Fair Review – Alimentaria Awards Innovation in Frozen Food

Over 300 new product launches from various categories were on display at this year’s Alimentaria, the trade show targeting professionals from the food and drink industries, which took place at the end of April. Frozen food was among the categories awarded for innovation during the Innoval Awards ceremony, organized in Barcelona.
By Dan Orehov 

The 4,000 companies taking part in the event showcased the constant efforts made by manufacturers to innovate in order to respond to new market trends and the demands of different types of consumer. The Innoval area stood out with 300 new launches, all of which addressed new demands for more natural, organic and healthy foods and the quest for enriched foods that help to combat diseases and enhance well-being.

For the category of Ice Cream and Frozen Foods, Nestle won with Nestle Gold, the mini-format of ice cream cones with crunchy chocolate layers. Made in Parma, Italy, by Helados Nestle, the product was first launched in February this year and is sold in Spain via retail channels. The jury of professionals who awarded Nestle Spain the prize for the frozen category based their decision on two main aspects: the product accentuates the trend of quality and sophistication and also radical innovation, namely this being a new product, unknown on the market, which makes use of a new technology.

Ecopouch® by Scelta Mushrooms won the Innoval Award for best international product at Alimentaria, thus repeating the success recorded with the same award in 2014, for its vegetable appetizers. Mushrooms in Ecopouch® are produced via a unique procedure whereby mushrooms, after being packed, are boiled in their own juice. No chemical additives and salt are being used. The result is a product that combines the best of fresh and preserved mushrooms: clean label, shelf stable mushrooms in pouch packaging with long shelf life and fresh taste and texture.

Innoval is a major showcase at Alimentaria where innovations in the food and drinks industry from the participating companies are presented. During the presentation of the Innoval Awards, the jury announced the best innovations from nine different categories. After a selection procedure in which all products have been tested by a renowned panel of judges, mushrooms in Ecopouch® have been rewarded with the International Award for best international product at Innoval 2016.

This year, the organizers of Alimentaria decided to include the frozen food category in the Restaurama section, dedicated to catering and food away from home, with the aim of maximizing business opportunities and synergies with the foodservice channel. Some 450 brands took part in Restaurama, showcasing products in a sector which, after six years of declining sales, started to show signs of recovery in 2014, with production growth of 3.2% and a turnover of EUR 125bn, according to the Spanish Hotel and Restaurant Federation (FEHR).

Trends Barometer

Over 2000 participants took place in the different conferences and events held at the Alimentaria HUB, the main spot for trends and innovation. Among the presentations at this year’s Alimentaria, there were the Conference on the Mediterranean Diet; the Nestlé Creation of Added Value Forum on Food and Climate Change; the Aliber R&D&I meetings of the FIAB and The Food Factory space for start-ups, reflecting the important role of technology in the sector.

According to consultancy firm Innova Market Insights, the big trends this year are organic products, the ‘healthy’, ‘natural’ and ‘free from’ labels and local, less processed foods. At the same time there is a growth in the demand for superfoods – in other words, enhanced functional products to increase wellbeing and help prevent diseases and disorders. The search for pleasure, entertainment and fun, for creating a whole foodie experience, is another trend that should not be overlooked.

“Food products are adapted to suit different lifestyles and the specific needs of individual consumers. There are more and more ‘à la carte’ foodstuffs, fast-food products for eating at different times of day, foods with healthier nutritional profiles and foods for specific collectives. This is ushering in a new trend that will be with us in the medium term: the ultra-personalization of diets, when food will be produced in terms of genetic mapping,” according to the organizers.

Another factor that drives innovation in the food industry is practicality. There is a constant search for products that are quick and easy to prepare and eat anytime, anywhere, for which the packaging is a fundamental support. Also, in line with new demographic profiles, formats need to include more individual portions. Pre-prepared dishes and salads that don’t need a fridge for storage; specialties from different countries served in pots and ready in just a few minutes after adding water and heating in the microwave; cuts of lamb for roasting in the oven in half the time of a traditional roast; chef-designed recipes based on chicken in microwaveable packaging are just some examples where frozen ready meals are concerned.

40 Years Celebration

At the edition marking its 40th anniversary, Alimentaria managed to attract visitors from 157 countries, as well as 4,000 exhibitors from 78 different nations. Overall, there were 140,000 registered visitors, of which 32% international. Of the 44,000 international visitors, 2% more than in 2014, half were from Europe, mainly France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Portugal and the Netherlands. The second large geographical source of visitors was the USA, followed by Latin America, headed by trade professionals from Mexico, Colombia, Chile and Peru. Asia’s representation also grew with visitors from Japan, Hong Kong and China. From the Middle East, it is worth mentioning the growth in the number of visitors from the United Arab Emirates. New countries on the list of visitors included Tunisia, Algeria, Oman, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Congo and Mozambique.

In addition, Alimentaria invited some 800 top-level foreign buyers, 62% more than in 2014. These included importers and distributors from Europe, Asia, Latin America and the USA who held 11,200 business meetings with exhibitors, 12% more than at the past edition.

“The event has consolidated itself as a major platform for exports from the Spanish food industry as well as an important showcase of the sector’s innovations and the new trends that are emerging in this market’. We are witnessing Spanish products becoming better known and achieving a more premium position, which will result in growth in the value of our exports,” said the President of Fira de Barcelona and Alimentaria, Josep Lluís Bonet.

The General Manager of Alimentaria Exhibitions, J. Antoni Valls, added: “At this edition we have taken a very important step forward in our overseas projection, reaching key markets for the future of the food industry, especially for products such as wine, olive oil and meat. We have managed to attract every professional profile in the food distribution and retail industry, as well as the HoReCa channel, which will translate into new business and opportunities to increase sales in both the domestic and foreign markets.”

Alimentaria is the international trade fair organized by Alimentaria Exhibitions, a Fira de Barcelona company that specializes in events for the food industry. Its portfolio of trade shows includes Alimentaria FoodTech, Alimentaria & Horexpo Lisbon, Expo ANTAD & Alimentaria Mexico and Barcelona Degusta.

The next edition of Alimentaria will take place from 16 to 19 April 2018 at Fira de Barcelona’s Gran Via exhibition center.

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