“It’s my first visit to SIAL and I am impressed by its size,” declared French agricultural minister Dominique Bussereau, as he cut the ribbon to inaugurate the international food show in Paris yesterday (22 October). With some 5,256 exhibitors from 99 countries preparing to meet over 130,000 potential customers, the atmosphere was already bustling as Bussereau spoke, just-food’s Peter Crosskey observed first-hand.

Themes that have shaped this year’s exhibits at SIAL include an emphasis on the nutritional content of foods, reflecting the growing awareness among consumers and legislators of the link between diet and health. The prominence of health-related issues at the trade event is very much in tune with current French government policy, as expressed in the health and nutrition policy PNNS2, and mirrors wider trends towards healthy eating that can be noted globally.

The demand for healthy products comes hand-in-hand with the increased need for products to be convenient in today’s time-starved world, and this too can be noted as a major theme at the international trade fair.

The aim of policy makers and manufacturers alike, it seems, is to square the circle between providing healthy dietary options in the most convenient forms with the least expenditure of time for the consumer.

The trade fair is a showcase for innovative products, usually with a French accent. SIAL provides a platform for manufacturers of all sizes to attract new international customers and maintain links with existing buyers from the global retail and foodservice sectors. With the Trends and Innovation area sitting alongside 17 clearly identified product sectors and numerous national displays, the emphasis of SIAL is placed firmly on consumer trends and innovation. This year also sees the addition of a demonstration kitchen for professional chefs to show their culinary prowess.

More than two-thirds of the companies present at SIAL are small or medium sized enterprises from across the globe, representing the entire range of the food production industry. Every exhibitor has prepared enough nutritional product data to satisfy any possible enquiry: the qualities of every product are justified and presented in the best possible light.

The emphasis is on lighter, healthier, or at the very least repositioned products. Part of this repositioning will be helped by the minister’s pledge to simplify the language and administration of food security in the coming months.

For the French, food has to be a pleasure above all. Anything that makes this enjoyment healthier and easier to deliver has to be a plus.