14 Jun 2023

Gfu chief reveals organisation’s inspiring journey as it celebrates its 50 years


Gfu chief reveals organisation’s inspiring journey as it celebrates its 50 years


In an exclusive interview with IFA Newsroom, gfu’s Managing Director Dr Sara Warneke shares interesting insights about the origins, milestones 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 year, 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, in a nod to its milestone anniversary.

Join us as we delve into the fascinating journey of gfu, the importance of IFA for the industry, its evolution, and the exciting developments taking place under Warneke’s leadership.

Gfu is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Could you provide us with some insights into the origins and background of the organisation?

The history of gfu dates back to June 6, 1973, when 11 prominent consumer electronics companies came together to establish the “Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Unterhaltungselektronik” (Society for the Promotion of Consumer Electronics).

Initially, the company’s purpose was defined as promoting trade fairs, particularly IFA, and informing the public about industry trends and developments. Over the years, as the product range expanded and the commitment of shareholders grew, the name was changed to “Gesellschaft für Unterhaltungs- und Kommunikationselektronik” in 1986.

Changes introduced to the IFA concept are based on the principle of evolution instead of revolution

In 2015, the organisation underwent a realignment and adopted its current name, gfu Consumer & Home Electronics GmbH, to better reflect its activities, including the inclusion of the home appliances sector since 2008.

Today, gfu has 12 esteemed shareholders, including Astra Deutschland GmbH, Beko Grundig Deutschland GmbH, BSH Hausgeräte GmbH (Bosch and Siemens), Liebherr-Hausgeräte GmbH, Loewe Technology GmbH, Metz Consumer Electronics GmbH, Miele & Cie. KG, Panasonic Marketing Europe GmbH, Philips GmbH, Samsung Electronics GmbH, Sharp Electronics GmbH, and Sony Europe B.V.

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.

Trade shows efficiently connect numerous people and offer insights into industry trends and critical issues. Additionally, trade shows like IFA act as order fairs, where retailers place their orders ahead of the peak sales period. IFA fulfills all these functions as the world’s most important trade show for consumer electronics and home appliances.

How has IFA evolved over the past 50 years? Can you highlight some key milestones?

IFA has continuously evolved to reflect the dynamic markets and industries it represents. Since 2006, several significant changes have taken place. The transition from a biennial to an annual cycle in 2006 was a major milestone.

However, one of the most significant developments was the addition of home appliances to IFA in 2008. This integration marked the first time that consumer electronics and home appliances were united under one leading trade show.

Subsequent milestones include the launch of the “IFA+ Summit” in 2014 and the successful debut of the Smart Home segment in 2016.

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

In 2017, “IFA Next” was introduced as a showcase for the future, featuring increased space and a new concept called “IFA TecWatch.”

In 2018, “IFA Global Markets” became Europe’s largest sourcing market. These examples demonstrate IFA’s successful and ongoing development.

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 start-ups and innovative product launches. Investments will be 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.”

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.

The annual IFA Innovations Media Briefing is scheduled for next month, offering journalists exclusive insights ahead of IFA Berlin 2023. What can attendees expect from this event?

The IFA Innovations Media Briefing provides participating media representatives with high-quality pre-event coverage of IFA.

Manufacturers from the consumer electronics and home appliances sectors will present some of the innovations planned for IFA. The event will also feature gfu Insights & Trends and serve as a celebration of gfu’s 50th anniversary.

These two accompanying formats offer comprehensive information on industry-relevant topics and provide opportunities for networking with industry representatives.

More information about the IFA Innovations Media Briefing here

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