Under the new management of William Reed, Expo is this year striving to present a clearer, sharper and more exciting focus on developments Food & Drink Expo 2002 is this year's largest and most important food and drink industry event in the UK. The four-day show runs from March 17-20 at Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre as part of a massive food-led event which includes three other major exhibitions. Visitors to Expo will automatically have free admission to the other exhibitions ­ the Convenience Retailing Show, Foodex Meatex, and Food & Bake. Between them, the four shows expect 1,700 exhibitors and 50,000 visitors. This year's Expo is the first under the new management of William Reed, publisher of The Grocer, and will be officially opened by Lord Whitty, food and farming minister, at 9.45am on Monday, March 18. Show director Andrew Reed says: "Our aim has been to put together an event that will bring the latest ideas, products and information for the retail, wholesale, foodservice and manufacturing sectors. "With ever increasing consumer demand for speciality products, organics, ethnic foods, low fat and low calorie products and more sophisticated wines ­ to name just a few ­ change in the UK's food industry is accelerating as never before. Expo 2002 has been designed to keep buyers, specifiers and retailers ahead of these changes." "This year's Expo will have a huge amount to offer trade buyers, specifiers and retailers." William Reed has listened to visitors' views and made big improvements for 2002 to ensure Expo is even better than in 2000.The separate and confusing logos that formerly split the show into different food fairs for retail, catering, fresh produce and ingredients have gone. This year's show will have a more open layout with logical routes and no barriers so visitors can easily find the stands and exhibitors they wish to see. Large stands have been spread throughout the exhibition to separate direct competitors as well as increase footfall past smaller stands. Niche exhibitors have been grouped into their own distinctly branded areas which will be clearly signposted for the benefit of visitors. These improvements have struck the right chord with exhibitors, for this year's show has attracted nearly 500 companies from across the food and drink spectrum. They include many big names such as Arla Foods, Findus, HP Foods, Young's Bluecrest, and the Meat & Livestock Commission, as well as over 60 exhibitors from 14 countries, making the show a truly international event. Overseas participants include group pavilions from Belgium, Germany, Egypt, Tunisia, the US and, for the first time, Jamaica. Plus there will be a large number of companies exhibiting individually from Austria, India, Italy, Holland, France, Spain, Romania, Malaysia, Australia and Greece. Germany will have the largest international presence with 14 producers on the stand of its marketing organisation CMA featuring a broad spread of juices, dairy products, meats, beers, and confectionery. Jamaica is participating to promote the soft launch of its new Flavour of Jamaica campaign which the country's trade commissioner Diane Edwards Gleede says will position Jamaican cuisine as the next food sensation in the UK. The British Isles will be represented by pavilions from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Food from Britain is sponsoring the British Speciality pavilion ­ the largest at the show with over 70 exhibitors ­ featuring a huge selection of the UK's regional and speciality food and drink. It will include participation from four of the country's regional food groups. William Reed has made other improvements to make Expo even more interesting and relevant for visitors: Ideas to Dine For Centrepiece of the show will be an interactive arena featuring special events, awards and a programme of demonstrations, show news and interviews with top food industry executives. These include: l Ideas to Dine For Awards These highlight the best new products and innovations featured at the show. l The Next Big Thing An introduction to some of the latest trends in food, drink and equipment from around the world. l Industry interviews Clive Beddall, editor of The Grocer, conducts an interview entitled, The Asda-Wal-Mart marriage ­ three years on, at 10am on the Sunday of the show. He will be speaking with Asda's deputy chief operating officer, Richard Baker, about the Leeds based chain's growth since it became part of the worldwide Wal-Mart family, and its plans for the future. The Co-operative Group's retail controller Malcolm Hepworth will be interviewed by The Grocer's editor (designate) Julian Hunt on Tuesday, March 19, at 10 am. The third interview is being conducted by Andrew Pring, editor of the Morning Advertiser, who will be questioning the Punch Pub Company's food development manager Catherine Chauvet on Wednesday, March 20, at 10am. l Food and drink demonstrations The first of these is Sugar Perfection, when the UK Coupe du Monde (World Pastry Cup) team will take the stage to demonstrate skills in dessert and cake making, sugar and ice sculpting on Sunday, March 17. TV chef Antony Worrall Thompson beefs up the platform the following day (March 18), using West Country beef as the main ingredient in recipes he will prepare. A demonstration of regional excellence follows on the next two days (March 19 and 20). Chef Holly Jones will be cooking with regionally produced food and drink from the members of Heart of England fine foods which are exhibiting with Food from Britain. German regional specialities will feature in the demonstration Modern German Food on March 19, when chef Roz Denny will use ingredients that have appeared at the show. Other cookery demonstrations will be given by the Welsh Development Agency, Air Jamaica, FW Gedney, the John Lusty Group and South West Food and Drink (Taste of the West). l The International Beer & Cider Competition Expo will provide an opportunity to see all the entries to this prestigious annual competition, now in its seventh year, which attracts more than 250 ales, lagers, stouts, beers and ciders from all over the world. Visitors will be able to sample the winners in each of the 12 categories which will be judged on taste and packaging by experts from all parts of the brewing and cider industries. Gold, silver and bronze awards will be presented to the winners at Expo on Monday, March 18. A special award will be made to the supreme champion. All the beers in the competition will be considered for a number of new country awards. The best beer from each country will win an international award. l Wine Tasting The Wine & Spirit Education Trust will share its knowhow in two free 40-minute tasting technique sessions. Tickets to these free sessions can be booked in advance of the show. Places will be limited to 30 per tasting. l The Organics Village Supported by the Soil Association, this will be a distinctly branded area within the exhibition for organic companies looking to increase their distribution to mainstream retailers. It will feature companies showing a wide range of raw ingredients and prepared foods ranging from baby meals, cook-in sauces and fresh fruit to whole foods, juices, pickes, salsas and meat products. l Expo TV The Grocer will broadcast special TV news bulletins in the Ideas to Dine For arena. The programme will relay news as it happens from around the show, covering important product launches, live interviews, demonstrations and other events and activities. {{FOCUS SPECIALS }}