With 6,294 exhibitors and 161,000 visitors from 160 countries, Anuga is one of the most important shows for the food industry. As well as showcasing the latest conventional food products, Anuga 2005 also included a new organic and natural products section. This year's show was the place to observe current trends and taste the future, as Bruce Hoggard found out.

Every year cities and countries play host to numerous food shows throughout the world. Every month a person could attend a different show, sampling new food offerings entering the market or just meeting the other people who also travel this busy circuit.

However, one show has become the "grandfather" of all food shows and arguably the world's most important, if not largest, show for the food and beverage industries. Anuga, held every two years in Cologne Germany, sets the tone and provides the backdrop for future trends in the food and beverage industries. Its relevance and importance has increased with the introduction and growth of a more vibrant organic and natural products selection in 2005. The more than 161,000 visitors from 160 countries who attended the show best demonstrated the real importance of Anuga. Of this total, more than 53% were from outside Germany, with the greatest increase coming from Eastern Europe.

Anuga 2005, the 28th Anuga show to be held, took place from 8 to 12 October at the Cologne Exhibition Centre. With 6,294 suppliers from 108 countries participating, the show occupied the entire exhibition space of 286,000 m², ensuring attendees were getting their exercise.

Adding to Anuga's attraction is the fact the show has ten separate and specialised areas dealing with the major food segments. Each of the ten exhibition areas were clearly defined and together reflected the global market for the food sector. The individual fairs included: Fine Food; Gourmet; Chilled Food; Meat; Frozen Food; Dairy; Bread & Bakery and Hot Beverages; Drinks; and two non-food categories, CateringTec, and RetailTec.

Coinciding with the ten specialised segments Anuga 2005 also had several "themes" reflecting the current trends in the food and beverage industries. Programmes like this increased the value of attending and participating at Anuga. This year the trends were organic, health & functional foods; specialty products; own brands; kosher products; halal food; finger food; and vegetarian products. With the most popular trend, organics, there were approximately 230 food and drink suppliers attending the "Organic World" area, while more than 1,100 organic suppliers were scattered throughout Anuga 2005

Chocolate from Singapore, Octopus from Florida

Reflecting the worldwide importance and draw of Anuga, foreign companies accounted for approximately 83% of the exhibitors. The larger contingents came from Italy, with 1,069 exhibitors, Spain at 456, and France with 225. The surprise this year was the size of the Chinese group, as it grew to 335 exhibitors. Although many of the Chinese companies were still commodity based, there were considerably more value-added food companies in attendance. Following the Chinese trend there were more suppliers from the Asia and Pacific regions and an increase in the number of exhibitors from Eastern Europe, particularly from Poland.

However, the one misleading concept the numbers create is the assumption of multitudes of different products. With the large contingent of Italian companies, the majority had similar products including wines, vinegars, extra virgin olive oil, and olives. This provided the attendees with a tremendous choice of these products, but in fact this was at times overwhelming, confusing and in most cases there was very little discernable difference between the products.
It is not very often that chocolate is equated to the country of Singapore. However, in this case, Aalst Chocolate has a state-of-the-art production plant in Singapore producing chocolate for industrial use in other products. The company uses high quality raw material from West Africa and South America along with European technology to produce premium chocolate ingredients for the food industry. The company's chocolate is used by the confectionery, biscuits, ice cream and bakery segments.

There were numerous companies offering varying types of seafood, from fish to the more exotic alligator and turtle. However, the company with the most memorable name was the American company Beaver Street Fisheries based in Florida. This company imports nearly 1,000 containers of seafood and meat annually from over 50 countries. It offers more than 20 various meat items including squid, frog, octopus and turtle, and the less exotic and land-based lamb, duck, pork and turkey.

It is probably a good thing Anuga covers as much space as it does, because a visit to the show's Bread & Bakery and Hot Beverages area results in an immediate weight gain just from the delicious aromas whisping through the air. This is definitely dessert heaven, full of pastries and goodies where your senses are overloaded with mouth-watering temptations.

Just like a local bakery

The Finax Bakery, located in southern Sweden, one hour from the international airport at Copenhagen, provides five exciting lines of frozen pastries tasting as good as any homemade or fresh pastry from the corner bakery. It is relatively easy to prepare requiring the person first defrost the frozen pastry and then slide the individual pastries into the oven to bake.

Known as a Wheetz or "Twisters", this style of pastry is the company's classic range based on traditional Swedish dough. There are more than six varieties in this style, from several cinnamon types to a blueberry and a pistachio.

The Vienna-style pastry has a generous centre of a jelly/jam of varying flavours and a cover of icing. The three main flavours are raspberry, apple, and vanilla.

The other product of note was the muffin. The blueberry and chocolate versions were filled with their respective berries or chunks of chocolate. These too were as moist and as fresh as muffins from a local bakery. Better yet, they come directly from the oven, hot and ready to serve. All three varieties are a dieter's worse nightmare given the convenience and ease of preparing them and the great taste.

