Sigep Brings Coffee, Competitions, and Crowds back to Rimini, Italy

The  Sigep  trade show draws huge crowds to Rimini, Italy to celebrate gelato, baked goods, confections, and coffee

Sigep
Throngs of attendees head for one of the 13 exhibit halls at Sigep in Rimini, Italy.

In the dead of winter, the beach town of Rimini, Italy can seem almost deserted. Many of the numerous hotels are shuttered, the beach chairs and umbrellas have been packed up, and the water slides and go kart tracks sit empty.

But at Rimini Fiera, the city’s gigantic convention center, the crowds are out in full force. It’s another edition of Sigep, a trade show for gelato, baked goods, confections, and coffee, draws more than 100,000 visitors over its five-day run.

Sigep
Posing for selfies with the huge chocolate David is popular at Sigep & why wouldn’t it be? It’s a giant chocolate David!

The show takes up the entire convention center, some 13 long halls linked by a common thorough fare. Coffee occupies just one of the halls (split into two sections.) While almost half the show is gelato, and the second-largest part caters to baked goods.

Sampling gelato can take up an entire day at Sigep.
Sampling gelato can take up an entire day at Sigep.

The Italian Barista Championship, Latte Art Championship, Coffee in Good Spirits, and other national coffee championships are held in the coffee sector, and they all draw large crowds. But additionally, at Sigep, you can see the Gelato World Cup, and the Pastry Queen competition, along with pizza competitions, cake building and decorating, and more. In fact, part of what makes Sigep so interesting is to see the other competitions, most of which are team based (the Gelato World Cup for example has teams of 10 people from 14 countries, all of which won regional events to qualify.) It features stadium seating, and huge video screens of the different teams as they work on the various parts of their competition, which at times includes things like side-by-side ice carving with chainsaws (something that clearly more barista competitions could stand to have.)

A competitor at the Gelato World Cup works on a ice carving. Just to his right, another team is also carving with a dueling chainsaw. So that's awesome.
A competitor at the Gelato World Cup works on a ice carving. Just to his right, another team is also carving with a dueling chainsaw. So that’s awesome.

Walking around the crowded show floor, a couple of things immediately stand out to me. One, it’s fantastic to have coffee presented in a culinary setting. Many of the attendees at Sigep are at the event simply as consumers, and it’s obvious that they enjoying tasting the numerous amazing samples that are offered all over the show. They are willing and delighted to try new things, it’s natural then to offer them specialty coffee. Of course Italy boasts a long history with coffee, but not really with specialty coffee, so in this setting, there is a natural bridge for them to cross into trying something new.

Another competition, this one for baking, features teams of chefs working on various tasks while giant video screens show the audience what's happening.
Another competition, this one for baking, features teams of chefs working on various tasks while giant video screens show the audience what’s happening.

The second thing that’s very noticeable here is how quickly the vendors respond to change. Walking up to the show two giant signs stand out, one boasts vegan gelato, and other gluten-free cookies. The impressive thing is that two years ago, on my previous visit to Sigep, no one was selling, let alone promoting, vegan or gluten-free options. Now, many exhibitors have products serving both market niches. If the market can show demand for products, then the exhibitors act. That’s a positive message for specialty coffee. If the attendees leave Sigep with a new appreciation for higher quality coffee, and they start demanding it at their local restaurants, gelaterias, bake shops, etc., the market has demonstrated a willingness to bring them the products they want.

The market here seems to move very quickly to address consumer's concerns. Noticeable this year are the number of new vegan and gluten-free options in addition to this boasting no palm oil.
The market here seems to move very quickly to address consumer’s concerns. Noticeable this year are the number of new vegan and gluten-free options in addition to this boasting no palm oil.

Visting Sigep is unlike any other trade show you’re likely to find with its unique mixture of products on display. And truthfully, only a small portion of it is coffee-focused (though the organizers are trying to add more.) But it’s definitely interesting to see coffee presented in such a setting, and again it’s absolutely fascinating to see the other competitions, see the passion of their respective industries, and of course, you have the chance to try some amazing Italian culinary treats to go with your coffee.

Still another competition, this is the Pastry Queen, which has another enormous stage and loads of spectators.
Still another competition, this is the Pastry Queen, which has another enormous stage and loads of spectators.

 

In addition to gelato, chocolate, baked goods, and coffee you can also find the latest in seafood storage on the mammoth show floor at Sigep.
In addition to gelato, chocolate, baked goods, and coffee you can also find the latest in seafood storage on the mammoth show floor at Sigep.

 

Attendees take pictures of some of incredible cake creations on display.
Attendees take pictures of some of incredible cake creations on display.

 

As you can see, the judges are calibrated and ready to go!
As you can see, the barista competition judges are calibrated and ready to go!

 

A common scene at the show entrance. Studying the map is essential to make it through the huge show floor at Sigep.
A common scene at the show entrance. Studying the map is essential to make it through the huge show floor at Sigep.

 

Huge displays of gelato are everywhere and samples are readily available. So see you here next year?
Huge displays of gelato are everywhere and samples are readily available. So see you here next year?

 

The Barista & Farmer booth has a large video board showing clips from last year's event in Honduras. This year they're going to Brazil in May for season 3!
The Barista & Farmer booth has a large video board showing clips from last year’s event in Honduras. This year they’re going to Brazil in May for season 3!
About Ken 255 Articles
Kenneth R. Olson (he/him) is co-founder and publisher of Barista Magazine the worldwide trade magazine for the professional coffee community. He has written extensively about specialty coffee, traveled near and far for stories, activities, and fun, and been invited to present on topics important to coffee culture. He is also an avid fan of the Portland Trail Blazers, the Washington Huskies, and public libraries.