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70 years of IFFA – a magnet for the meat industry

IFFA is celebrating its 70th birthday in 2019. It was held for the first time in 1949, within the framework of the conference of the German Butchers’ Association at Frankfurt Fair and Exhibition Centre. Over the decades, it has become the must-attend show for the global meat industry. Its continuous success lies in this impressive history and its strong roots in the butchers’ trade and industry.

Historical picture of IFFA

The beginnings of IFFA 1949 - 1959

The origins of IFFA go back to 1949 when, as part of a conference of the Butchers' Association of the US Zone in Frankfurt am Main, an accompanying butchers' exhibition was organised. Messe- und Ausstellungs-GmbH of Frankfurt am Main was commissioned to hold it. The exhibition, which took place from 26 June to 3 July 1949 in Halls 1 to 5, comprised an industrial show and a domestic-management section. To quote from the official catalogue of 1949: "After years of the severest problems and the scanty nutrition suffered by our population, we are gradually approaching a situation of sufficient and substantial food supply. The meat ration, too, is somewhat larger again. [...] The butchers' exhibition is designed to motivate and encourage by demonstrating, for professional needs of every kind, the latest range of products from a thriving industry."    

The range of products from Germany and abroad included "what the butcher needs in the way of machinery, equipment, tools, shop fittings, processing aids, conservation, meat hygiene and customer service." The domestic-management section of the exhibition featured customer advice, such as cooking demonstrations with the latest kitchen equipment, talks and discussions on housewife afternoons, dietary information and assistance. A total of 400 exhibitors presented their products on an exhibition area of 28,000 square meters. 172,000 visitors attended the association conference and butchers' exhibition; the event was open not just to trade visitors but to the general public, too. Among the firms exhibiting at the very start which are still here today were, for instance, Avo Werke, Bizerba Waagenfabrik, Espera Vertrieb, Hagesüd, Lay Konservierungs-Salzfabrik, Moguntia, Naturin Werk Becker, Raps & Co. KG, Seydelmann and Toledo Waagen.

After some sessions in other German cities, the German Butchers' Conference and Butchers' Exhibition took place once more in Frankfurt from 28 June to 5 July 1959. "Today we are glad to be able to offer our exhibitors, our visitors and our conference participants better facilities for holding their events. Once more Frankfurt has become the city of trade fairs and shows. This Butchers' Exhibition too, which will be showing many new products and new developments, as well as tried and tested commodities, will attract the interest of everyone in the trade", wrote Frankfurt's Mayor Werner Bockelmann in his speech of welcome. The interest was indeed enormous: some 132,000 visitors and 370 exhibitors met for the association conference and exhibition.

1971: IFFA finds its home in Frankfurt

The location of the Butchers' Exhibition, which continued to be held concurrently with the meetings of the German Butchers' Association, changed over the following years. In 1962 it was in Munich, in 1965 in Cologne, and in 1968 in Hamburg. The year 1971 marked a turning point. To quote from the catalogue: "...from now on the previous style of a travelling exhibition will be abandoned and Frankfurt chosen as the permanent exhibition venue. The fair and exhibition company in Frankfurt has been commissioned to hold the IFFA in a three-year cycle."   

The International Trade Fair for the Meat Industry – the IFFA in short – increasingly took on an international character. The catalogue says: "In Frankfurt, the city of trade fairs, it is not just the national but the international meat industry as a whole which comes together, plus its widely ramified supplier industry. Under the shortened designation 'IFFA', which has already become a seal of quality, this trade fair is well known among professionals in all countries and has an excellent reputation."

As a fair purely for trade visitors, IFFA brought together some 460 exhibiting firms and around 64,000 trade visitors on an exhibition area of 50,000 square meters in 1971.

Development into an international hotspot: 1980 to the present day

Over the following decades the IFFA developed into a venue which no-one in the global meat industry could miss. It has retained its unique selling point – its focus on the valuable foodstuff, meat – and, not least through this retention of focus, constantly reinvented itself. Attendance by exhibitors and visitors has somewhat changed in structure, but in some segments has also remained constant.  

The biggest change involves the internationalisation and increasingly technology-based approach of the fair. On the visitor side it can be seen that the proportion of firms from abroad has grown constantly. In 1980, out of a total of 637 exhibitors, only 160 came from abroad – which equalled 25 percent. These firms were located mainly in Western Europe and North and South America. The proportion of exhibitors from abroad at the last IFFA in 2016 was 62 percent. Over these 40 years, however, the origin of the firms has remained relatively constant. Among the strongest exhibitor nations, along with Germany, come as previously Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark and the USA. Relatively new among the top ten are China and Poland.

A similar picture presents itself on the visitor side. In 1980 some 20 percent of visitors at the fair came to Frankfurt from abroad. Mostly from Germany's neighbouring West European countries, but also from North and South America, Japan, Israel, South Africa and Australia. These countries of origin are still strongly represented at the IFFA. Only visitors from China have increasingly become more and more over the last three fairs and today belong to the top ten visitor nations. At the IFFA 2016 a total of 67 percent of guests at the fair came from abroad – they travelled from 142 countries to Frankfurt am Main and “The No. 1 for the meat industry.”

‘After years of the severest problems and the scanty nutrition suffered by our population, we are gradually approaching a situation of sufficient and substantial food supply. The meat ration, too, is somewhat larger again. [...] The butchers' exhibition is designed to motivate and encourage by demonstrating, for professional needs of every kind, the latest range of products from a thriving industry.’

Video about 70 Years’ IFFA

The film shows how the fair has changed over the last seven decades. We hope you enjoy viewing it!

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