With Turkey bidding to join the EU, there were 165 Turkish companies at this year's show, although the majority were promoting commodities such as dried fruits and other raw materials. However, Hazal Biscuits and Food Ind. Inc., located in Karaman, Turkey, was at the show selling its range of value-added treats and snack foods. In fact, the company has approximately 130 products under eight main categories. These categories include biscuits, creamy biscuits, cakes, wafers, marshmallows, and crackers.

Two product categories of most interest, given the portability and ease of eating, were the creamy biscuits and the marshmallow treats. The creamy biscuits are similar to a chocolate bar with a biscuit or wafer inside. In addition to the "regular" flavour, which is similar to vanilla, there are strawberry, orange, and banana flavours. Although these flavours are "okay", it is a shame the company has not yet introduced a line of exciting flavour combinations.

If, however, marshmallows are a favourite treat, then the company's best products were those using marshmallows. The Kodabey, one of several marshmallow treats, has a marshmallow centre sandwiched in between a round chocolate coated biscuit, similar to the world famous "Wagon Wheel". It is amazing how quickly it disappears and how just one never seems to be enough.

Cake and crumble

The UK-based Handmade Cake Company was at Anuga promoting its range of traybakes and round cakes. The interesting thing about this company's products in today's world of automation is the fact the items are all hand made from smaller batch sizes. From humble beginnings in a home kitchen more than 22 years ago, it has grown into a business supplying cakes throughout mainland Britain, Northern Ireland and recently continental Europe.

In early September, the company introduced two new cakes for autumn and an improved version of one of its bestsellers. The first new product was the Apple & Blueberry Cake. Based on a sponge cake recipe, it has a mild cinnamon flavour, accenting the apples, and an apricot glaze to set the entire flavour. As food shows reach the last day, in this case day five, some food samples start to become a shadow of their former selves. However, in this case the apple and blueberry sponge samples retained their moistness.

The second new product was the "Mincemeat, Apple & Cranberry Crumble slice". It is probably a good thing they did not have any other fruits or berries handy or the name would never have fit on the packaging. The combination raises the ordinary apple crumble to new heights of enjoyment while providing "a bit of a zing" to the taste buds. This particular new product was even better when warmed and a generous scoop of ice cream added.

Other all time favourites included a classic blend of chocolate and orange cakes marbled together then filled and topped with chocolate and orange fudge icing, and a coffee sponge laced with coffee liqueur, topped and filled with coffee liqueur icing and a misting of dark cocoa powder. This last one is definitely for coffee lovers and could be overpowering otherwise.

Meanwhile the company's Chocolate Cake had a makeover to improve its appeal and taste. For chocolate lovers it has become richer and more chocolaty while Greek yoghurt was added to the sponge recipe for better consistency and enhanced taste.

Lotus shortbread reflects ethnic food trend

Other food trends recognised at the show reflect the increased demand for ethnic foods, and halal and kosher prepared foods throughout Europe and North America. Consumers who are more demanding and adventurous with their meal selection are driving these choices. This in turn is due to increased education and awareness from travelling, out-of-home eating, television, the internet and recipe books. One of the companies at Anuga recognising these trends was Noon Products, part of Ireland-based Kerry Foods.

Noon's range of chilled and frozen prepared meals, based on authentic ethnic recipes, contain some of the more popular ethnic dishes from India, China, the Middle East, Thailand and Mexico. This included favourites, such as an Indian Chicken Tikka Masala with Pilau Rice and a Thai Green (Red) Curry with Jasmine Rice. These "ready-to-go" meal solutions also include favourites such as Chicken Korma and Pilau Rice, and Prawn Masala and Pilau Rice. All of these products are designed to cater to the ever-increasing demand for quality, ethnic prepared meals. The more amazing outcome was the fact these frozen products captured the authenticity of the country while staying fresh in both taste and appearance.

With China representing the third highest exhibitor participation there were a growing number of Chinese companies with more than just commodities for sale. Chinese companies are beginning to appreciate the need to add value and move up the value chain for food products. This, combined with the growing demand for ethnic cuisine and an increased diligence concerning quality and safety, indicates that Chinese ready- to-go meals will continue to succeed outside of their domestic market.

Lotus Shortbreads

ACC Food Corporation, located in the city of Tianjin south of Beijing, was one of these Chinese companies at Anuga. Its international success will allow the average individual, not accustomed to travelling to China, the ability to sample and enjoy the authentic tastes of China. With more than 40 different frozen foods ranging from Crab-Claw Ball and Taro Pudding to the Green Chilli Bun and seafood Shao Mai, ACC has captured several of the wonderful flavours of Chinese dim sum.

As with many Chinese foods, the names are both descriptive and sometimes amusing but this does not lessen the great taste. The Green Chilli Bun provides a mouth awakening flavour complementing the more sedate seafood Shao Mai. Both products rival those served fresh in restaurants in Hong Kong or Shanghai, as did the crab ball dish. The presentation of the products, from the packaging to the actual food, also meets the meticulous attention to detail for which the Chinese are known.

To ensure a complete meal, ACC has developed a line of desserts such as the Lotus Shortbread. These melt-in-your-mouth desserts are the perfect way to end a meal prior to the traditional serving of watermelon or other fruit.

