Sunday 16 June 2024
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Ilaria Cicero, the CEO of IEG Asia: “Our  aim  is  to  bring  more and more foreign exhibitors to Sigep”

The Ceo: “Last year we closed with 7,000 visitors and we would like to beat this number. We estimated attendance firstly from Singapore locals and then participants from China, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and some from the Middle East."

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MILAN – Italian Exhibition Group (IEG) has officially landed on the Asian market with its wholly owned subsidiary IEG Asia: a step towards greater internationalisation of the Sigep brand already established in Europe and of Italian food & beverage abroad, which Ilaria Cicero, CEO of IEG Asia Pte. Ltd. Singapore, wanted to tell about its genesis, development and future goals.

Coffee, ice cream, chocolate, bakery and confectionery made in Italy: all this is Sigep, and now it is also exporting it abroad. How did this project come about?

“The project was born at the conclusion of an analysis carried out by the Sigep team in Rimini, in which various markets were taken into consideration: among these, Asia was found to be the most developing compared to South America, Africa or the United States, which are rather fragmented.

Sigep Asia 2024
Sigep Asia 2024

It was precisely from this study, which had the objective of identifying the markets where IEG would have the greatest opportunities for growth, that China emerged, with which the Group already had a company through a local partner, and then Singapore: the latter because two opportunities opened up.

The first arose from a very close relationship with the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), a government body linked to the Ministry of Trade and Industry that had long since shown its interest in the IEG Group, which had repeatedly invited IEG to enter Singapore by offering the right support.

The other opportunity came in the form of the acquisition of three local events, not large in size, which were based precisely on Sigep’s sectors and now incorporated within it: Café Asia, International Coffee & Tea Industry Asia and Sweets and Bakes Asia.

These were the basis for launching the actual Sigep Asia, in its first edition: from my experience of over 16 years in the trade fair industry, I can say that when you want to organise a good trade fair abroad, you need a solid base of local exhibitors. Then the international scene emerges.


So this acquisition was made and I took over here in Singapore as CEO of IEG Asia, a wholly Italian-owned company, on 1 March last year.

In the same vein of expansion, Italy saw that at the end of December 2023, there would be an opportunity to acquire three other small trade fairs from a British organiser, Montgomery Group: Speciality Food & Drinks Asia, Speciality Coffee & Tea Asia and Food2GO.

Singapore National Coffee Championship (foto dal sito)

This further step forward was just as strategic because each year within these events, the National Singapore Coffee Championship was held, which then selects the challenger who performs the World Coffee Championships.

In Italy, Sigep Rimini performs the same function, so this acquisition made in record time (just two and a half months compared to a normal process in these cases of at least four months) was particularly interesting.

This created the ideal platform to launch Sigep Asia and combine food & beverage with in fact in the original acquisition, we had also included an event called Restaurant Asia, now co-organised with the Restaurant Association of Singapore.

Finally, in April this year, IEG Asia signed a memorandum of understanding with IFBA (International Food & Beverage Association). The end result is a single three-day event at the end of June 2024, bringing F&B and together.

This is because we wanted to take into account the fact that Singapore is a very expensive and competitive city and therefore it is necessary to organise a single event to attract international and local visitors who have different needs and interests.”

What is the visitor forecast for this edition?

“Last year we closed with 7,000 visitors and we would like to beat this number. We estimated attendance firstly from Singapore locals and then participants from China, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and some from the Middle East.

Keytarget markets (foto dal sito)

This year we are also launching for the first time the Buyer programme, a hosted buyers programme, whereby IEG Asia will host 100 qualified buyers from this area who will be able to organise their business meetings with our local, Italian and international exhibitors.”

What are the Italian products that the Asian market is most looking for?

bakery a Sigep Asia (photo from the website)

“They always like Italy. When our country is mentioned, the eyes of Asians light up, because the style of Made in Italy is difficult to replicate. When they talk about our products, the market opens up: Italian coffee, ice cream, which is still confused here for ice cream, and everything related to bakery and pastry (three pastry chefs from the Apei Association, Damiano Rizzo, Rocco Scutellà, and Emanuele Valsecchi will be there for the occasion) are very popular.

