Host Milano is a key exhibition where innovation is encouraged and applauded. From coffee making robots to super automatic machines disguised as traditional models, the Italian expo has a reputation for grand unveilings of new machinery and technology, and this year’s event promises to be no different. Taking place from 18 to 22 October at the Fieramilano exhibition centre, Host Milano presents the best suppliers of machines, equipment, and furnishings that share a common orientation toward product and business innovation. In 2019, Exhibition Director Simona Greco says Host will turn the dial even further, incorporating 4.0 technology such as automation and artificial intelligence across the three core segments of professional catering, bar, and vending. “Our mission is to help companies turn creative ideas into business multipliers, for instance, by exploring hybrid solutions,” Greco says. She adds that The International Coffee Exhibition, or SIC, will be an opportunity for coffee professionals to meet the most important Italian and international players and attend an unparalleled schedule of events, competitions, and training sessions in the presence of the world’s most highly-regarded baristas. As with every edition, Greco says the countless declinations of the professional hospitality universe consider Host Milano “the place to be”, and a key stop on the way to becoming true global trends. “Coffee, which, having moved away from the espresso monoculture, is increasingly ready to capture new customers who seek quality and experimentation,” Greco says. Italy may be the home of espresso and espresso coffee machines, but Greco says Italians like to experience new tastes and coffee is no exception. “Host Milano is reflecting this change,” she says. “Alternative brewing methods are on the rise in Italy and coffee mixology is very trendy at the moment. Many major industry players tuned [into these trends] at their early stages and now they’re eager to show their achievements on the world’s most important coffee stage – Host Milano.” This year, Greco says specialty blends, single-origin beans, and alternative brewing methods such as nitro and cold brew coffee will be among top trends on display. Also making their mark will be the five hottest beverage trends according to recent international research: superfood lattes (cinnamon matcha, ginger turmeric, pink anti-ageing, and blue spirulina lattes) nitro coffee, goth latte (with activated carbon), egg coffee, and flower extracts. “Host Milano has not just become the place to be, a meeting point for the most important national and international firms in the Ho.Re.Ca sector, but also one that anticipates the trends that are set to mould the hospitality culture in the third millennium,” Greco says. SIC started its history as a stand-alone trade show several decades ago, as early as the 80s. Once Host was developed as a one-stop shop to find all different product chains in the hospitality industry, Greco says it didn’t take long before SIC became a staple of the exhibition. This year, a total of 1912 exhibitors have already confirmed their presence at Fieramilano, up eight per cent compared to the same timeframe in 2017. Of this, 1127 exhibitors are Italian businesses, up seven per cent; and 785 are international businesses, up 10 per cent, from 54 countries with new entries including Albania, Argentina, Colombia, Iran, Latvia, and Lebanon. At the 40th edition of Host in 2017, professional visitors totalled 187,602, of which 38.8 per cent were international guests from 177 countries. Oceania generated the highest visitor volume, up 52.8 per cent; followed by Latin America, up 31 per cent; the Middle East, up 25.8 per cent; and Africa, up 11 per cent. As well as European countries, China, the United States, the Russian region, and the Middle East are ranked among those generating the highest visitor flows. Substantial numbers were also recognised from “particularly distant or unusual countries” such as Australia, New Zealand, Cambodia, Polynesia, and African countries such as Botswana, Burundi, and Eritrea. Host visitors are divided between distributors, resellers, exporters and importers, and buyers. Chefs, baristas, pastry and gelato maestros are what Greco describes as “the absolute protagonists” to Host. Coffee bars, pastry makers, and gelaterias highly frequent the event, as do large-scale retail and shopping centres. Increasingly, however, there is greater representation in the away-from-home sector such as restaurants, fast and street food, self-service restaurants, and professionals such as architects, designers, and contractors. The Coffee/Tea/Vending/Ice-cream/Bakery macro-area represents 37 per cent of exhibitors, just behind the Professional Catering and Bread/Pizza/Pasta fields at 43.94 per cent. Greco says the figures confirm how important the coffee industry has become within the hospitality industry. “Today, coffee is by far one of the trendiest and most ‘social’ products in the away-from-home market. Coffee sets the trends that will be followed by other sectors and Host Milano is the place where to preview them,” she says. “Our decades-long expertise in coffee, bar, and coffee machines makes Host Milano an undisputed worldwide reference.” In addition to presenting the intrinsic qualities of coffee and brewing methods and cutting-edge innovation in coffee machines, Host will include a packed calendar of events and seminars offering a close-up view on the best professionals at the national and international level. Seminars will provide the latest updates to market evolution, as well as popular industry topics such as training and apprenticeships for youngsters entering hospitality; the challenges facing professionals at international level; sustainability of processes and layouts; communication and sales techniques, and innovation. The Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) and Fiera Milano are also joining forces to feature the best of the specialty coffee industry at the expo. The SCA’s interactive space at HostMilano will feature a fully-equipped coffee bar serving specialty coffees throughout the duration of the show. It will also host talks and panels featuring specialty coffee professionals from Italy and around the world. Over the course of the five-day show, exhibitors will also be part of a “global kitchen”, where a rich menu of exhibitions and cookery demonstrations, samples, and tasting pathways will offer stakeholders a preview of the future of hospitality. “It is the ideal setting to generate business contacts and to keep in contact with existing customers,” Greco says. For first timers to Host Milano, Greco’s personal advice is to plan additional time to explore the city of Milan, and not just for its famous Roman Cathedral and 15th-century Leonardo da Vinci Last Supper mural, but for its many out-of-house coffee offerings from historical and new coffee houses sprawling the city. For those returning, pack comfortable shoes, phone chargers, and an open mind. For more information, visit host.fieramilano.it/en Follow Global Coffee Report on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter for up-to-date news and analysis of the global coffee industry.