Gema Boiza. Journalist. @gemaboiza
Export-oriented, innovative and more gastronomic. That describes the latest edition of Alimentaria, as Josep Antoni Valls, Managing Director of the international food fair, held from March 31st to April 3rd in Barcelona, told Wiki Spanish Food.
The event, attended by 3,800 exhibitors and an estimated 140,000 visitors and buyers from all over the world (Europe, Asia, the US and Latin America), boosted expectations by Spain's agri-food sector of reaching new destinations. According to Valls, challenges facing the industry include strengthening its position in foreign markets, consolidating to increase both size and competitiveness, growing opportunities via the HoReCa segment, believing in its enormous possibilities, and leveraging synergies with tourism and gastronomy. "Food is an excellent ambassador for Marca España", says Valls.
-How would you describe the most recent edition of Alimentaria?
More export-oriented, innovative andgastronomic than ever. We are fully focused on enhancing internationalization of agri-food SMEs by attracting thousands of buyers from all the world over. We aim to defend and showcase innovation spearheaded by the brands, which ensures their future as it increases their ability to compete in a global market. We're looking to create alliances with gastronomy to expand the presence of our exhibitors' food and drink internationally.
- What were the expectations for the fair?
We wanted to demonstrate the strength and variety of a vertical market which, in recent years, has focused on exports to maintain growth. There are big expectations for Alimentaria to contribute to opening new markets and business opportunities outside Spain, especially for participating SMEs. It's also worth noting that, although Spain continues to show signs of weakness, a recovery is expected in 2014. At Alimentaria, we organized various programs with a view to inviting the main players in terms of domestic demand (distribution, retail, FoodService, HoReCa) to learn about continuous innovation, brands' commitment to quality, and the latest trends in the food and drink industry.
-What are the challenges facing Spain's agri-food sector?
The first is definitely strengthening its presence in foreign markets. Others include consolidating to increase size and competitiveness and leveraging opportunities in the HoReCa sector. Another ongoing challenge is adapting to consumer demands and requirements that brands be increasingly responsible.
-What are you going to do to favor agri-food sector internationalization?
Alimentaria 2014 stepped up efforts to attract buyers from all over the world, in particular from Asia, the US and Latin America, but also from Europe. We selected and invited international buyers from over 60 countries, who will hold up to 8,000 organized meetings with exhibitors at the fair.
-What does Spain's agri-food sector need to increase and improve its sales in other countries?
It must believe in its enormous potential, gain in size through consolidation, and leverage synergies with tourism and gastronomy—together they account for one-fourth of Spain's GDP. That requires greater coordination between institutions and the sector in terms of promotional efforts, as food is an excellent ambassador for Marca España.
-From an international buyer's perspective, what are the most attractive qualities of Spain's food and beverage segment?
That we export innovative top-flight products which are intrinsically linked to the Mediterranean diet, which was declared Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO andprovides important benefits for health.
-What are the main destination countries for our exports? Which are considered "opportunity" markets?
Mainly Europe. However, there are interesting emerging markets in Asia, such as China, Korea, Japan, Singapore and Thailand, and we can also expand in Latin America and start entering African countries.