A meeting held Nov. 4 by the staff leadership of the American Meat Institute and the Food Processing Suppliers Association produced no agreement to satisfy supplier concerns that AMI is moving its now-biennial trade exposition to an annual schedule beginning in the spring of 2011. Both sides, however, called the meeting productive and the beginning of further discussion.

The meeting was held in the wake of this year’s four-day Worldwide Food Expo, the biennial exposition that AMI co-sponsors with the International Dairy Food Association, which concluded Oct. 31 at McCormick Place in Chicago. At its meeting held in conjunction with the WWFE, the AMI board of directors voted, without opposition, to move the show to an annual schedule. However, a 60-day holding period is in place before a final decision takes effect.

As word of the board’s decision spread last week through McCormick’s exhibit halls, several exhibitors expressed frustration that AMI was making the show even more frequent. A letter arguing against the change, signed by the directors of the Meat Industry Suppliers Association, which is part of FPSA and includes many of the AMI expo’s major exhibitors, was sent to AMI on Oct. 23.

From AMI’s perspective, the expo landscape has changed significantly in the past two years. "Right now, we’re the only biennial show left standing," AMI president J. Patrick Boyle commented to MEATPOULTRY.com. "Our competitors are PackExpo, which is held every year in October, the International Poultry Exposition every year in January, the FPSA show now in conjunction with IFT which will be every year in July, and now the annual IDFA show in September. The whole reason we are considering this change is because the marketplace has changed. Last year there were two annual shows; next year there will be four."

He said that with a biennial schedule, AMI must charge exhibitors approximately $30 per square foot for booth space. If the show became annual that fee would be reduced to the $20 range. The higher fee, he said, "has been extremely difficult for first-time exhibitors." An analysis was made of the costs and potential of adopting the triennial schedule used by the huge IFFA meat-equipment show in Germany, "but if we went to that kind of schedule we'd need to charge around $40 per square foot for booth space in Chicago – we’d be not only the most expensive show of our kind in North America but in the world" Boyle said. He said that at the meeting, "There was lots of support for a biennial show. But the onus, really, is on the exhibitors to work with the show sponsors, including their own show, the FPSA."

David Seckman, president and CEO of FPSA, described the Nov. 4 meeting as "productive and positive" to MEATPOULTRY.com. "We agreed that we need to continue the discussion. What our members are concerned about is what’s best for exhibitors and attendees."

He added: "The show business is not what it used to be. It’s not been the best of times, frankly, so we think this is a good time to make an overall evaluation with AMI to see what’s best."

If AMI’s plan takes effect, it would not be the first time the Institute’s expo has been held annually. It was on an annual schedule for decades, in fact, until the late 1980s, when exhibitors, banded together in MISA, successfully persuaded AMI to adopt the biennial schedule. The next AMI expo had been scheduled for the fall of 2011 but the board moved to shift the event, which will be held in Chicago, to the spring. That show is already more than half sold, according to AMI. "The board agreed that unless annual competitors, like FPSA and the poultry show, adopt a biennial format, the April 2011 show will be AMI’s last biennial show and that we will begin hosting an annual trade show with lower competitive exhibit rates in April 2012," commented Boyle. The ’12 event would be held in Dallas, and the expo would then return to Chicago in 2013 and in odd-numbered years thereafter. In even-numbered years Boyle said the expo will move to locations such as Denver, Orlando and Las Vegas, where costs are less than in Chicago.