The Anuga food show in Cologne, Germany, brought together over 6,000 exhibitors from 93 countries. For five days, visitors were able to explore the many stands, sampling new and innovative products from multinational companies down to those firms just starting out. Bruce Hoggard shares some of the highlights.

Welcome from Cologne Germany, home to Anuga, the bi-annual and notably the largest food show in the world, where the world comes to see, smell and taste the numerous delicacies being offered. For five days in October, visitors' senses are bombarded with both strange and familiar smells and tastes. This is not the time to start that new diet, although the endless walking through the kilometres of booths does count towards those 30 minutes a day of activity usually recommended. Anuga is truly an adventure in both food and drink.

Although the venue remains the same as 2001, the Messe, which organised the show, made one significant change. It divided the show up into ten categories and then placed similar booths together to create food and drink category synergies. As the Messe claimed, it created ten Specialised Trade Shows under one roof making it more user friendly for the 160,000 visitors expected to attend.

There were 6,006 exhibitors at the show representing 93 countries. Of these, 4,883 were foreign while 1,123 were from Germany. The 286,000 square metres of exhibitor space covered 14 halls representing 25 different floor areas. With the ten specialisations there were 2,880 Fine Food booths, 490 Gourmet food booths, 106 Chilled food booths, 702 Meat booths, 376 Frozen food booths, 345 Dairy booths, 358 Bread and Bakery booths, 517 Drink booths, 197 Catering booths and 35 Retail booths. The single largest delegation was as expected from Germany (1,123 companies), with Italy (1,112), Spain (390), France (253), China (244), Thailand (114) and a growing representation from Asia and Eastern Europe adding to the impressive numbers. The country of East Timor made its first appearance at Anuga with a single booth.

Although there are many large, multinational companies at the show there are many more small companies with new and innovative products looking to capture a small percentage of a billion dollar industry. These two extreme sizes of companies and all those in between offer an opportunity to get a real flavour of where food is headed in the future.

Showcasing the latest trends
Anuga, as in the past, showcased the newest trends in the food industry. This year those were based on the ideas of convenience, wellness and fitness, functional food and dining out. Anuga also draws new product launches and has become a showcase for product innovation and creativity. This year's version was no exception as close to 100 new and innovative products were showcased.

In the convenience area, defined as ready-to-eat or pre-cooked products, there was everything from fresh pasta with sauce served from an easy open tub and ready in three minutes; to Asian meals served in bamboo baskets. Anuga was also the arena for the world premiere of the world's first olive oil packaged in a Tetra Pack container.

The dairy segment continued its innovation at the show with Parmesan cheese packages that now include a grater and there was the launch of a cappuccino milk guaranteed to turn into flawless milk froth.

Now to the show floor where we will travel the world looking at just a handful of the 6,006 companies exhibiting over the five days.

Innovations in names and products
Drinks have usually had the corner on provocative and interesting names but this year so does one of this year's new food products. A Thai company, N.B. Value Link, has added a new product to its Saranjai brand called "Snatch One", supported by the advertising slogan, "Not What You Think - Bite It!"

The product is a microwaveable spicy Thai curry wrap made from pita bread that comes in four traditional Thai flavours. Paveena Sangzou, the trade manager, hopes to take advantage of the convenience offered by the product in today's busy lifestyle. The wraps took over a year to develop and are the first authentic Thai hand-held food snack on the market. The product style is similar to Mexican wraps and this food category is growing by 20% throughout Europe.

"Snatch One" can be heated from frozen in either the microwave or oven and is ready in about two minutes. The taste brings back fond memories of meals in Thailand or provides the less well travelled person with a true sense of Thai food. The company is presently selling in a few European markets and is looking to expand internationally.

The Top Innovation Product at Anuga 2003 was from the Austrian company, H & H Chocolademanufactur GmbH.

The company was founded in 2002 by the Hochleitner and Hofer families. It is based on the need for lactose intolerant children and adults to be able to enjoy rich, creamy and quality chocolate made without cow's milk. Combining the skill and experience of a master chocolate maker and a well known and established farmer with 200 sheep, the two families decided to develop and offer a quality and great tasting alternative to cow's milk-based chocolate.

