And given the sheer number of trade shows relevant to the soft drinks industry taking place over the coming weeks, Annette Farr really doesn't know when she'll be back again. No wonder just-drinks' roving columnist is keen to see the launch of one single dedicated trade fair for the European soft drinks industry.

Jet-setting may not be viewed as environmentally friendly nowadays, but how else is a soft drink professional going to cover all the key exhibitions taking place over the coming weeks?

Traditionally it is the autumn months when suppliers to the soft drinks industry - be they machinery manufacturers, packagers or ingredient producers - launch their latest innovations.

The season kicked off in China with China Brew and China Beverage, followed in the UK by the PPMA show, not forgetting the International Bottled Water Association Convention and Trade Show in the US earlier this month.

This week sees the opening of SIAL 2006 in Paris (22-26 October) and InterBev in Las Vegas (23-25 October). SIAL calls itself the global food marketplace event. Tucked away amongst the various food and drink-related sections (20 in all) there is one dedicated to non-alcoholic beverages.

The American Beverage Association has re-acquired InterBev with a commitment to refocus the show in 2006. Visitors are expecting to see the gamut of beverage production equipment for non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks.

Barely a chance to pause for breath before Pack Expo (more than 2,000 packaging and processing exhibitors, 50,000 visitors anticipated) takes place, also in Las Vegas, from 29 October to 2 November. Show blurb says the event will "focus on the latest developments in packaging technology and will showcase exhibitors' state-of-the-art advances in packaging machinery, converting machinery, materials, packages and containers, and components."

Two weeks later sees a further flurry of activity when Health Ingredients Europe (HiEurope - 14-16 November) is staged in Messe, Frankfurt. This year's event boasts some 450 exhibitors, many targeting soft drinks manufacturers with new and exciting added-value functional offerings.

But this overlaps with not one but two other events. Brau Beviale 2006, running in Nürnberg from 15 to 17 November, expects to feature 1,400 exhibitors and attract some 38,000 trade visitors. The event claims to be one of the most important European trade fairs for the production and marketing of beer and soft drinks. The Dubai International Soft Drinks Exhibition, now in its second year, is to take place at Dubai Creek Park from 14 to 17 November.

And just when you think that's it, there is the Emballage show, a key global packaging event, being held in Paris from 20-24 November.

All these events are relevant for the soft drinks industry; yet, apart from the fledgling Dubai show, there is not one exhibition which solely addresses the needs of the soft drinks industry, encompassing new product launches, ingredients, packaging, labelling, bottling, canning, production, plant safety, logisitics and distribution under one roof.

I'd like to see 'The World of Soft Drinks' or some such moniker emblazoned across the NEC, Birmingham, or other suitable European venue. UNESDA-CISDA - the union of European Beverages Associations - would be ideal promoters in much the same way as the American Beverage Association has re-acquired InterBev and injected its resources into raising the profile of the American beverage industry.

An accompanying conference and seminar programme could be a platform for addressing global concerns affecting obesity and the environment, and an opportunity for the industry to debate how it can contribute to tackling problems in these areas.

Even at a more parochial level, perhaps the British Soft Drinks Association should be doing more for its members by staging an event which supports and promotes their industry.
For the UK, there is a precedent of sorts. The Automatic Vending Association (AVA) runs its own highly successful show called AVEX. The next AVEX will take place at London's Earl's Court from 24 April to 26 April 2007. Janette Gledhill, AVA director, refers to it as "a celebration of vending. The exhibition not only attracts huge numbers of buyers but is also an opportunity to raise the profile of the vending industry.

"In addition, AVEX has provided a model of a closely-focused, trade-run vending exhibition, which has been adopted by other European countries," says Gledhill, adding that "AVEX is hard work for the AVA secretariat and the members who volunteer for the Organising Committee but all are rewarded by being part of an event which rates in the top 100 UK exhibitions, both public and trade. Any surplus arising from the exhibition is ploughed back into the AVA for the benefit of all those in vending".

Let's not forget that the soft drinks industry has spawned the world's No. 1 brand. Soft drinks outsell all other FMCG categories in the UK and other countries. Soft drink manufacturers are pioneers when it comes to innovation and new product development. Surely, the industry deserves its very own showcase?