The principle agrifood fair in Spain brought together innovation, gastronomy and business chances
Alimentaria Barcelona 2012 gathered around 150,000 visitors during 4 days. Photo by: ©Alimentaria.
Author: Rodrigo García Fernández/©ICEX
New tendencies in the relationship between haute cuisine and tapas, innovative new products like an extra virgin olive oil cold-infused with oak smoke or oxtail croquettes, strategies for the internationalization of Spanish agrifood companies, presentations of products with PDO and PGI quality seals, surprising and easy pairings for Spanish cheeses… this is just a small selection of the creative tidal wave of ideas that swept through the facilities of Fira Barcelona in the latest edition of the main fair in the Spanish agrifood sector, Alimentaria 2012.
The numbers are more than telling: around 142,000 visitors, participation of more than 4,000 companies (a third of them foreign and representing about 15 different countries) whose stands were organized into 14 sectored pavilions, 220 international high level buyers and decision-making representatives from the main distributers all over the world… all concentrated in four days in the city of Barcelona.
Alimentaria Barcelona, as well as being a perfect showcase for food and wine companies, is an attractive forum for debate and exchange of ideas that can facilitate the growth of companies and development of innovative projects for the regions of Spain and many countries in the world. The four strategic pillars that the 2012 version of Alimentaria revolved around were internationalization, innovation, brand image and development and the defense of competition.
Many halls were organized to concentrate the offerings of companies participating in Alimentaria in a thematic way. From the space for dairy products and their derivatives (Interlact) to Olivarama, devoted to olive oil and other vegetable oils, the space for frozen products (Congelexpo), organic, preserved and semi-preserved foods (Expoconsur), sea and aquaculture products (Interpesca), the wine and spirits room (Intervin)… and so on with a total of 15 venues.
The companies and participating bodies took advantage of their presence at the fair, not only to showcase novelties and capture clients, but also to make presentations or hold conferences. For example, the Galicia stand presented three emblematic products of their cuisine together: Galician organic beef (Ternera Gallega), the pairing of Galician mussels with DO Monterrei label wines or the latest trends in cocktails with spirits and other traditional liquors of the region. Another succulent example is the Ibérico cheese tasting (cheese made with a mix of milks and the most consumed in Spain) at the stand of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment of Spain.
The search for new products and new formats is another constant in the race for growth of Spanish agrifood companies. At this edition of Alimentaria, innovation was the main feature of the space called The Alimentaria Hub. The now traditional exposition of new products (Innoval), the presentation of the “Guide for innovation in the Spanish agrifood sector” published by the Triptolemos Foundation, the VI Meeting of Innovation and Technology organized by the Spanish Federation of Food and Drink Industries (FIAB), the Best Pack awards and the International Conference on the Mediterranean Diet were held there, among other events and where the Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade (ICEX) played an important role.
One of the most important events organized by ICEX in the agora at the Alimentaria Hub was a 120-strong mission of importers from all over the world. These professionals took part in the so-called Distribution Meetings with Spanish food and wine companies attending the show.
A broad spectrum of countries across the globe were represented in this mission. They included Latin America, with countries such as Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Peru; Australasia, with a large contingent of importers from China and Taiwan, India, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand; North America, with the United States and Canada; plus other leading markets such as United Arab Emirates and Russia. Three specialist journalists from Germany and Switzerland were also invited by ICEX to this great food event, where they were able to take part in exclusive tastings of ham, cheese and preserved fish.
No current company is unaware of the necessity to open new markets for their products. Conscious of this fact, the Alimentaria 2012 organization joined forces to offer entrepreneurs a forum for debate about internationalization and the advantages that come with it. Large distribution chains in various countries presented their business models, Casa Asia gathered experts for a discussion about commercial possibilities in markets such as Japan and India, and within the framework of Food Experience, Markets & Trends analysts met to present opportunities for exporting food and wine to Poland and Russia.
The Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade (ICEX) prepared a series of professional meetings so that Spanish entrepreneurs could learn from expert market analysts from the network of Economic and Commercial Offices of Spain the real perspective on Spanish foods in markets such as Belgium, Colombia, Finland, Poland and Sweden.
Haute cuisine and restaurants in general had two unique spaces in Alimentaria: the Restaurama Room, with big picture solutions for professionals in the sector, and the BCN Vanguardia gastronomy conference, where the current reality was analyzed and explained by Jordi Cruz, chef (Ábac, two Michelin stars in Barcelona) and a member of the technical committee of the conference: “It is becoming evident that the profession undergoing change and that new pathways must be sought.”
The trend toward creative tapas (a good exportable concept), the relationship between chefs and providers of source materials, the new generation of Spanish chefs with Michelin stars, surprising interactions between textures and flavors, the technology applied to innovation in cuisine, and the novelties in training programs for chefs were some of the topics addressed at this BCN Vanguardia conference.
Spanish culinary gems
An opportunity like Alimentaria, in terms of professional visits and media attention, cannot be missed. Companies built on Spanish culinary gems such as olive oil, wines, Ibérico ham and other Ibérico pork products know this. Therefore, visitors were able to learn about and enjoy these products in three very attractive spaces organized by Food Consulting (organizers of the fair space called Taste & Flavors): an immense extra virgin olive oil bar, where visitors could devote as much time as necessary to learning the differences and benefits of more than a hundred extra virgin olive oils, pure juice of olives from the different Spanish varieties and regions. The Vinorum space offered something similar, where the wine lovers could try 50 Spanish wines in line with the most current trends.
And finally, two spaces where the most exquisite gluttony was allowed to flow freely: the “Ibérico en Compañia” restaurant, which offered dishes made from Ibérico pork products paired with Spanish wines and olive oils (for example, Creamy Ibérico Cheeks with new potato parmentier, with Olei Aceite Gallego olive oil and Vilosell de Tomàs Cusiné DO Costers del Segre, or Cold tomato cream sprinkled with Ibérico de Bellota Ham with Rincón de la Subbética Alamoda olive oil and Vionta Albariño from DO Rias Baixas), and in the space called “Spain: Land of 100 Cheeses,” where 15 combinations of 8 Spanish cheeses could be selected, each one with a proposed pairing with preserved vegetables, greens, dried fruits, jams, breads and wines, among other products. An unsurpassable aftertaste and memory while we await the 2014 edition of Alimentaria.
Rodrigo García Fernández is specialist food journalist and editorial coordinator of www.foodsfromspain.com.