It’s been three years since the last Melbourne International Coffee Expo. Now, it’s coming back bigger than ever, as the host of the 2022 World Coffee Championships and the Southern Hemisphere’s best excuse for a family gathering.
The who’s-who of the global coffee industry will gather in Melbourne this September to watch the world’s best baristas sweat it out for the title of World Champion. For many, it will mark their first international trip to the Southern Hemisphere since COVID-19 made the world stand still, but Melbourne International Coffee Expo (MICE) organisers strongly believe the wait will be worth it.
“The buzz is absolutely electric,” says Simon Coburn, MICE General Manager. “Coffee is already such an important subculture in Australia, especially in Melbourne, and when you add the international interest, it only gets more intense.”
On 7 February, the Australian Federal Government announced that the country’s international borders would reopen to the fully vaccinated visa holders, welcoming the return of business and tourist travellers from 21 February.
In 2018-19, tourism generated more than AUD$60 billion for the Australian economy, with more than 660,000 jobs dependent on the industry.
Coburn says the welcome news is a gamechanger for the Australian economy and corporate travel, with the country a step closer to the international hotspot it once was.
“This is exactly the confidence we need heading into MICE and the World Coffee Championships,” Coburn says. “Now is the time to book flights, hotels and convince your boss that Melbourne is where you need to be in September 2022. I think we’ve all had enough virtual meetings to last a lifetime. It’s time to see colleagues, clients, potential new customers, and do business once again – in person.”
Between 11,000 and 15,000 attendees are expected to gather for the coffee-dedicated tradeshow in the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) from 27 to 30 September.
World Coffee Events will host the World Barista Championship and World Brewers Cup in conjunction with the tradeshow.
“Australia is the first country outside the United States to host the world finals twice,” says Coburn. “The last time was in 2013, in what was only the expo’s second year. Having the privilege to host the championships for a second time reflects the strength of our coffee industry, and the international scale of the expo, which has grown from just a national celebration of our coffee market, to a global one.”
In addition to some high-stakes shot-pulling, MICE2022 will feature more than 200 exhibitors showcasing the latest and greatest in roasting, manufacturing, green beans, cup packaging, dairy and dairy alternatives, ancillary suppliers and much more.
There’s something for everyone, explains Coburn. “We’re going to see all the big manufacturers from Europe and the US, a huge number of growers from South America and Africa, and an absolutely booming segment of representation from the Asian market,” he says.
“Businesses like MICE Platinum Sponsor St Ali have expanded into the international market with a sister venue in Jakarta and a new location in Bali due to open in September. Cafetto also has a presence in Singapore, and many manufacturers see the huge growth potential, so we’re seeing an enormous response from that region.”
MICE attracts thousands of national and international businesses looking to invest in new products and technology, compare products, taste-test new offerings, and forge new relationships face-to-face.
“If a business is looking to upgrade their machinery, change a supplier, or switch roasters, we know they earmark MICE as their chance to get a good deal,” says Coburn.
“One way to see how much business gets done in those few days is to look at how many exhibitors come back to the expo year after year – they’re not going to put in all that effort if they’re not getting something out of it.”
Speed-dating and site maps
After eight editions of MICE and a first-hand witness to hundreds of business deals made under the roof of the Melbourne Showgrounds and more recently the MCEC, Coburn recommends visitors go in with a plan of attack to navigate the hundreds of exhibits.
“The most important thing is to know what your business needs. There could easily be 20 different suppliers for the same piece of equipment. If you just wander in on day one with no clear idea of what you’re looking for, you’ll go mad. You need to be strategic.”
Instead, Coburn suggests starting with the MICE Showguide, set to be released in August to identify key exhibits, training sessions, daily stand activities and industry showcases.
“If you’ve got a couple of things you need to do – like switch your packaging or buy a new machine – it’s a good idea to give one day to each task,” Coburn says. “That way you can compare apples to apples between exhibits, and once you get that done the pressure’s off for the rest of the day.”
“For those who have navigated international trade shows before, they know how valuable face-to-face contact is. It’s great to lock in key people ahead of time, but also leave time up your sleeve for the unexpected surprises that may be golden finds you didn’t expect. And of course, it’s been a few years between catchups, so time for social interactions is a must – over a coffee or an after-hours beer.”
Finally, Coburn says, you’ll need a game plan for your coffee consumption.
“Start of by enjoying a great coffee from one of our many exhibiting roasters, such as Coffeex, Five Senses, Merlo, Mocopan, Ona Coffee, The Little Marionette, Toby’s Estate, Undercover Roasters, Veneziano or Zest Specialty Coffee,” Coburn says. “Then it’s a matter of pacing yourself and taking small servings.”
An industry in slow recovery
It’s no secret the hospitality industry has been one of the hardest sectors hit by COVID-19, according to Wes Lambert, the CEO of Restaurant & Catering Australia (R&CA).
According to research company IBISWorld, restaurants, cafés, and caterers have lost AUD$10 billion (about US$7 billion) in bookings and events since the start of the pandemic. On top of this, there have been more than 100,000 job vacancies in hospitality across Australia.
The Australian Federal Government has announced the unemployment rate could drop below 4 per cent for the first time in nearly 50 years during 2021, signalling further pressure on staff supply in hospitality.
A recent report from R&CA has found many businesses are still struggling with a critical skills shortage.
“Two years ago, there were 150,000 people in Australia on working holiday visas. At the start of 2022, there are currently less than 2000,” says Lambert.
“It’s crucial for the hospitality industry to train new workers to replace those international workers, especially to meet the very high standards Australia demands.”
Prime Creative Media’s Coburn believes this need will draw more attention than ever to the MICE2022, noting that “everyone has had to innovate and pivot their business in the last two years, just to stay afloat”. “There’s a real hunger to have the best offering in this very competitive environment, and suppliers absolutely need to make sure they’re getting in front of key industry player,” he says.
“By September, we anticipate the hospitality industry will be roaring back. The level of excitement we’re getting when we tell people about the expo and the World Coffee Championships is unreal. It’s just a matter of time.”
For more information, visit internationalcoffeeexpo.com
Registration for the International Coffee Expo as an attendee or exhibitor is now open. Follow @melbournecoffeeexpo on social media to be notified when the MICE2022 Showguide is released and for the latest on training sessions and business opportunities.
This article was first published in the March/April 2022 edition of Global Coffee Report. Read more HERE.