Gema Boiza. Journalist. @GemaBoiza
Gastronomy and tourism have been a key combination that has enabled the food sector to spearhead Spanish exports in recent years, with tourists rating "Made in Spain" products very highly (7.87 points).
These are the conclusions in the report Perception of Spanish agri-food products and brands among foreign tourists, published by the Spanish Food and Drink Industry Federation (FIAB) in November.
This report, which polled over 607 tourists from the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Nordic countries and Russia, also reveals that Spanish products are rated highest by Russians and lowest by the French. A common feature among consumers from all of the above countries is that they are more familiar with Spanish products than brands, in a proportion of 9 to 7.
The most well-known products among these tourists include paella, tapas, ham, olives, gazpacho, Spanish omelet, olive oil and beer. These tourists, however, do not associate those products with any brand.
"It's surprising that no brands of oil or ham have had any impact on tourists", says Miguel Otero, general manager of the Leading Brands of Spain Forum, who also underlined some of the brands that are best-known among foreign visitors, which include Estrella Galicia, Torres, Tío Pepe and Freixenet. However, Otero points out that their knowledge about those brands has nothing to do with consumption in or outside of Spain.
More public-private partnerships
Otero and Horacio González Alemán, managing director of FIAB, have highlighted their plans to increase cooperation between government entities—such as the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and the Environment, Turespaña and the Institute of Foreign Trade—and private sector institutions to implement actions which increase the consumption of products and raise awareness about brands from Spain.
The brands face their own challenges, namely gaining a foothold in visiting tourists' countries of origin, especially among distributors there. According to the report, tourists in Spain eat Spanish products at hotels and restaurants, but when they return home, they purchase Spanish products at food shops and supermarkets.
Those food stores have been selling many other foreign foods for some time now, in contrast with Spain, whose companies have taken a long time to begin exporting. As a result, 42% of the tourists polled say they don't eat Spanish products due to their lack of availability. According to Jaime Palafox, manager of economic affairs and internationalization for FIAB: "For Spanish products to make their way onto the shelves of foreign supermarkets, sometimes they have to displace other items".
Currently, when tourists return home, the most common products they buy are wines, olives, ham and olive oil; Campofrío is the most well-known brand of ham they know.
Going forward, González Alemán says that FIAB and the Leading Brands of Spain Forum aim to implement new initiatives which involve all parties involved in gastronomy, tourism and food sales.
"Many actions are being rolled out at regional level in Spain, but without a common theme. There is considerable cooperation under way with the government, but we're aiming for collaboration that is outstanding. We're not looking for funding. We're looking to work together to raise awareness about our products among tourists and in other countries", says González Alemán.
According to FIAB, food and beverage industry exports have expanded by around 10% every year in the last three years. Additionally, Spain has unseated China as the third-leading tourist destination in the world.
People from the Nordic countries are the most frequent visitors to Spain, although they're not especially experts when it comes to our gastronomy. In contrast, French and UK tourists are most familiar with Spain's culinary culture, and Russians and Germans continue to lack considerable knowledge in this area.