The challenges overcome in planning IBIE 2022 were formidable, but the excitement and success evident in the event’s first days are cause for great celebration, said Kerwin Brown, the chief executive officer of BEMA. 

In an interview Sept. 19, Brown reflected on an IBIE that at the same time appears to be “business as usual” and also is an IBIE like no other. He cited an unusually high level of “fun energy” that occurs “when people who haven’t seen one another in a while are able to get together.”

“Our show cycle is the same,” he said. “I know of no other trade show in any other industry that wasn’t affected. Everyone was affected, except us. We were here in 2019, and we’re here in 2022. So it should feel normal. But it’s anything but normal because of what happened in between.”

Typically, the grain-based foods industry has many opportunities to gather in the three years from one IBIE to the next. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, that wasn’t the case for much of the last three years.

“Meetings didn’t happen; bakers didn’t travel; there were fewer supplier visits,” Brown said. “I think that need to meet, the need to get together, the need to see innovation was compounded, not to mention that automation is needed more than it has ever been in the history of our industry. All those forces got released yesterday.”

Adding to the positive energy is what has been offered at IBIE, both in terms of the show floor and programming.

“Walking around the booths, there is more equipment, there are more video boards, there is more food being offered,” Brown said. “It feels like everyone brought their A game.”

He also highlighted show features ranging from the Cannabis Central Pavilion and the RBA Bakers Center, decorated by Corbion, in the North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center to the Artisan Marketplace, crafted by Puratos, in the West Hall. The education program has been vibrant, he added.

“We started educational programming Saturday morning at 8:30 a.m.,” he said. “There were 78 people in Dave Watson’s talk (The Austin Co). Seeing that response was very rewarding.” 

Making the success still more gratifying is the fact it was anything but a foregone conclusion, even a few months ago, that IBIE would be held as a live show.

“There was a collective sigh of relief when we ‘cut the bread’ yesterday,” Brown said of the opening ceremonies.

In the first and second quarter of 2022, organizers of other shows in Las Vegas called it a success if attendance was 50% of normal, Brown said.

“It was common earlier this year that exhibit halls had huge gaps with people canceling at the last minute,” he said. “It was crazy. Now we have attendance nearly identical to 2019. We couldn’t be happier.”