exhibition- alimentaria

Source: Alimentaria

Alimentaria hosted 3,000 exhibitor companies from nearly 60 countries over four days

Seeds of growth are emerging for the global food industry as inflation begins to melt, new technology  becomes better utilised and developers research and launch long-awaited new products. But it’s not all golden, as The Grocer learnt at this year’s Alimentaria & Hostelco food and hospitality trade show in Barcelona this month. 

The show hosted 3,000 exhibitor companies from nearly 60 countries, with over 100,000 guests across four days to 21 March. According to many, the industry worldwide faces the same or similar issues from conflicts and weather anomalies, which both contribute to mounting supply chain issues.

Here are The Grocer’s main takeaways from one of Europe’s largest food industry events: 

Innovation is alive and well

It’s been a tough few years for food & drink producers, with Covid-19, the war in Ukraine and the subsequent economic crisis forcing the global fmcg industry to focus on surviving rather than necessarily thriving.

As consumers tightened their belts and narrowed down their shopping choices to the essentials, innovation became an afterthought. But now inflation is slowing down, NPD teams are ready to ramp up the excitement again for their customers.

“Companies are innovating a lot, not just in variety of product but also use of product”, said Mauricio Garcia de Quevedo, head of FIAB, Spain’s largest food and drink trade body.

This was evident at Alimentaria, which had a huge focus on innovation – including dedicated food & hospitality startup areas and many gen Z-approved fun products, like cocktail gummies and alternative seed butters.

meat free supermarket aisle vegan veggie vegetarian plantbased

Source: Getty Images

Plant-based convenience growth

Plant-based businesses may have taken a tumble in the UK last year, with the likes of Meatless Farm, VBites and Samworth Brothers becoming some of the most high-profile victims of the category’s slow, but the trend is far from over. If anything, it’s just beginning, says Carla Rodenas of Innova Market Insights.

Because consumers are increasingly trying to reduce their footprint, there are opportunities for brands to expand beyond the basic offerings of meat and fish alternatives like vegan sausages and meatballs by offering them something that their animal protein rivals already do very well – convenience.

Plant-based brands are only set to gain from making it easier for consumers to “not have to think much about how to cook or consume” their products, Rodenas says. There will therefore be growth in businesses offering shoppers new formats and applications of plant-based products, like exciting ready meals, finger foods and easy-to-prepare kits, Innova predicts.

farm technology innovation future robot tech

AI enters the chat

Everyone is talking about artificial intelligence (AI) – some are scared of how it could affect the grocery and hospitality industries, but most are curious to discover how it could help different sectors tackle challenges, like labour shortages and unpredictable weather.

Alimentaria MD Toni Valls says AI use is already “very real and being applied in the different stages of the value chain”, pointing to benefits such as increasing agricultural production and boosting productivity and reducing waste across the industry.

In service sectors like hospitality, AI is already changing the game, he says. In a restaurant setting, for instance, “you can predict demand depending on factors such as if it’s going to rain, if it’s a Tuesday or a Friday, or if Madrid and Barcelona are playing a match”.

While technology development has largely focused on robotics and automation in recent years, AI’s applications will be different, notes Hostelco president Pere Taberner Casellas. “AI will be used in a different way than we think about robots running around in a kitchen. We will get into concepts like food design using AI technology,” he believes. AI could also help attract different talent into the industry, Taberner Casellas says.

supplier supply chain tins

Supply chains under pressure

Also on the Alimentaria agenda were discussions about the increasing challenges supply chains face. Climate change remains a key issue affecting most food and drink producers in Spain (and indeed across much of the world). Sectors like olive oil and fruit & veg have been heavily affected by extreme weather conditions in the southern Mediterranean over the past two years, which in turn has knock-on effects on availability in Britain and other parts of Europe that rely on the south’s imports.

This, paired with still high inflationary pressures, is putting farmers’ livelihoods under threat. In an FIAB roundtable, suppliers voiced concerns over paper-thin margins, high input costs – including energy and transportation – and mounting competition from other countries like Morocco and Egypt. These issues are echoed by thousands of farmers across many other countries including the UK, France and Poland.

Ultimately, domestic supply chains need more support from their respective governments to be able to produce and transport enough food while abiding by a barrage of regulation and trade requirements, FIAB’s speakers warned.


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