Expo West: 'Our community wants the show - but they do not want it now'

Trade shows postponed as coronavirus outbreak spreads

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags coronavirus

Expo West was called off yesterday over coronavirus fears: but it is far from the only F&B show to postpone its event. We take a look at the status of some other major shows around the world with event dates over the next three months.

Yesterday German wine show Prowein also pulled the plug on its event this month; as did agri-food show CFIA in France. Shows in April and May, for the main part, still hope to go ahead.* 

Organizers face a tricky dilemma as they juggle factors and risks - not to mention the onslaught of polarized opinions from exhibitors and attendees. Expo West concluded yesterday: "The majority of our community want the show, but they do not want it now."

Here's how 12 major shows are handling the situation.

Natural Products Expo West (Anaheim, California: March 3-7)
Status: Postponed

Organizers New Hope Network had been under increasing pressure to cancel this week's event in California, but up to yesterday had continued to state the show would go ahead.

But last night it officially pulled the plug​ on the event.

Orange County declared a state of emergency on February 26 over new COVID-19 cases. New Hope Network said it had been under a lot of pressure both to postpone the show - and to go ahead as usual.

But it also faced an increasing number of cancellations from exhibitors and rumours that major retailers would not be attending: by 12pm PST yesterday more than 200 exhibitors had announced they would not be participating. Organizers were also predicting a 40-60% drop in attendance. 

A new date for the latter half of 2020 is due to be announced in April.

Raw Wine (March 8-9, London)
Status: Postponed

The two day event for wine artisans - which welcomes the wine and food trade alongside the general public - has been postponed, organizers announced today. 

'Initially, the polarity of responses was very tricky to handle'

"Due to the heightened risk of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and all the threats that this poses, we feel that it is sadly in the best interest of our community of growers, makers, partners, importers, distributors, stockists, tasters and staff to postpone RAW WINE London 2020 until the threat of the virus subsides,"​ says a letter sent to attendees.

"Our team has spent much of the past few days talking to our community and hearing about concerns worldwide. Alongside our hundreds of UK visitors, we were thrilled this year to also be welcoming over 500 international visitors from 33 different countries. The bitter-sweet nature of this also brought with it concerns of involuntary spread, worries about quarantine and flight cancellations. 

"It has been a particularly tough decision since at the weekend many partners were still urging us to continue with the show given that we had implemented a vast array of new cleaning and hygiene protocols to keep everyone as safe as possible at the fair. Others had, however, begun to suggest that we should postpone it.

"Initially the polarity of responses was very tricky to handle as we did not want to upset or let anyone down. However, over the last couple of days, recent developments have meant that it is now clear the majority of our community want the show, but they do not want it now."

CFIA (March 10-12, Rennes, France)
Status: Postponed to May 26-28

The agro-food show attracts 1,600 exhibitors across 10 exhibition halls. Organisers announced yesterday that the show would be postponed.

Sébastien Gillet, exhibitions director, said: "As a safety measure in the face of the local health situation, it seems the postponement of the 2020 edition of the CFIA is the wisest decision. 

"It is a difficult decision to make but the conditions were not met today for this event to take place with confidence.

"We are convinced that our entire community will be meeting from May 26 to 28 to participate in the leading food event. Our willpower is intact to make this 24th edition an exceptional success.

"We would like to thank our clients for their understanding as well as the ministerial and territorial authorities who have accompanied us for a long time and who renewed their support during this period."

Prowein (March 15-17, Dusseldorf, Germany)
Status: Postponed

Last year the wine and spirits show attracted 6,900 exhibitors and 61,500 visitors. It announced yesterday that it was postponing its 2020 event.

In doing so, we are following the recommendation of the crisis management team of the German government to take into account the principles of the Robert Koch Institute when making a risk assessment of major events,"​ say organizers. 

"On the basis of this recommendation and the recent significant increase in the number of infected persons, including in Europe, Messe Düsseldorf has reassessed the situation. Added to this is the uncertainty of numerous exhibitors and visitors at ProWein and the complicated travel situation, especially for international customers.”

Greece Food Expo (Athens, March 16-18)
Status: Postponed to May 16-18

Food Expo attracts 1,350 Greek and international exhibitors and 70,000 people from 83 countries across retail, wholesale, hotels and mass catering.

“The surge in cases of the new Covid-19 strain of coronavirus in Greece together with announcement from the Greek Ministry of Health regarding the cancellation of all outdoor meetings and events in the country, have created exceptional and unforeseen conditions that make the successful outcome of the upcoming FOOD EXPO trade show incredibly precarious,” ​says a statement on the event’s website.

“At the same time, these conditions constitute a potential health risk for the fair’s attendees (exhibitors, visitors, associates) and their families.

“Taking all this into serious consideration and with a deep sense of responsibility, FORUM SA, the show’s organizing company, has decided to change its plans and postpone FOOD EXPO until the 16, 17 and 18 May 2020.

“We are grateful for your understanding and we would like to assure you that we will continue working hard on ensuring all the necessary conditions for a successful exhibition.”

