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Specialty Coffee Trade Shows - Before, During and After Covid-19

Exhibitions and trade shows are where many new connections are made within the business world. With an international audience attending as well as exhibiting, people from all over the world come together to discuss the ins and outs of their professional field. Undoubtedly, Covid-19 has had a tremendous impact on our everyday lives since its initial spread, and will most likely continue to have lingering effects for years to come. In this article we intend to shine some light on how this recent pandemic has affected the coffee trade show industry and the recent developments from within the industry to cope with the situation.

Demonstrating the app for our Jimmy smart coffee scale at HOST 2019 in Milan
Demonstrating the app for our Jimmy smart coffee scale at HOST 2019 in Milan

Pre Covid

Anyone who’s anyone in the world of coffee is familiar with the international trade shows lineup. The SCA’s Global Expo and World of coffee, Seoul International Café show, Melbourne International Coffee Expo and the Specialty Coffee Association of Japan event to name a few, are only some of the largest specialty coffee related events on the annual calendar. In addition to these extremely popular events, there are other exhibitions that include a wider variety of categories that also include coffee, but not only. HOST in Milan being one of them, with audiences reaching over 200,000 in 2019, coming to visit the large range of exhibitors within the hospitality industry.

Since 2017, the Hiroia team has been in attendance for most of these large caliber shows. Having cooperated closely with local distributors, our team was able to have a presence in all of the important events. As the year came to an end, we were exhausted by the jet lag, but prepared for what 2020 would have brought our way. However, 2020 didn’t pan out as most people would have expected.

 The Hiroia booth at HOST 2019 in Milan

During Covid

There are words that can describe 2020 in a nutshell: Lockdown, pandemic, work from home, quarantine and a few others. The tremendous speed Covid-19 had spread throughout the global population had devastated the livelihoods of millions around the world. It crippled the global economy and had left a vacuum where there were once people. Much can be said about the recent pandemic, including the effect it has had on the international specialty coffee trade show scene.

It started when we received news that Café Asia planned to take place in Singapore was being postponed, and then followed by MICE and SCA events facing the same fate. Not so slowly but definitely surely all specialty coffee related events were off the calendar. This opened an opportunity for virtual events. A strong attempt to meet new customers and create more exposure, companies would attend virtual exhibitions to try and compensate for the absence of face to face interactions. This method would seem to not be as effective as physical presence.

Upcoming Events

With the pandemic still raging in some parts of the world, it is still unknown when life will go back to normal, if ever. With a new norm being “forced” upon citizens of the world, we are now facing a new standard for communications. The days of crowded showroom floors and queuing up at international vendors are yet a long way away, but virtual mediums can play a large role in the creation of new industry connections.

Even though there are planned events to take place in exhibition centers this year, we cannot know for sure if they will indeed take place. With many restrictions and regulations being put in place on international air travel, domestic travel as well as closed spaces, scheduled events might need to be postponed. Ticket refunding, reservation cancellations and booth dismantling unfortunately remain as likely outcomes for the near future.

Even though several events are planned to take place, in-person towards the end of this year. With social distancing, mask wearing and possible vaccine passports being a mandatory requirement for participation, the coffee exhibition industry is trying its best to utilize what is left of 2021.

At the moment we do have several exhibitions lined up for the remainder of 2021, such as the SCAJ in Tokyo and the Seoul International coffee show in November. However more are in the planning for 2022, we’re keeping spirits high and being highly optimistic that these events will remain as planned, if circumstances allow.

Post Covid

At the time of writing, it’s been 635 days, 9 hours and 5 minutes since we had our last exhibition, the International Coffee & Chocolate Exhibition 2019 in Riyadh, but who’s counting?

One can say we might be eager, clearly an understatement, to travel out again and meet new faces that share the same passion for coffee as we do. We will all have to be patient and stay strong for now.

Creating new partnerships in Riyadh during the 2019 ICCE


We hope the upcoming months, possibly year or two will be better than the past year has been. With many factors still unknown, there isn’t much we can do, but to abide by regulations, be patient and responsible towards our surroundings. We have many plans for the upcoming shows, trying to find ways to secure our presence at the events in spite of traveling restrictions.

Let’s hope for 2022 to be a better year. Stay safe!

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