January 25, 2022
One year later than originally planned and under slightly different circumstances, UTECH 2021 took place from November 16 to 18, 2021, in Maastricht’s MECC conference and events center. This trade show focuses specifically on the polyurethane industry. Although this market is no longer entirely new to Chromaflo Europe, there are still plenty of growth opportunities, says sales and business development manager Ron Van der Leeuw. He was particularly pleased to attend the trade show for three days and once again represent Chromaflo after a significant break from in-person events due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
In hindsight, the 2021 edition of UTECH was extremely well-timed.
Just before the start of the trade show on November 12, the Dutch government held a press conference to announce stricter COVID-19 measures. Van der Leeuw explains, “Preparations for the trade show were in full swing, so the news made people increasingly panicky and uncertain. However, since the new measures did allow for some room to maneuver, the decision was made to proceed with the trade show.
However, the whole event felt different than it ever had before. Fewer visitors and big manufacturers attended. Even some German multinationals sent only a very small delegation, which was an unexpected move, given how the German industry is a major player in the market. And with restaurants in the Netherlands having to close at eight o’clock, there was, unfortunately, less opportunity for informal meetings to take place outside the trade show.
Despite these challenges, the Chromaflo team is satisfied with their experience of the trade show.
“This was a major platform for Chromaflo, and the polyurethane market offers huge growth potential for us,” Van der Leeuw says. “We have a presence in the market and are very active. We’ve gained several major customers in recent years, and we’ve been at the top of our game in the United States for years.”
Yet there is still ground to be gained. “We’re still not the first company people think of when it comes to colorants for the polyurethane industry. So, we’d like to raise more awareness and generate visibility. That was the main reason behind us participating in this trade show—our goal is to be more top of mind in this market moving forward.”
Van der Leeuw continues, “I think Chromaflo can definitely add something to this market. Our strength is concentrated in our expertise, which enables us to guarantee and reproduce consistent quality. Whereas our competitors mainly rely on their broad one-stop-shop solution of color pastes and related products, it’s our specialism and accuracy that help us stand out from the crowd. We also have a unique tinting system approach that enables us to create, on-demand, all possible colors from only a limited selection. There’s huge, untapped potential for this in the polyurethane industry.”
UTECH is the ultimate platform to share this story with the world, says Van der Leeuw. “It was a fantastic opportunity to speak to many people from all over Europe as well as North Africa, the Middle East, and North and South America. And since it’s a very small-scale trade show, the same visitors can come by exhibitor booths several times. And because it’s so specialized, people have very specific reasons to visit your stand or ask detailed questions. There are also plenty of opportunities to exchange thoughts and industry news. It’s a set-up that really works for those in attendance.”
“As there are so few opportunities to meet in person these days, the times that you can meet are even more valuable. Everyone is full of energy and open to conversation,” says Van der Leeuw about his experience at the trade show. “I’m glad we were able to attend this trade show. There are still a few more trade shows in the pipeline, but like many other things, you can’t take anything for granted nowadays.”
That said, Van der Leeuw remains positive about the future and Chromaflo’s journey. “Inflation and raw materials shortages are obviously huge challenges, but the way we’ve managed to spread out our business means there are still plenty of opportunities. I’ve been working here for nine years now, and one of the best things about my job is that I get to explore new markets. I love the freedom and flexibility I’m given within the organization to do that. Chromaflo is big enough as an organization to offer that space and opportunity. At the same time, the organization is still small enough to remain agile and quickly identify new opportunities. That is of enormous value in times like these.”