Alimentaria, the hub of innovation
The world of food is complex, interesting and rich in possibilities, and always open to new challenges. Business happens around it, but so does a lot more than business. Food, cooking and gastronomy, in which Barcelona, Catalonia and Spain play a leading role – are at the very heart of culture and civilization. And they are of vital importance to health.
The latest Alimentaria, from 26 to 29 March in the Gran Vía area, brings together the various aspects of food. The nerve centre of the Barcelona exhibition, one of the most important in the world, is the Alimentaria Hub, where innovation, trends, knowledge, R+D, nutrition, health and welfare, internationalization and globalization, distribution and retail, marketing and communication and corporate social responsibility all come together.
There is a clear commitment to innovation, focused around Innoval, which aims to highlight the efforts made by manufacturers to design, develop and launch more attractive products. 140 innovations will be presented this year.
What are we looking in new foods or new ways of presenting classic products? The judges of the 15 prizes awarded must consider attributes that are related to very different areas: pleasure, value, exoticism, the variety of flavours and sensations, the appeal of the product, its ease of use, preparation and consumption, and its relationship with the increasing trend towards concern for the health and welfare. The prizes in 2010 were awarded to new flavours of chewing gum, new concepts of yogurt, tubs of natural fruit, oils designed by Philippe Starck, non-alcoholic wines and vermouths and foie chocolates.
Alimentaria is the natural forum for major meetings in the sector, such as the International Congress on the Mediterranean Diet, recognized by UNESCO as intangible heritage of humanity that must be preserved, and which is much more than a template for food: it is a real philosophy of life, and a range of customs and traditions around the table that also provides a healthy and balanced way of life.
Today, this is an ideal pursued by both haute cuisine and by those providing a daily service to millions of people who have to eat outside their home. Restaurama, one of the 16 individual exhibitions within Alimentaria, sees the grand final of the Chef of the Year competition and the BCN Vanguardia, International Congress of Gastronomy in Barcelona, which this year pays special attention to new concepts, products and trends meeting the changing needs of today’s restaurants, beyond haute cuisine.
The figures are impressive
Alimentaria is firmly committed to internationalism, and brings together 4,000 companies, a third of which are from outside Spain, from 75 countries, with a heavy contingent of countries from the EU and Latin America, the United States, China, Thailand, India, Japan and the Middle East, and plays host to over 140,000 visitors, 35,000 of whom come from abroad. 8,000 working meetings are held at Alimentaria. It is actually an “exhibition of exhibitions” with 16 large spaces filled with everything to do with the culture and business of eating and drinking.
A powerful industry
The food and agriculture industry is the leading sector in terms of GDP in Catalonia and the second in Spain, after tourism. In Spain as a whole, the turnover of food companies is more than 81,000 million euros, they employ 420,000 people and they make up the second largest exportation sector, after the automobile sector, and one of the few which has a trade surplus.
An asset for Barcelona
The city has a long tradition of food trade and industry, as is apparent in the 39 municipal markets, specializing in fresh produce, including La Boqueria, La Concepcion, San Antonio and Santa Catalina. Meanwhile, Mercabarna, which occupies 90 ha in the city’s Zona Franca area, is the home of the wholesale markets and more than 700 businesses processing, marketing and distributing fresh and frozen products all over Spain and to many other countries. It provides fresh items to about 10 million consumers.