PARIS, October 26, 2006—International trade is alive and well as was evident at the SIAL show in Paris. SIAL highlighted an array of emerging consumer trends and offered visitors a unique look at the industry as it promoted energy and vitality on a global platform.
With scores of innovative products, SIAL is one of the most comprehensive food industry events in the world. The show itself was made up of six huge halls displaying everything from foie gras and goat cheese to juice boxes and fruit cups. It is a feast for the eyes. Whatever your activity, regardless of who your customers are, SIAL offers an instructive crash course on how to display and merchandise food to its fullest advantage.
More than 135,000 visitors made the pilgrimage this year to sample a showcase of diverse products from more than 5,200 exhibitors. International trade was in full swing, in every aisle, commodities competing on a global stage: Salmon from Alaska and France. Rice from the U.S. and Asia. Honey from Australia, Germany and Chili.
For those with specialized interests, SIAL offered events attuned to many of the key trends affecting food worldwide. For example: Nutrition Village (an information and advice center bringing together food manufacturers, commercial and institutional caterers and other key players with international talks and discussions); the Trends and Innovations area (a showcase for the 200 most innovative international retail and catering products); and La Cuisine du SIAL (daily demonstrations and culinary events geared to help visitors design future menus).
As flavors go, vanilla would seem to reign supreme with thousands of SIAL exhibitors choosing to make it part of the flavor profile of nearly 18,000 products. It may be an age old ingredient, but at SIAL, vanilla reemerged in a multitude of forms from pods and beans—which remain most popular—to powders, slices, jams and even a paste.
Some vanilla innovations: a pasta flavored with bourbon, vanilla or cactus designed to heighten the taste of meat and fish dishes, a smooth vegetable and pumpkin soup flavoured with vanilla as well as a balsamic vinegar flavored with vanilla (the same supplier also produces flavored balsamic vinegars with garlic, hot peppers, and cherries).
"We met a type of customer—both French and international— that we wouldn't normally get access to." -R. Bouchez, Chairman, Kavair (Seafood Products)
Other flavor making SIAL headlines: cranberry, red beet, sureau (elderberry), pomegranate, and acai berry.
And The Winners Are...
Innovation is one of the driving forces for growth in the food industry. And innovation was everywhere at SIAL. Judges singled out 458 new products from 35 countries to honor with the Coups de Cœur Award [Judge's Favorite].
The winners are awarded for products combining practicality with contemporary design; products that consumers can customize for their own needs; products offering health and lifestyle benefits; and innovative, delicious products that cater to a variety of everyday situations.
Some of the winners include: "Stuffed Goat's Cheese Balls" with fillings such as sun-dried tomato, honey, tapenade and smoked salmon; "Cheese Straw Basket & Cheddabowls" which are pastry/crispy cheese canapé baskets ready for garnishing; and Cerebos Gregg's Ltd.'s Chef Spray Vinegar in different flavors, a range of three sprayon vinegars including balsamic, strawberry and balsamic infused with basil.
In other awards the United States carried the sweet frozen products category with Dryer's Grand Ice Cream's "Dibs Bite" which was recognized for its portability and new bite-size format. Other award winning products include: Campbell's Soup at Hand; Bakar Tnuva's Adom Adom—bite-sized pieces of kosher beef pre-cut, packaged—Rogue Creamery's Smokey Blue, Ecological Foie Gras—made from geese that are not force-fed—and Tamtop—turn-out custard dessert with flavored coulis.
Food is Food Wherever You Are
At SIAL, the blur between food at home and food away from home is ever more pronounced than in the U.S. Its Global Food Marketplace allows you to visit the food shops typical to many European cities with the local baker across the street, the produce stand on your way home, the butcher at the end of the block—all the while, forging business relationships and partaking in educational sessions that identify key global trends.
Food is an intricate part of life here and across the world. It echoes what the French jurist Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin said, "Tell me what you eat and I'll tell you who you are."
"France, China, Spain, South America, Israel, Europe: you could say the whole world visited our stand." -A. Smith, Alara (Organic Products)
Functional foods—or "phood" as they are sometimes called—describe a hybrid category of food and pharmaceuticals which have been infiltrating the industry over the past several years—think calcium-enhanced orange juice and cholesterollowering margarine, for example.
Such products have been met with mixed reviews as there is no global standardization for these items.The U.S. has better labeling standards than most other countries, however there is a lot of room for interpretation.
"Actimel and Pro Activ have been two major commercial success stories in France," says François Guillon, Agora Nutrition conference director and president of the Institute for Researching in Health Food Marketing. "Visitors at this year's SIAL are wondering about the best way to enter this market despite its constraints."
While there is a lot of research and development going on into what kinds of products people want as well as best labeling practices for them, the trend is present here and similar forms of these international phood products trends are likely to find their way into the U.S. market.