attached to a physical event." However, if the crisis lasts longer than anticipated, due to a lack of a vaccine or new strains for example, a more radically different design of the physical event may be necessary, such as different crowd control, different entrance situations and different exhibitor booths because an event will only take place if the exhibitor and visitor feels safe and comfortable to join the event. That will have a massive effect said Baur. "If we get the crisis under control the changes needed might be less drastic, but we should be prepared for both now."

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