Digital technology a main focus at this year’s Queensland FoodTech

Queensland will open its doors on July 28 to the second edition of the FoodTech exhibition, showcasing the latest innovations in the state’s food manufacturing industry.

The exhibition, which is held every three years at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, provides exhibiting companies with the opportunity to showcase brands, products and services to key decision-makers within the industry.

The event is hosted by leading food manufacturing trade show, FoodPro, through Diversified Communications Australia (DivCom) from the 28-30 July.

DivCom event director for FoodTech, Jonathon Wilczek said that the global development of technology within the industry has meant that this year’s edition of FoodTech promises to showcase the latest trends in digital technology.

“Right now globally, food and drink manufacturers are experiencing a digital shift. There are some huge efficiencies that can be gained by implementing a digital plan and the offset can be mammoth,” he said.

“This year there will be a high level of content and the exhibition stands to showcase the latest products in the market.”

One of the main areas of focus for this year’s exhibitions has been an increased concentration on educational content through key industry workshops and seminars.
“We’ve spoken with industry about who is the best to speak at FoodTech and we’ve put together a list of the top 20 topics of interest,” Wilczek said.

Representatives from the federal government and key players in the food manufacturing industry such as the Australian Institute of Packing (AIP) will run seminars in order to encourage innovation and growth within the food manufacturing industry.

Food Factories of the Future is one of the new seminars being presented at this year’s FoodTech which provides information on the impact digitisation can have on bottom line and also in driving operational excellence.

This coincides with the presentation of case studies which entices companies from different states to attend FoodTech due to common issues that are occurring across the industry.

“That’s why FoodTech came about – companies like to hear case studies, so we made an event for them,” Wilczek said.

“We’ve designed the event so that it suits specific needs and purposes, as a lot of issues that are occurring in Queensland are similar to those in Melbourne and Sydney.”

The cyclical nature of the food manufacturing industry means that the event aims to pick up on trends that have affected the market both locally and on an international scale.
This year’s increased focus on IT and digital techniques represents a growing push by the state and federal governments to compete with European food manufacturing companies – who Wilczek said are leading the way.

“The Queensland government is fully endorsing food manufacturing. They can see that in 15-20 year’s time, if manufacturers don’t get on board the digital wave, we’re going to struggle to compete.”

“We are behind Europe and other parts of the world, so this exhibition ensures that we are still competing and, in particular, getting onto this digital idea.”

The Queensland food sector contributes more than $16.9 billion to the state’s economy and is the second most important export commodity earner.

Its close proximity to Asia-pacific markets, coupled with the quality of local produce, makes it an important industry for the government to protect against increased competition overseas.

FoodTech’s positioning in Queensland therefore allows for ease of access from neighbouring countries as well as local residents according to Wilczek.

“A lot of our exhibitors are going through Sydney and Melbourne and we also have a lot of New Zealand and international visitors,” he said.

“We would normally struggle getting people from Queensland down [to Melbourne and Sydney], so that’s why we’ve been asked to host FoodTech in Queensland.”

The dominance of food and beverage events in Melbourne and Sydney means that FoodTech also assists in putting Queensland on the map, potentially attracting more business from both within Australia and neighbouring countries.

While FoodTech currently boasts a 42 per cent retention rate of exhibitors, more than half the stalls this year will be new, offering a range of the latest equipment and ideas to visitors.

Key players within the industry will still be present among the 140 exhibition stands this year, including Vemag Australia, Multivac, Select Equip and J.L.Lennard.

The exhibition is aiming to attract an array of companies ranging from small butchers to large-scale food manufacturers. However, an increase of SMEs entering into the industry over the last three years has seen a slight change in FoodTech’s target audience. “There are a lot of incubators popping up in Queensland due to a lot of SMEs wanting to take the next step, whether that be through networking with contract manufacturing or taking the big step of setting up their own factories,” Wilczek said.

“FoodTech this year isn’t just for big companies but also SMEs. And Sunday’s content (28th July) is actually designed to be very SME focused whereas Monday will be focussed a lot more around food safety.”

FoodTech is anticipating a similar turnout to its inaugural event in 2016 given the steady number of participants within the market.

The last exhibition attracted 2,431 attendees, with a total of 136 exhibitors – numbers are expected to be replicated this year, according to Wilczek.

“The total area market size is the actual market size, hence we have kept the exhibition to the same floor level this year,” he said.

“We haven’t allowed exhibitors to go larger because we want to match exhibitors to visitors and we’re expecting around 2,300 – so that’s going to be representative of the market size.”
In terms of visitors, FoodTech is expecting to have a wide variety of occupations from a range of industries present at the event.

2016’s exhibition saw the meat, poultry and seafood industry most heavily represented, taking up 18.98 per cent of visitors, closely followed by the packaged foods industry at 15.68 per cent.

In terms of occupation, 14.53 per cent were CEO’s or Company Directors while 13.04 per cent of visitors held the occupation of manager.