Earlier this month, World Travel Catering & Onboard Services Expo (WTCE) returned as its first live, face-to-face event since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, welcoming 4,909 visitors through the doors at Hamburg Messe.
The return of in-person networking was not the only reason the show’s organisers were celebrating: 2022 is also the 10-year anniversary of this global event for inflight catering, onboard services and passenger comfort.
This year’s focus was on how these industry sectors can accelerate aviation’s post-pandemic recovery, while developing sustainable solutions and enhancing the passenger travel experience.
More than 250 exhibitors from across the catering and onboard services industry welcomed attendees from 138 global, regional and low-cost airlines at the event, including Emirates, Virgin Atlantic and easyJet, as well as rail companies and international caterers such as Dnata, Newrest, SATS Catering and LSG.
Robin Padgett, CEO of Dnata said at the event, “This is the best show we have ever had, and we’ve been coming since its inception. We have always enjoyed it, and this year has passed our expectations. It’s a huge commitment for most of the industry, and the show has generated a years’ worth of work for us. WTCE provides us with great leads, and we have had the chance to rebuild and rekindle relationships.”
Abdulrahim Aljneibi, procurement manager at Etihad Airways added, “I came to WTCE to meet up with suppliers face-to-face and to expand our portfolio and build up relationships. We want to discuss and see how the new market is growing. I have really enjoyed the environment here. Everything has been really well organised.”
Meeting connections old and new
Making connections is at the heart of WTCE and after such a long period of online events, this year it was even more important than ever for visitors and exhibitors to find the space and time to meet in person. To help facilitate meetings, WTCE launched WTCE Connect, a new online tool that helped attendees to easily arrange meetings in advance. More than 1,000 meetings were set up using the new tool, matching onboard buyers with products and suppliers based on their registration responses, and also allowing them to search for and invite relevant industry associates to connect.
A new smart badging system was also introduced at the 2022 WTCE, whereby visitors could scan in at exhibition stands and request more information, with both parties then receiving a checklist of everyone they had spoken to on the stands, making it easier to follow-up with specific contacts post-show.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, after such a hiatus, this year’s WTCE saw many new innovations, and new faces. For example Omnevo, a German technology company, was a first-time exhibitor, showcasing a suite of omnichannel solutions to help airlines drive additional ancillary revenue.
Alongside on-trend food and drink products ranging from prepared meals to meal components, snacks, and beverages, other exhibitors highlighted how cleanliness is now a greater priority for many passengers, demonstrating new ideas in areas such as amenity kits and hygiene products, for both passengers and the cabin.
Sustainable packaging was another focus, with exhibitors including Cyclups Creation BV from the Netherlands offering ‘Plantastiq’ compostable wheat-based straws and cutlery, Sier Disposables highlighting its creative sustainable disposables, and Eco-Material from Taiwan demonstrating its moulded pulp foodservice and packaging products.
Returning exhibitors included Linstol, Frankenberg, Portfolio Partners and Formia, who joined many new brands making their debut at the 2022 show. The new names included cocktail specialist Tom Savano, which introduced visitors to a personalised cocktail offering that allows airlines to tailor their passenger’s experience to their flight destination (Virgin Atlantic is a customer), as well as For Aisha, with its dairy-free halal baby food, 4700BC Popcorn, a gourmet popcorn brand, and Coconuts Organic with its vegan ice cream.
Sustainability was also a theme at this year’s Taste of Travel conference programme, with a line-up featuring sessions focused on sustainable catering. Educational content was delivered by a lineup of passenger experience professionals and sustainability experts, while the programme also featured cookery demonstrations by chefs – and visitors enjoyed the numerous sampling opportunities.
Marc Wade from Libero Special Meals opened the first day of the programme, discussing the dietary needs of special meal passengers. He then went on to lead a panel of food and diet experts in a discussion about allergens, diets, and the future of special meals onboard.
‘Passengers lead the sustainability cause’ was the topic explored by Lauren Costello from IFSA. Her session underlined the message that airlines cannot afford to ignore passenger demand for sustainable inflight service.
Multiple sessions over the course of the show examined sustainability issues in detail, including Ariane Van Mancius, founder and owner of NowNewNext, who examined the real price of sustainability, and Bjoern Orth of the LSG culinary team, who showcased a range of dishes that create zero food waste.
Visitors were also invited to explore technological advances, with subjects ranging from pre-ordering and in-seat ordering, personalised meals and the supply chain, with experts ranging from Maryann Simson from Jetway Communications, Job Heimerikx, CEO of Air Fi, Nils Taubert, CEO of Retail in Motion, and Michael Raesch, CEO of Omnevo.
Elsewhere on the show floor, further sustainable solutions included Linstol’s headphones made from 100% recycled plastic recovered from the ocean, Incredible Eats’ range of flavoured edible spoons, Playin Choc’s dairy-free and gluten-free chocolates packaged in biodegradable, plastic-free packaging, and B Conspiracy’s single-use self-care solutions.
One visitor, Tetsuya Maeno from All Nippon Airways (ANA), commented: “I’m particularly interested in sustainable products and companies with innovative thinking, and I’ve found that WTCE has been a great place to meet suppliers with innovation and sustainability front of mind.”
The co-located Passenger Experience Conference, taking place one day before WTCE, also offered visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves in new ideas, innovations, and the evolution of the onboard passenger experience. And Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) offered an educational programme running in parallel with WTCE, which offered expertise, case studies and insights.
A decade of WTCE
A series of special events marked the WTCE’s 10th anniversary, including the ‘Onboard Icons’ awards, which recognised the contribution of 10 of the most influential people in the sector, as voted for by the industry. Additionally, a showcase of 10 of the 50-plus companies that have exhibited at WTCE since that first event in 2012 was presented at the show, with many of these companies having gone on to successfully develop their businesses.
And to keep visitors and exhibitors in the party spirit, as well as offering yet more networking opportunities, all were invited to a drinks reception sponsored by Heineken on the evening of Wednesday, 15 June.
Polly Magraw, the event director for WTCE commented: “We’re absolutely blown away by the sheer level of industry enthusiasm and support for this year’s show following what has been a very challenging few years for travel.
“It’s clear that while passengers and stakeholders were forced to stay at home and shut down, innovation was still very much top of mind, so we’ve been hugely excited by the new products, services and technologies showcased this year. If this year’s support for WTCE is anything to go by, global travel is well on its way to a fantastic recovery.”