Lisa Food Explorer 6

Food Explorer #6: A South African food scientist goes to Anuga

Lisa Ronquest is one of South Africa’s top young food scientists, now transferred to The Netherlands in a global food R&D role by Mars. She’s been sharing her impressions and insights with FOODStuff SA readers in a regular column, and we’re proud here to publish the sixth of her essays on her big move. This time, Lisa hopped over the border to Germany for a hectic but energising day at the Anuga food expo, the world’s biggest, in Cologne.

ANUGA – Cologne, Germany. Five days, 11 exhibition halls with 7 063 exhibitors from 108 countries, 160 000 visitors from 192 countries. It’s impressive to say the least and a scale that makes Nasrec Expo centre look like the neighbourhood shopping centre in comparison.

I had always dreamed of visiting Anuga, but hadn’t been able to justify the expense and motivate for a visit when I was based in South Africa. So when the opportunity arose to take my whole team to visit Anuga for some exposure and external stimulus, I jumped at the chance. But a two-hour drive away from Rotterdam, these types of food events and expos become extremely viable.

We only had one day so planning what to see and do was critical to get the most out of it. Anuga has an app to make this planning super easy. The fair is a mix of exhibitors, speaker events, workshops, even culinary competition and tastings.

The show is targeted for business-to-business, but is still worth a visit to get inspiration and insight into trending flavours, formats and ingredients. There are halls covering fine food, frozen food, meat, chilled and fresh food, dairy, bread & bakery, hot beverages, drinks, organic, food service and retailtec.

For me, the drinks hall was my favourite, truly displaying a breadth of trends from convenience, health and nutrition and indulgence.

Memorable examples bringing these trends to life were portable PET wine glasses containing wine (convenience); sparkling wine from cranberries, coconut water of every flavour and frozen smoothie veggie/fruit blended pellets for easy, healthy smoothies at home without having to have all those items in your fridge (health & nutrition); and champagne containing textured satin beads and relaxation drinks with natural herbs in sheen packaging that looked more like a spa product than a drink (indulgence).

We found the South African stand and I just had to visit my fellow compatriots. A friendly chef from the Karoo rustled up a lovely piece of ostrich fillet for us – a first for my Spanish colleague who just gobbled it up. It was a real taste of home and I just so enjoyed the hospitality and, of course, familiar local accents. Armed with some biltong, we went to visit the rest of the South African contingent at the show.

We also walked through the Culinary Stage to view the ‘Chef of the Year’ competition, which was hosted as part of Anuga. You could sense the pressure that the chefs were under to create something artistically spectacular and delicious, made even tougher with hundreds of passers-by watching their every move.

A few inconveniently inaccurate directions made sure we were late for the jam-packed “Innova Top 10 trends for 2015” talk. So we waited for the next session, which was a most useful overview of the top 10 trends of 2015.

There was quite poor signage on the whole, masses of people to negotiate and a real lack of accessible water, which made for quite a parched and demanding experience. Also left me feeling that the Germans aren’t so superior in their organisation skills when compared to us South Africans!

The show on the whole is really targeting high end, trending new flavours and foods, which is certainly a profitable and very relevant consumer need in the developed world. The need to solve food insecurity issues or affordability challenges was nowhere to be seen.

We ended off our day at Anuga with a complimentary wine tasting including some novel alcoholic beverages and enjoying the German wines on offer. That was until a rather drunk Polish salesman tried to join our party and we realised it was time to head back to Rotterdam.

My top products from my brief visit to a select few halls were:

  • The ingredient of the show: coconut, with an array of coconut products from coconut waters to flavoured coconut chips.
  • The strangest thing tasted: camel milk from a Dubai company based called Camelicious.
  • The funkiest thing: gorgeously-crafted traditional food wagons for mobile food markets and Unilever’s Maille brand was wonderfully showcased through one of these wagons.
  • The craziest thing: a cannabis energy drink.
  • The yummiest thing: in the fine food section, flavoured banana chips and gourmet popcorn called Stellas with flavours like prosciutto ham, fried calamari and parmesan cheese.
  • The most innovative product through packaging: the premium wine in a PET glass with an easy-open closure for enjoying wine anywhere. I could see these doing extremely well for summer picnics back in SA.

Now for FiE in Paris in December…

About this column

Lisa Ronquest is currently Head of Product Development – Global Food R&D at Mars Inc, based in The Netherlands. The intention of this column is to be both a personal and professional account of a South African food scientist exploring life and work in a developed market.

You can contact her at [email protected].

Related reading:

Food Explorer #5: A South African food scientist explores things italian

Food Explorer #4: A South African food scientist explores Grolsch

Food Explorer #3: A South African food scientist explores chocolate in Belgium

Food Explorer #2: A South African food scientist goes shopping abroad

Food Explorer #1: A South African food scientist taking on a global R&D role

You can read about FOODStuff SA’s Anuga 2015 expedition here!