Moreover, precisely because our country drives South East Asia crazy, we will have masterclasses by Carpigiani on ice cream, Chef Giuseppe Piffaretti with panettone, the Richemont Club and the International Union of Bakers and Confectioners, Chef Eugenio Morrone on ice cream and pizza with Chef Alessandro di Roberto.

So the aim of this company is to try to bring more and more foreign exhibitors to Sigep Rimini: this is the bridge we are building between East and West. As far as coffee is concerned, the big brands such as Lavazza, illycaffè, Segafredo Zanetti, Boncafé, Evoca, Mec3 and Caffè Carraro are well known.

The espresso culture is also strengthening here and some people are asking for the one-shot cup instead of the double: of course, American coffee is still popular, because there are various contaminations in this country. Lastly, Fabbri amarena cherry could not be missing.”

The first edition of Sigep Asia is scheduled to take place from 26 to 28 June: what are the main assets on which this event will play to show itself competitive compared to other trade fairs already active in this area?

“Competition is fierce: we already have to compete with Informa Markets with Food Hotel Asia, which has been present here for many years and in even years also organises FHA in October.

So we wanted to position ourselves on a level that focuses on quality as a boutique event that encompasses foodservice, and food & beverage in three days. In a single event we give a broader panorama, from technologies (for the first time we will organise the Technology Sustainable Pavilion) to the barista competition, from the Italian masters of pastry, ice cream, bakery and pizza to an insight into the future of the Asian market (at the round table on the second day with the International Food&Beverage Association and the respective members of all food & beverage associations in South East Asia).

In addition, we involved the ASEAN Restaurant Alliance, Asian Restaurant Association, with the president, vice-president, senior member, with associations coming from Singapore, Cambodia, Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia for talks and to visit our exhibitors.”

So what does the Italian Sigep have to teach the Asian market in terms of technology and technique?

“We will have the Technology Sustainable Pavilion section for the first time, with Truly Robotics, which belongs to the large Japanese company Softbank, which will be launching products in the catering sector for the first time in Singapore, together with several exhibitors presenting innovations in the food and sector.

It is 180 square metres that we hope to expand in the future. There will also be the Sand Box, an area where we will showcase sustainable innovation for the catering industry.”

You are currently present in Singapore and China. What are the next steps?

“Definitely try to expand the event and have more and more international participation. This year is a launch, but we want many more Italians, the Kuwait Pavilion to be doubled, Japan and China to be trebled, Germany and other European countries to be more involved, and finally to create a global base with local and South East Asia.

Another objective remains to expand the Technology Pavilion, to organise more Ted Talks, to see together with the parent company whether there might be other territories within the large area called APAC in which to locate Sigep.

Currently there are three offers from three different countries: Japan, Thailand and Malaysia. Now we are focusing on trade fairs and we will think about expanding from 2025 onwards: now it is important to consolidate the brand in China and Singapore.

“Sigep” is an extremely well-known brand in Europe (41 years of history), while in this market we still have work to do to position ourselves: FHA and Taifex are better known here, and we have had to confront ourselves as Italy on this point.

International expansion, which is sometimes experienced with fear, is instead an opportunity to build brand awareness that benefits the parent company first and foremost: this helps to obtain exhibitors and visitors from other parts of the world that are more difficult to reach from Italy.

This policy of internationalisation started with the arrival at IEG of CEO Doctor Corrado Peraboni and the acquisition in the United States, followed by my colleague Francesco Santa who has continued with this mentality of making the IEG Group and its brands known outside national borders. However, one must always start with the logic of strengthening the local hard core and create the international part all around.’

Now we launch Sigep Asia with the other events and immediately afterwards we think about how to grow in this area of the world.”


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