Not business as usual

It has not been “business as usual” for most of 2020, but yesterday’s (11 March) declaration by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that Covid-19 is a pandemic, has further impacted people, businesses and daily life around the world, understandably. Prior to the WHO’s announcement, and before governments began implementing precautionary measures by banning travel and large gatherings, conference, convention and trade show organizers began taking precautionary steps by either cancelling or postponing events or announcing new safety measures for shows that plan to proceed.

The National Coffee Association (NCA) held its annual convention last week (5-7 March) in Austin, Texas. While attendance was down because several companies did not attend or sent less people, a significant number of attendees were present, and all exhibitors seemed to be there as well. Many attendees noted that they were the “last ones” permitted to travel before their companies’ mandatory travel bans started. All speakers/presenters attended so none of the sessions were affected.

At Coffee Fest New York (8-10 March), which is a small trade show to begin with, and which now co-locates with the NY International Restaurant Show, exhibitors commented that visitor attendance was good (typically low on the last day but maybe a bit lower this year) despite the circumstances. However, there were many empty booth spaces where more than a few companies chose not to exhibit.

Organizers of Natural Products Expo West (6-8 March, Anaheim, California) announced the show was being postponed just days before it was scheduled to open (new dates will reportedly be announced sometime in April).

Interestingly, Pack Expo East (3-5 March), which takes place every other year, was not cancelled or postponed. According to a press release I received from PMMI (The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies), which organizes PE East, this year’s event in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania had “record-breaking 7,100-plus attendees. Not only was it the highest attendance ever, but it also featured a five percent larger show floor than 2018.”

Allegra Events, which organizes the London Coffee Festival (2-5 April) and UK Coffee Week, announced that the LCF was being postponed until the last week of July. CEO Jeffrey Young told The Standard, “We took the decision to be ahead of the game. It’s going to be quite financially damaging. We just thought it’s [coronavirus] going to get worse not better. We wanted to be part of helping to create a delay so the health authorities can delay the outbreak.”

However, the UK Coffee Week (27 April -3 May, London) is going ahead as planned. “We are currently following Government advice, and participating outlets will be advised to follow safe, responsible practices and put additional hygiene measures in place. Coffee shops are at the heart of our communities and we want to support our businesses at this challenging time. Local and regional events are being organized but there are no large gatherings planned as part of UK Coffee Week,” said Young.

Yesterday, show organizers for the Melbourne International Coffee Expo (MICE, 4-7 May, Melbourne, Australia), which features the 2020 World Barista Championship and World Brewers Cup, announced MICE has been postponed until 3-6 November.

The Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) Expo, the largest pure coffee trade show in the world, is scheduled to take place 23-26 April in Portland, Oregon, preceded by the Re:co Symposium (21-23 April). I spoke with Yannis Apostolopoulos, the executive director of the SCA, during the NCA Convention, and he said (as of then), that the SCA planned to go ahead with Re:co and Expo. Yesterday, Apostolopoulos/the SCA, released the following statement:

“We can confirm that we are working with our partner venues in the United States and Poland to review options for postponing Re:co Symposium, the Specialty Coffee Expo and World of Coffee. [18-20 June in Warsaw, Poland]

“Since the initial concerns over the spread of Covid-19, we have been meeting daily with various vendors, partners, sponsors, and supporters of our main events, monitoring news and official advisories as well as the questions and concerns coming in from our community. We are grateful for the messages of understanding and support, and all the feedback we have seen and received. We recognize the diverse opinions and challenges of all our global communities.

“Currently, the Oregon Convention Center (OCC) and Travel Portland, which will be hosting Re:co Symposium and Expo, have informed us that despite the state of emergency declaration in Oregon, there is no new guidance on large gatherings and that events will move forward as planned. We are awaiting an update on this stance in light of the recent WHO decision to label the Covid-19 outbreak a pandemic.”

Apostolopoulos added that the SCA will post updates as soon as possible. For continued updates on the SCA Expo, as well as Re:co Symposium and World of Coffee, visit: sca.coffee or for SCA Expo precautionary measures visit: https://coffeeexpo.org/covid19.

Of course, this statement was issued before President Trump announced last night that the United States is suspending travel from 26 European countries to the US for the next 30 days beginning Friday (13 March). As the SCA Expo begins 40 days after the travel ban will have been implemented, it still may be impacted.

While at the NCA Convention, conversation, naturally, centered around Covid-19 and whether or not the SCA Expo would take place. However, for several of the exhibitors, of greater concern was if Interpack –the largest processing and packaging trade show in the world, which occurs only every three years in Düsseldorf, Germany – would take place because of the sheer cost to exhibit alone. Many companies that plan to exhibit at Interpack are constructing booths that cost around US$500,000 and higher. In order to build the booths, companies would need to begin shipping booth materials as well as any machinery/equipment they plan to exhibit at Interpack soon.

As of today (12 March), Interpack is still scheduled to take place 7-13 May, which is surprising, considering that just this past Monday, the German government recommended cancelling all events with more than 1,000 participants. The Interpack website states the following:

“For Interpack there are no intentions to postpone the trade fair. We will re-evaluate the situation in good time in consultation with health authorities and partners in order to make the appropriate decisions.

“As exhibitors and visitors, you can expect a high level of hygiene, safety and good medical care at the Düsseldorf trade fair grounds as usual. Messe Düsseldorf is closely monitoring current developments and is in direct contact with the health authorities.

“According to the World Health Organisation, 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.”

For more information on safety measures Interpack is putting in place, visit: https://www.interpack.com/en/For_Visitors/Information/Safety.

Tea & Coffee Trade Journal will continue to inform our readers about any 2020 conference, convention and trade show updates as news becomes available.

  • Vanessa L. Facenda, editor Tea & Coffee Trade Journal. She may be contacted via [email protected]

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