Sheep's milk is richer than cow's milk. However, the real difference is in the processing of the chocolate which can take up to 30 hours. The other difference is that the sheep are only fed naturally on grass pastures and milk collected at specific times during the year. Another difference is the ingredients used (and not used) in the manufacturing process. Only natural bourbon vanilla is used as well as the finest coca, while the company refuses to use any artificial flavours, emulsifiers, soy lecithin or additional vegetable or animal fats.

The company offers four different types of chocolate. The Choco-Lina Dark Chocolate contains 70% coca solids ensuring its dark, inviting colour. The Choco-Lina White uses natural cocoa butter giving it its creamy white colour while the Choco-Lina Whole Milk Chocolate is a creamy light brown. The final variety is the Milk Chocolate with the addition of at least 15% roasted and husked hemp seed. This gives the chocolate a mild walnut taste while ensuring a healthy level of unsaturated fatty acids.

Since its conception just over a year ago, the company has grown to serve over 450 clients in Europe, targeting high quality, trendy, tourist and organic shops. Look for the product in a specialty store near you as the company prepares to deliver for the Christmas season.

Promoting Malaysian food
One of the best and most entertaining chefs at the show was Chef Wan, the most celebrated chef in Asia. Over from Malaysia, where he now resides, Chef Wan performed his culinary magic each day at his kitchen located among the Malaysian booths at the show. Daily, he skilfully and entertainingly prepared five recipes from the various products the Malaysian companies displaying at the show carried. Each recipe, ranging from beef to chicken, provided a distinctive and truly Malaysian taste while the visitors were treated to food history and a sometimes off-colour but always funny sense of humour.

Chef Wan has worked in numerous countries including Canada, the United States, Turkey, Italy and France as well as onboard the Royal Viking cruise liner. He has also written several best-selling cookbooks.

An outspoken supporter of Malaysian food, Chef Wan interacted with the audiences that crowded his kitchen and introduced many of the show goers to an alternative Asian food choice - Malaya. He was truly the best food ambassador and champion Malaysia could have had at the show. His passion and love of Malaysia and its food was evident, a lesson several people working the Malaysian booths could have learned.

Waffles, cakes and other desserts
Dessert, my favourite point of the meal or day, was a product category very well represented at Anuga. In fact the calorie counter erupted into flames from overuse.

One of the many first time Anuga companies was Hibernia Foods. Based in the UK it was in Germany promoting its full range of fresh cakes and chilled desserts from Entenmann's. The Entenmann's product line offers a distinctly "American" taste in seven choices - three fresh cake products and four chilled dessert products.

According to Philip Cross, the company's managing director for Europe and CIS, "the products, especially the cheesecakes, offer a higher and more distinctive quality than its European competitors." He further commented that "in fact the Entenmann's products are superior to Sara Lee, another well known brand name." These comments were evident and strongly supported as the samples of the New York style baked cheesecake and Moist Chocolate Fudge cake were excellent.

Using Germany as a springboard to Europe, Hibernia is introducing a new approach to how people in Europe will purchase their desserts and cakes. The fresh and chilled categories are growing rapidly in Europe and Hibernia plans on targeting high end retailers to add its product lines, thereby offering its consumers the convenience of one stop shopping and additional value of shopping there.

Although there are many imitators, there is nothing quite like a true Belgian waffle for taste, texture and freshness. The Avieta Food Group, a Belgian company, was at Anuga promoting its traditional Belgian waffle recipes.

These include the Brussels waffle, a light, crunchy waffle that can be warmed in the oven or toaster then topped with your favourite toppings - icing sugar, whipped cream, ice cream, chocolate sauce, fresh fruit or a combination of these.

Another favourite is the Fruit waffle, a delicious waffle filled with fruit. It is available in seven flavours including cherry, apple and strawberry. The company's other selections included the Sugar, the Toastable, the Mini waffle with sugar lumps, and finally a fructose waffle, ideal for diabetics since it contains no sugar.