ProWine Asia (Singapore, March 31 - April 3)
Status: Postponed to July 13 - 16

ProWine Asia (Singapore) hopes to welcome some 300 exhibitors from 30 countries/regions, 15 national pavilions and country groups as well as more than 20 masterclasses and seminars. It will co-located with FHA- HoReCa 2020: a show expected to draw over 48,000 trade attendees from around the world. Visitor pre-registration for both exhibitions will re-open in April.

Ms Beattrice J. Ho, Project Director, ProWine Asia (Singapore), Messe Düsseldorf Asia, said: “The national pavilions and country groups, as well as major exhibitors, have expressed commitment to returning during the new dates and to working closely with us to deliver yet another successful trade fair once again.

"We will continue to extend the necessary support to all exhibitors, partners and visitors to ensure a seamless transition and successful participation. We are confident the new dates in July will provide a highly productive business platform."

Vinitaly (April 19-22, Verona, Italy)
Status: Postponed to June 14 - 17

On March 3 Veronafiere announced its wine show Vinitaly will be postponed until mid-June. It's held every year in the northern Italian town of Verona. Last year’s event attracted 125,000 visitors from 145 countries.

Giovanni Mantovani, director of Veronafiere, said "Following the rapid evolution of the international situation giving rise to evident difficulties concerning all promotional activities, Veronafiere has decided to postpone the dates for Vinitaly, Enolitech and Sol&Agrifood to 14-17 June 2020, judged to be the best period for ensuring the highest business quality standards for exhibitors and visitors."

Maurizio Danese, president of Veronafiere, said “Rescheduling Vinitaly in June, as well as other important international events in Milan and Bologna, is a signal that Made in Italy is convinced of a prompt economic recovery in key sectors of the country-system. We therefore hope that the new national trade fair calendar will generate renewed confidence and be the tool which will capitalize on the resumption of operations in our country."

Veronafiere said that next year's Vinitaly will still be scheduled on its customary dates of April 18-21, 2021.

Interpack (May 7-13, Dusseldorf, Germany)
Status: Going ahead

The processing and packaging show is held once every three years, bringing in 2,866 exhibitors and 170,899 visitors in 2017. Its 2020 event is due to be held in May.

“For interpack there are no intentions to postpone the trade fair,"​ says organisers Messe Düsseldorf. "We will re-evaluate the situation in good time in consultation with health authorities and partners in order to make the appropriate decisions.

“According to the World Health Organization, the Robert Koch Institute and the German authorities, the risk of infection with this new pathogen in Germany is currently moderate.  The medical facilities at the Düsseldorf exhibition centre have the latest information at all times and are well prepared. There are clearly defined procedures for looking after anyone on the premises of the trade fair grounds who suddenly develops symptoms of a serious disease. These procedures were developed and tested at the time of SARS, the Influenza A (H1N1) virus and also EHEC.”

Cibus International Food Exhibition (May 11-14, Parma, Italy)
Status: Going ahead

In 2018, Italian agri-food show Cibus hosted 82,000 visitors: with 20% of these coming from abroad. 

It has not published any statements with regards to coronavirus on its website.

Vitafoods (May 12-14, Geneva)
Status: Going ahead

Switzerland has banned large events of more than 1,000 people as a measure to help combat the spread of coronavirus. For the time being, this ban – imposed given Switzerland’s border with Italy – will be imposed ‘at least until 15 March’.

Vitafoods Europe – a buying and sourcing event for the global nutraceutical industry – attracts 24,000+ visitors from more than 110 countries. For the time being, it says the show in May is going ahead.

“We are following all safety advice and precautions as recommended by local Departments of Health, as well as the World Health Organisation (WHO), seriously," ​say organizers.

“For now, customers can be reassured that while we are monitoring the situation as an international business and staying up to date on official sources of updates and guidance from the government and authorities, it’s entirely business as usual for our events.”

National Restaurant Association Show (May 16-19, Chicago)
Status: Going ahead

“The National Restaurant Association Show team shares the global concern about the emerging and rapidly evolving Novel Coronavirus (COVID19 or 2019-nCoV) situation and continues to monitor the situation closely, following all guidance and recommended safety measures issued by the World Health Organizations, the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state and local health authorities,”​ says a statement from the organizers made yesterday.  

“If our assessment of the situation changes, based on new and evolving developments or updated information, we will promptly update this statement regarding the status of the 2020 National Restaurant Association Show accordingly.”

Vinexpo Hong Kong (May 26 - 28)
Status: Postponed to July 8-10

The Hong Kong edition of Vinexpo has been postponed, the organizers announced yesterday. 

"In light of the current COVID-19 (coronavirus) situation, Vinexpo Hong Kong has been postponed,"​ said a statement.

"The organisers are responding to direct exhibitor feedback requesting the change and seeking to provide the best conditions for all to support the industry’s business development in Asia-Pacific.

"The event will be held in the same venue, the HKCEC (Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre), and will offer a key business platform and critical thought-leadership at a time of economic recovery.

"The response of the industry was clear that Vinexpo Hong Kong should be rescheduled but remain in the first half of 2020. This was to mitigate the health and safety risks, but continue to allow for a meeting point as soon as possible, so exhibitors and attendees would have the opportunity to reinvigorate activity in the region."

* Please note: information is based on what has been published on each show's website; as is correct to the best of our knowledge as of March 3, 2020. 

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