IFEAT CONFERENCE February 1, 2023


Some three years after the stunning Bali Conference in 2019, IFEAT held its first postpandemic Conference in Vancouver Canada from 9th – 14th October 2022. Again, the Ultra Group was very much involved sending a large team of delegates as well as being the Conference’s Platinum Sponsor. It was so enjoyable to meet face-to-face with friends, clients and even competitors after such a long time. While online meetings played a vital role during the COVID disruptions and uncertainties, there is nothing comparable to being physically present during discussions and presentations. Moreover, the Conference was held in a superb location at the Westin Bayshore Hotel, near to the iconic Stanley Park, and alongside Coal Harbour Bay with superb views over the water and mountains beyond. In addition, in these days of skill shortages there was a relatively large number of capable, efficient, and welcoming Bayshore staff on hand to facilitate the smooth running of the Conference. The weather was near perfect – no rain, clear blue skies, beautiful sunrises, and sunsets – enabling delegates to enjoy walks along the quayside and visit nearby restaurants and bars.

The IFEAT Vancouver Conference Committee, under the Chairmanship of Alan Brown, along with the IFEAT Secretariat and the Local Organising Committee are to be congratulated on organising a very successful conference despite the COVID disruptions and uncertainties. There continued to be great uncertainty until a few weeks before, when Canada finally lifted its strict COVID requirements. To reduce risk and increase damage limitation the Organising Committee decided not to hold the IFEAT Dinner, and there was less entertainment in comparison to previous years. In addition, the Committee adopted policies to raise the sustainability of the Conference. Similarly, there were fewer company parties – although the Ultra Group did hold a smaller party than usual for clients and friends.

Despite the considerable uncertainty of the last three years, the detailed planning by IFEAT’s Vancouver Conference Committee, chaired by Alan Brown, assisted by the Local Organising Committee (LOC) and the IFEAT Secretariat, finally led to the holding of the “Pacific Reunion”. While the Westin Bayshore did not reach the superb standards of Bali’s Mulia Beach Resort, it did provide ample space for presentations, meetings, and a trade exhibition for 926 delegates and 36 accompanying persons from 557 companies and some 59 countries that attended. This was IFEAT’s first hybrid conference and there were 35 online attendees. There were more registered delegates but over a 100 were unable to attend because of the inability of the Canadian authorities to issue visas in time. Something that no one could have predicted when Vancouver was chosen as a location some four years ago.

This was IFEAT’s first hybrid conference, and another advantage was that presentations and meetings could be held with some participants not being physically present but participating from afar.

The large Bayshore Ballroom with its excellent video and sound reproduction systems was an excellent location for the four days of presentations, the IFEAT AGM and Business Session, the morning legislative and regulatory session on the EU’s Green Deal, as well as a round table on certification issues. Another ballroom hosted 30 companies exhibiting over the four days, while the hybrid system enabled 5 companies to have online exhibition booths. This was IFEAT’s first hybrid conference, and another advantage was that presentations and meetings could be held with some participants not being physically present but participating from afar. Another welcome innovation was the use of a professional Master of Ceremonies, who introduced the speakers, moderated the Q/A sessions, and ensured the programme ran to time.

The hotel had ample meeting places for networking, such a vital component of IFEAT conferences. There were 41 suites in which individual companies could host meetings with existing and potential customers and suppliers as well as a seminar room for the one-day Flavour and Fragrance Ingredients workshop, which was sold out.

As usual, the Conference began with a Welcome Reception on Sunday evening which was opened with a First Nations recognition ceremony. An Elder representing the indigenous people of Canada made a short speech followed by a traditional dance performance.

The Conference programme was opened on Monday morning by the Conference Chair Alan Brown who explained the theme was the “Pacific Reunion” and why the Conference differed in several respects from previous years. Then three diverse and excellent presentations followed. Another first was a presentation by a professional paid speaker, Minter Dial on Energy and Connection, which discussed concrete ways in which both individuals and companies could be positive and overcome the major anxieties of recent years “by tapping into your essences through the 5Es – engagement, exchange, emotion, experience, and essence (linking to your “north”)”. The latter urged people to “find their true North”. Certainly, some of the Ultra Team took this to heart by flying up to the Yukon immediately after the Conference to assess the opportunities to produce oils from the Boreal Forest in northern Canada!