The company is looking to expand its market presence throughout Europe, with its sight on developing an international market for its truly Belgian waffles.

Organics well represented
The organic industry was well represented at the show with 1,176 companies displaying an array of organic products. Organic products were featured in almost all of the ten specialised areas as well as being well represented in the German area in Hall 3.1. The amazing thing was that the Nürnberg Messe, along with its Japanese partner, held Bio Fach Japan over the same weekend.

With the tremendous number of German companies at the show, there were many great foods and tastes, both organic and conventional, to sample and enjoy.

One of the more notable smaller German companies was Öko-Carle Bäckerei Hortling, a company founded in 1899. It introduced conventional pizzas in 1980 and then in 1999 took its experience and talents in the pizza industry and developed five types of organic pizza based on whole dinkel (spelt) and regular wheat. The Margarita and Vegetaria pizza varieties are offered in both pizza bases, with the Margarita offering organic lovers a pizza topped with tomatoes, herbs, spices and Gouda cheese, while the Vegetaria is a veggie's delight with red/green peppers, curly kale, tomato, mushrooms and corn. The fifth type is Pizza Speziale, made of a light cross base of yeast dough and a tomato sauce seasoned according to an Italian recipe as well as a mixture of grated cheese, topped with peppers and mushrooms.

Consumers can find the organic pizzas in Germany, Spain, Greece and Italy at Bio (organic) stores and in organic sections of regular food stores.

"Titbits" from the show
For companies interested in Thailand and other Asian food markets, the Kölnmesse will be organising the World of Food in Bangkok in 2004, the first time for this new show that will incorporate the Thaifex and Halfex shows.

Keep your eyes open for a new product called Jump! from the German Company Rhön Sprudel. Over a year in development, there are hopes that this energy drink will revolutionise the isotonic sports drink market when it is launched in Germany towards the end of October.

In Singapore the name Sin Hwa Dee is synonymous with Chng Kee's great range of 22 premium and premixed sauces that taste as great as they look. The brand has become a recognised symbol of quality and trust throughout South East Asia. Flavours include Sambl Oelek, Lemon Sauce, Seafood Chilli Sauce and Pickled Green Chilli. It presently exports to over 25 countries in Asia and Europe.

For collectors of unique product bottles or containers, there are two new products on the market from Krugmann: "Popsy" and a second product called "Sex on the Beach." The "Popsy" bottle is shaped to resemble a human male sperm while the "Sex on the Beach" bottle, although rather conventional in shape, does have its own sand on the outside giving the drinker the feel of being at the beach.

From Japan comes an innovation in bottle design that is over 150 years old. Kimura Drink Company has glass bottles that contain a small glass marble in the cap of the bottle. Instead of twisting or lifting the cap, one simply presses down in the top and the glass bead drops into a special designed holding place opening the bottle for consumption of the fluid inside. This is of course a new interpretation of the old-fashioned Codd bottle.

"Finger food" is very much about convenience. In the past however, there was concern about the healthy and nutritional value of finger and fastfood choices. One of the larger companies at the show, Salomon, was offering visitors the chance to sample its new healthy choice "finger foods." These included fish in a crispy wafer-thin batter, a spicy shrimp and vegetable dumpling and a new veggie finger food in four choices: long green bean, baby corn, green asparagus and carrot sticks, all in a crispy tempura coating.

It was a pleasure once again meeting Jose Espadafor Llobera this time at Anuga. The owner of Industrias Espadafor SA was at the show in Singapore in 2002. His "Champin" sparkling beverage made from fruit juices and especially designed for children has grown in popularity since then. Bottled in a Champagne-style bottle and sealed with gold foil, this non-alcohol beverage allows children to celebrate their birthday parties and other celebrations, such as Christmas and New Year, in style.

Finally, the next two major food shows for 2003 are both organic. First comes Natural Products Organic Asia - 5 to 7 November in Singapore, and to end the year there is Natural Products Expo Asia - 3 to 5 December 2003, in Hong Kong.