A plethora of German potato products

Every culture and country has its own sources of starch. These starch products range from rice in Japan, congee in China to pasta in Italy. In Germany, as with several other European countries, the favourite source of starch is the potato.

Schwarmstedter, a German company, specialises in potatoes offering six main types in numerous variations. The most popular product line was the Kartoffel-Taschen, a product found in the frozen food area of grocery stores. This product consists of a coat of grated potatoes and a filling. After blanching, the whole peeled potatoes are cooled very slowly so the cells can close again before the grating process begins. The creamy fillings make up 25% of the total weight of each Kartoffel-Tasche.

With 12 different kinds of fillings, there is a flavour for every taste and a wonderful addition to meals or great as a snack by itself. This includes more common combinations of cream cheese & herbs, feta cheese and olive, tomato and mozzarella cheese, and the more adventurous flavour combinations of sweet and sour veggies, chicken and mushroom, curry chicken and mango, and smoked salmon and dill. There are several other unique combinations such as "breakfast" scrambled eggs and bacon and a more dessert-orientated potato with a cinnamon and apple filling, a combination requiring an acquired taste.

Other interesting companies included Al-Kabeer from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates with a range of frozen products including meat, seafood, vegetarian and ready-to-eat meals. The kids' meals offer the family's hardest-to-please eater with a variety of selection including the popular hamburger as well as chicken and cheese sticks. For the more discerning taste, the company offers Prawn Biryani, Chicken Tikka Makhani and Pilau Rice, and Mutton Burger Onion Vegetable Burgers.

No show would be complete without an area dedicated to the "snacking" phenomenon common among all cultures. The trend in this category is towards healthier types of products and in many cases, the trend is being dictated by government and starting in public schools. This is very evident within the UK and in the United States, particularly in California. With this increased demand, many companies are moving to make their products healthier or introduce new product lines meeting the more rigid guidelines and recommendations.

The leading Polish company DM Snacks has several snacking products including fried potato snacks and the newest product called Crispi - corn chips in two flavours: peanuts and original Dutch cheese. The products are manufactured from GMO free and natural products and no preservatives are used in the processing. Additionally the company offers a wide range of breakfast flakes, including rice leaves and chocolate balls.

Mouth-watering popcorn

One of the most mouth-watering and unmistakable aromas in the world is that of freshly popped or popping popcorn. In fact it is very difficult to resist and can draw the attention of a crowd of people from as far away as 250 metres or more. Weaver Popcorn, the largest popcorn manufacturer in the world with tens of thousands of acres of growing fields and facilities in the corn belts in the United States and Argentina demonstrated this phenomenon at Anuga. The company, headquartered in Indianapolis, USA, produces nearly 30% of all the popcorn sold in the world and within the United States and accounts for nearly one-third of the popcorn sold to concessions. This translates into the annual quality inspection of more than 750 billion kernels of popcorn and the production of several hundred million pouches of microwave popcorn.

Weaver was promoting its microwave popcorn as well as its pre-popped popcorn for those times when a microwave is not available but the popcorn craving is. However, the pre-popped popcorn is available in only two flavours, cheddar and white cheddar, which really limits the choices and restricts it to people who are fond of cheese.

Meanwhile the regular microwave popcorn is offered in five different flavours ranging from various strengths of butter (Natural, Butter Light, Butter, Extra Butter) to the sweet/salty taste of Kettle Corn. However, one trend the company seems to be neglecting is consumer demand for more exotic flavours. This would be similar to what the potato chip/crisp industry has been doing for years and movie theatres have been toying with by adding flavour shakers to the counter top so people can flavour their own popcorn.

And finally, as space runs out, comes Bamba, a product from Osem and the best-selling snack and strongest children's brand in Israel. Targeted at children aged 6 to 18, Bamba was first introduced with a cheesy flavour that was quickly replaced with the peanut flavour that has been the favourite since 1964.

Anuga in the future

Once again, Anuga lived up to its well-earned reputation of being "the" food show to attend as both an exhibitor and/or visitor. Organisers continue to ensure the show stays fresh, current and informative. These traits, along with ensuring qualified buyers and decision makers are attending, are important issues if exhibitors are to return every two years. In a bid to keep it fresh, a new addition for Anuga 2007 will be the introduction of a Partner Country. BioFach has successfully used this for several years now where the fair focuses on a particular country and its companies and products. Anuga's first partner country will be Thailand.

The other important factor is for organisers to ensure the show maintains its edge as the barometer of current trends but, more importantly, because it occurs only every two years, provide the forum for the industry to discuss what the future trends will be.

For those companies interested in entering the global food market, Anuga 2007 should be on their list of things to do. Anuga will be held from 13 to 17 October. This will be an exciting time, as Anuga will move to the Koelnmesse's new exhibition halls, which are currently under construction. An important transition, it will ensure the world's largest trade show for food and beverages will take place in a facility providing a greatly improved infrastructure and an even more satisfying stay for exhibitors and trade visitors.