A record number of visitors attended EuroTier, held in Hanover in November 2007. The world's largest exhibition for animal husbandry and livestock management offered an extra attraction for 2008, the World Poultry Forum and the number of attendees expressing an interest in poultry was almost double that of EuroTier 2006.
In many regions of the world, the poultry and related industries are weathering the financial crisis well and there was a feeling of optimism across exhibitors, with cage companies to feed suppliers reporting that, to date, markets were holding up far better than expected.
Perhaps indicative of the strength of the sector was the number of first-time exhibitors, including Argentinian animal-health company Cevasa, Dutch online-equipment supplier Agromax and Brazilian feed concern Biorigin.
Amongst visitors' priorities were to find out about trends and innovations, and the event had a lot to show.
Stork Food Systems, which joined with Marel at the beginning of 2007, chose EuroTier to highlight a number of new machines, among them its wing-stick module.
The machine is a technical innovation and results in an innovative product taking a normal wing and making it into a value-added snack.
The product has already been proven in France and the machine can either be added to a standard line or manually loaded.
When asked whether, in a period of belt-tightening, demand for value-added products would not fall away in favour of purchases of whole birds, Stork sales director for China, Janjaap van der Mark, replied: "Today, you have smaller households, you have more eating moments each day and with a whole chicken you have to debone it. People don't like that."
Innovations were also highly visible at the HatchTech stand. The company was demonstrating its Humidifier, which produces water particles 30-40 times smaller than those of a traditional spray humidifier, and which was reported to be receiving a lot of interest.
HatchTech was also showing its Cyclean device which captures fluff from the air and returns clean air, preventing contamination. But the benefit of Cyclean is not only that it provides clean air, installation of the device means that the fluff room becomes superfluous, so economising on space and the labour needed to clean it.
Sales manager for Asia and Africa Wilfried Ten Elsen commented that, within his markets, he was not hearing that customers were being affected by the economic downturn.
The cage manufacturer played host to representatives from a new government-funded egg facility in Kazakstan, trading under the name of Kazger-Kus. The venture, established to substitute imports, will have two rearing houses, eight laying houses and a total of 600,000 birds by the end of this year.
While a stalwart of the animal-health pavilion, this year also saw Pfizer present in the poultry hall. Following the company's purchase of Embrex in 2007, Pfizer was showing the Inovoject System and the Inovoject System Egg Remover.
The new generation Innovoject has a new interface making diagnosis, training and data capture easier. Melinda Freeson, manager of global marketing communications and events, commented that it had been a show with a surprisingly high number of visitors and that a lot of contacts had been made.
Marketing manager with Petersime Philippe Delodder commented that, while in the short term the market might be less easy, in the medium term the outlook was promising. While there would be a slowdown in 2009, market activity went in waves, he noted.
Petersime, which currently lists amongst projects a hatchery near Dresden to which 85-90 machines are being delivered, has, over the last two years, seen Indonesia, South Africa, Russia and Eastern and Western Europe boom. This year, Western Europe is predicted to score the best.
Asked whether clients were prepared to make substantial investments when the market was facing uncertainty, Mr Delodder replied: "A customer in South Africa said: You can't beat about the bush with technology, it is a huge investment so you go for the best. The more good chicks you have the more good meat you have.' "
The Cobb stand was a hive of activity and Euan Meldrum, regional marketing manager with Cobb Europe, reported growing interest in the Cobb 700, launched in Italy in September 2007. The bird is close to capturing 20% of the Italian market for its category.
The Cobb 700, developed to supply meat for processed products and said to achieve the highest eviscerated and breast meat yields of all breed options, is now available throughout Europe.
Mr Meldrum noted that the impact of the credit crunch across Europe, the Middle East and Africa varied from country to country, and that the biggest potential for business in 2009 would be Russia, as the country was increasingly developing home production to substitute exports.
Novartis chose to highlight its tiamulin-based Denagard at Eurotier, which it reported was selling well against Mycoplasmosis, and for which active marketing for the poultry sector started in 2008.
The company notes that Denagard, which does not result in cross resistance and has a molecule that is not used in human medicine, is performing well in the poultry sector. Novartis has been implementing an educational initiative in Germany, highlighting difficulties with the Brachyspira species which can result in reduced egg production.
Housing systems supplier Vencomatic reported a "very busy show" and its stand was divided into two distinct sections, one for layers and one for broiler breeders. In October, the company established Venco-Extra Poultry Equipment, a joint venture with equipment manufacturer Shanghai-Extra.
Niels Geraerts, marketing manager, said: "There's not a lot of business in Asia yet for automatic hatching and collection, but it will improve."
This is another company that is holding up well in the face of the economic downturn. While currency fluctuations are having an impact on business and some European projects are being postponed, overall, the company feels that it is not losing out.
Online-equipment retailer Agromax was exhibiting for the first time, and director Ramzy Yousef was confident that, with his innovative approach, economical and transparent pricing, the company would weather any downturn.
"I am the only company where customers can open a website and check how much products will cost," he explained, adding that a UK advertising push was planned for 2009.
Mr Yousef commented that Russia offered a lot of potential and that the company was planning to enter the South American market.
So were exhibitors at EuroTier right to be looking to the future with optimism? They probably were.
According to Richard Gruebel, international president of Tyson Foods, speaking at the World Poultry Forum, meat consumption worldwide will rise. As the highest growth will be in the developing world, poultry consumption will outstrip that of other protein sources.