25 Aug 2023

IFA 2023: evolution instead of revolution

In an exclusive interview with IFA International, gfu's Managing Director Dr Sara Warneke shares insights into the origins and future developments of the leading consumer and home electronics trade show

Gfu Consumer & Home Electronics GmbH and its flagship event, IFA, have played a pivotal role in the world of consumer and home electronics for the past five decades. After recently celebrating its 50th anniversary, gfu continues to shape the industry and connect stakeholders. We had the privilege of an exclusive chat with Dr Sara Warneke, the Managing Director of gfu, ahead of IFA 2023.

Why is it important to organise a dedicated trade show specifically for the consumer and home electronics industries?
Organising a dedicated trade show is of great importance for the industry. It provides a platform to showcase innovations to a wide audience and gather valuable feedback. It serves as a meeting point for all industry stakeholders to engage in business transactions and exchange opinions and thoughts.

Additionally, trade shows like IFA act as order fairs, where retailers place their orders ahead of the peak sales period. IFA fulfils all these functions as the world's most important trade show for consumer electronics and home appliances.

What specific elements have contributed to IFA’s lasting success over the years?
The concept of IFA has been continuously developed and adapted to the needs of the market. This has always been about evolution, not revolution, many tried and tested elements of IFA have been retained and IFA has remained true to its roots. It is a show for innovation where world premieres are showcast and trade visitors as well as the general public are able to experience them in a truly unique environment.


This year, IFA is entering a new chapter with the establishment of IFA Management GmbH, a joint venture between gfu and Clarion Events. How does the new organisation aim to enhance the show's relevance and efficiency?
The changes introduced to the IFA concept are based on the principle of "evolution instead of revolution." The new management is taking a more international approach by expanding the digital offering and the IFA NEXT brand, thereby opening the event to more startups and innovative product launches. Investments have been made in new features to further incentivise trade visitors, sponsors, exhibitors, and the public. Notable additions include "The Sustainability Village," a partnership with "#BerlinTechWeek," and an "eSports Arena."

Organising a dedicated trade show is of great importance for the industry. It provides a platform to showcase innovations to a wide audience and gather valuable feedback.


As the Managing Director of gfu for nearly three years, what are some of your personal priorities and goals? Where do you envision taking gfu?
The strategic development of IFA is naturally a top priority for us, which is why we formed a joint venture with Clarion. Ensuring the successful operation of IFA Management GmbH and IFA itself is of utmost importance. Additionally, we aim to sharpen gfu's focus as an industry organisation, with an emphasis on public relations work, market research, and study efforts.

Sustainability is a key topic at this year's show. Can you tell us more about the motivations behind this strong focus?
We all have a responsibility to environmental protection and sustainability. Rising energy prices have brought about increased sensitivity to sustainability in consumer behaviour as well as product selection. The industry has been aware of its responsibility for this for many years and, for example, improves energy and water consumption with each new generation of appliances. Sustainability also has enormous significance in production and energy supply. IFA does justice to this trend with its own exhibition area. The “Sustainability Village” is an exhibition area for environmentally friendly innovations with a conference programme entirely dedicated to the topic of sustainability.

What are some of the major highlights that attendees can look forward to at this year’s IFA?
In addition to many exciting innovations and launches in all product areas of the consumer electronics and home appliances segments, the new features of IFA 2023 should also be mentioned here. With attractive updates and a series of new formats, the world's leading trade show will gain in importance in current thematic areas in 2023. One example of this is IFA Next - a true Innovation Hub, and for me the real 'heart of IFA', which has been significantly expanded this year. For IFA 2023, we are building on the foundations that have been laid over the past 99 years, while adding a number of innovations and new features to create an incomparable experience for all visitors. At the same time, we are also looking ahead to IFA's 100th birthday in 2024, and beyond.

Gfu celebrates its 50th Anniversary in Berlin

Gfu Consumer & Home Electronics GmbH - the organizers of IFA - celebrated its 50 years along with this year’s IFA Innovations Media Briefing in early July. The exclusive event held at Berlin's Oberhafenkantine united major stakeholders and industry leaders, giving them an opportunity for convivial and relaxed networking and a chance to look back on the history of the company. 

Philipp Maurer, gfu’s Chairman of the Supervisory Board, and Sara Warneke, Managing Director of gfu took the microphone to address attendees. Philipp Maurer was confident about both gfu’s past and future: “Has gfu done a good job over the last 50 years? I think so, as otherwise we would not be here…”

During his speech, Maurer highlighted some of the key milestones in gfu's history: "2005 was an important year for gfu as it’s when we made the decision that IFA should become an annual event from 2006 moving forward. We wanted to offer an annual platform for presenting consumer electronics."

He went on to cite 2008, which became another historic year when gfu added home appliances to IFA, thus adapting to the needs of retailers and consumers by opening up to different product categories. "In 2015, we decided to make the home appliances industry an equal member of gfu alongside consumer electronics, reflecting the segment's major role in the industry and at IFA."

Philipp Maurer, gfu’s Chairman of the Supervisory Board, speaking at the gfu event in Berlin
© gfugfu night cakeSara Warneke, gfu Managing Director, © gfu

Photo: Dr. Sara Warneke, Managing Director gfu Consumer & Home Electronics

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