As the standard-bearer of Australia’s coffee culture, Melbourne is a comfortable fit to host an international coffee event. Before a crowd of more than 11,000 of coffee professionals descended on the Melbourne Showgrounds from 23 – 26 May for the Melbourne International Coffee Expo (MICE2013), a select group of the industry’s leading decision makers came together for the first annual Global Coffee Review Leaders Symposium. The Symposium, held on 22 May, brought together more than 100 of the industry’s top leaders from around the world to talk about issues ranging from doing business in Asia, to the future of the global coffee supply and the trend towards single-serve coffee consumption. As well as helping delegates spot the next business opportunity or make valuable new connections, the day also challenged attendees to step back from the day-to-day operations of their businesses and look at the bigger issues affecting the industry. Players from across the spectrum of the industry came together for the event, from producers, roasters, retailers and equipment manufacturers. For many, the Symposium was an opportunity to gain a greater appreciation of the challenges and opportunities affecting all sides of the industry. Head of Vietnam’s largest coffee roaster Chairman Dang Le Nguyen Vu gave attendees a fascinating insight into the view of the global industry from the perspective of the world’s second-largest coffee producing nation. Trung Nguyen’s Chairman outlined a vision for how consumer nations could work more closely with producer nations, such as his own, to guarantee a more equitable and sustainable future for the industry. Pinpointing three key values – prosperity, creativity and responsibility – Chairman Vu declared his intention to grow Vietnam’s industry from its current US$2 billion per year to US$20 billion by 2030. Chairman Vu also told delegates how he planned to export the Vietnam model internationally. The need for plans such as this was brought into stark relief by a presentation from globally recognised coffee analyst and journalist Maja Wallengren. Wallengren demonstrated how, if nothing is done to address the challenges such as the coffee leaf rust crisis and dwindling productivity across most producing countries, the demand for coffee will far outstrip supply as soon as 2016. Symposium attendees were also challenged to assess exactly what has been driving global coffee prices and how that could affect their business in coming years. In fact, Specialty Coffee Association of America’s Executive Director Ric Rhinehart demonstrated that the global slide in overall prices will have little or no effect on the bottom line of specialty coffee businesses. Rhinehart showed how the global price reflects that higher demand primarily comes from Robusta while the price of quality Arabica will continue to climb with demand. The perspectives of a number of origin countries were presented, with Santiago Pardo from the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC) speaking about his nation’s success in exporting their brand to the United States and Japan, and how they plan to replicate that in new and emerging markets. “The key is to articulate what we can offer as an institution – providing all the authenticity and quality of the coffee in Colombia, and the Colombian coffee culture, to our partners,” Pardo said. “Colombian coffee is very well known in Japan [FNC just celebrated 50 years in the Japanese market], so now we need to try and replicate our model in countries such as Korea, China, Australia and New Zealand.” Miguel Medina from the National Coffee Association of Guatemala gave an insight into how his nation is dealing with the rust crisis that has to date caused severe damage to at least 50 per cent of the coffee in Central America. With sponsorship from industry stalwarts Cafetto, Mahlkoenig, Intl FCStone, Condesa, Lion and Mocopan, the Australian industry was naturally well represented at the event.Given Australia has one of the world’s youngest, but also most developed coffee cultures, the Australian delegates were particularly keen to learn from the perspectives of their international counterparts, an exchange that ultimately seemed to go both ways. “I think [the Global Coffee Review Leaders Symposium] is a good opportunity to get a broad understanding of the issues affecting the industry,” said Chris Short, CEO of event sponsor Cafetto. “A lot of people only see their limited patch – this is a good opportunity to see outside that and see some of the dynamics that are driving it, such as single-serve coffee, because that will drive many innovations, not only for ourselves but also the broader industry.” Over the next four days, these trends and insights were put into practice as more than 150 exhibitors and 11,366 visitors came together for Australia’s largest ever coffee event at the Melbourne Showgrounds. With a broad mix of exhibitors from all over the world, MICE2013 added some star power to itsindustry clout by also playing host to the 2013 World Barista Championship and the World Brewers Cup. On the show floor there was a strong showing right from day one. Nabi Saleh, Executive Chairman of Australian specialty coffee success story Gloria Jean’s Coffees, told Global Coffee Review that MICE2013 was exactly what the Australian market needed. “The Australian coffee culture has come of age and having this global event here highlights the success of our industry,” Saleh said. Fabrizio Brambati, President of Italian coffee roaster manufacturer Brambati, said the show was a chance for his company to scope out the potential of the Asian market while also visiting his many local clients. “Asia is definitely an interesting market for us, but the Australian market for us is very attractive because of the number of customers we have here already,” he said. Brambati was not the only international visitor to be impressed by the scope of MICE2013. “I have been surprised by the size and the interest in the show,” said Mahlkoenig Board Member Nils Erichsen, whose company was also the official grinder sponsor of the WBC. “It’s very focused on high-end and high quality,” he said.