Alain Frix followed with a wide ranging and thought-provoking lecture on F&F Feedstocks & Renewability. He reviewed the growing competition for renewable feedstocks, the impact of mergers and acquisitions, and the excessive regulatory environment. Each major source of F&F raw material ingredients was discussed and quantified: petrochemicals, forest products, essential oils, and biotechnology. Major concerns were expressed about their renewability and future availability and he explained why there is no perfect sustainability solution. Michael Ford followed with a very topical and in-depth analysis of the Current Transportation and Trade Challenges Impacting Shippers. Factors disrupting global supply chains – port congestion, high freight costs, new regulations, and COVID-19 – and important transport and trade regulations impacting the aroma trades were discussed.

As usual Tuesday morning was devoted to the IFEAT AGM and Business Session and the IFEAT Medal Lecture. There was a report on IFEAT’s 2021 activities and accounts; new Executive Committee members along with a new EC Chair and Vice Chair were elected. Presentations were made on the next IFEAT Conference in Berlin in October 2023 with the theme of Trade, Tradition and Modern Spirit; the first IFEAT Focus Study Tour on Spanish lemon in Murcia in late February 2023; reports on the IFEAT supported Reading flavour and ICATS perfumery courses and medals presented to the best student on each course. Also, there was a short and moving video on IFEAT Members who have passed away since the Bali Conference.

The IFEAT Business Session was followed by Kim Bleimann’s Medal Lecture on Catalysts of Change in which he reflected on his nearly 50 years in the industry in a wide-ranging lecture littered with quotes. Known for his direct speaking and occasional lack of political correctness, he spoke out strongly about his concerns about “death by regulation” and his concerns for the future of the F&F industry citing particularly REACH and the EU’s Green Deal and the need to intensify lobbying. He was particularly concerned about how innovation, which is a major stimulus to industry growth, was being stifled by regulation, the reduced availability of perfumery ingredients and by continuing mergers and acquisitions in the sector.

A full morning was devoted to another excellent but worrying session on The EU Green Deal and its Impact on Flavours and Fragrances: The Domino Effect. The Green Deal was presented in late 2019 just before the onset of the pandemic and two of its eight strategic pillars, namely the CSS (Chemical Strategy for Sustainability) and the F2F (Farm to Fork) initiative will set new boundaries for the flavour, fragrance, cosmetics, and aromatherapy industries. Seven leading experts from major trade associations made presentations covering various complexities of the Green Deal. This was followed by a Q & A session.

It is impossible to provide details of all the excellent 21 presentations that were made but the speakers had obviously spent a lot of time preparing their presentations. They were wide ranging both in content and in location – including the Amazon, China, Nepal, Patagonia, Sri Lanka, Venezuela, and Vietnam. Another excellent Conference innovation was the final presentation by Henry Gill, namely a Crop/Market Report: Buying better in a turbulent market which should become a regular feature of IFEAT Conferences.

The greatly improved Whova app, which was available both before, during and after the Conference, enabled the presentations to be viewed once they had been presented. Registered delegates can view the presentations until mid-January 2023. Delegates were able to use the app to obtain information on the various conference delegates, presentations, and events, as well as communicate directly with each other. In addition, just prior to the start of the conference, speed networking sessions were held to enable delegates to meet up. More details of the presentations can be found on the IFEAT website (www ifeat.org).

The final Conference event was the Closing Banquet held in the Vancouver Conference Centre on Thursday evening. The Conference Chair, Alan Brown, besides thanking the many Conference Sponsors and the delegates, invited on stage all those who had made the Conference such a success. Each year sees IFEAT Conferences move between continents with new companies and countries participating, a clear indication that IFEAT has weathered the pandemic and is going from strength to strength. Next year sees the much-postponed Berlin Conference – look forward to seeing you there!