Snapshots from SAAFoST Congress 2023

It was a wonderful, warm and welcoming gathering of food industrialists in Cape Town’s CTICC last week – the first in four years! Your editor was there – and while it’s an impossible task to report on such a large and diverse event, here are but a handful of shots and snippets from the three days.

How wonderful to see SAAFoST legend, Aubrey Parsons, at Congress on Day 1. The nonagenarian looked in fine shape – he’s pictured here with Gary Coulson of Gold Coast Flavours & Colours, who launched his exciting new flavour business at the expo.

Accompanying Gary Coulson on the Gold Coast Flavours & Colours stand was owner of the California company, Jim Sgro.
With some traction already in SA”s competitive ingredients sector, Gary and Jim are confident their product line up, services and new blending/warehouse facility in Pretoria will go from strength to strength in a multipilicty of markets.

The opening keynote address was given by Miles Kubheka, the dynamic entrepreneur, author and philanthropist – with much of his talk focused on his Wakanda Food Accelerator, that’s empowering many, working admirably at grassroots in townships and which aims to drive disruptive solutions for the future of food in South Africa. Truly inspiring stuff!

Susana Socolovsky, food scientist from Buenos Aires, gave an enlightening talk on the mayhem that labelling based on the NOVA system has created in several Latin American countries. NOVA classifies food products according to the nature, extent and purpose of industrial processing – aka Ultra Processed Foods (UPF). It’s incorporated into our draft/daft new labelling regulations – let’s hope that doesn’t become a reality!

The classy ingredient act that is SK Chemtrade was on prominent show in the expo/gathering/catering area. MD Mark Ferrao (far right) is see here with his expert team.

Chandru Wadhwani, joint MD of Extrupet, the PET recylcling company, discussed the circular economy and what that really means, including how we need to rethink how we #designbetter from the start.
“We all want to change, but very few of us are actually willing to make that change.” he warned, after showing many slides on the chilling impact of the Anthropocene epoch.

Andrea Marent-Hegewisch, product development expert, was extremely upbeat about a new stevia solution she’s launched in SA in conjunction with Peter Igel South Africa.
Called Steviose and made by Almendra out of Thailand, it offers all the promises of stevia and none of its downsides ie bitter notes or liquorice aftertaste.
What an opportunity to network, she proved, strutting Steviose to two of my top ingredient companies, Cape Food Ingredients and Dohler!

Taking part remotely for two sessions, our own Dr Lisa Ronquest loomed large here in this panel session, Smarter Food Systems: How do we need to change the food system to sustainably feed the worldwith nutritious food?
As Chief Scientific Officer for V2 Foods in Brisbane, Lisa is living this very topic in their work producing plant-based meat alternative products using protein extracted from legumes. Their gain, and a big loss to SA!

Ingredients house, IMCD, made a notable impact with delegates, aside from the team’s striking black and orange garb.
The star of their Congress show was IMCD’s charming in-house chef/product innovator, Colin Wheeler-James, who created some amazing items with watermelon peel and clever flavourants. My favourite: watermelon-peel biltong. Yum! I kid you not….

The last and lively plenary session on Day 2 debated the role of consumer power, knowledge and ignorance in shaping product development.
The panel comprised siblings, Samantha and Clint Payne, both with research house IPSOS, moderator Monique Visser (Mérieux NutriSciences and part of the local organising committee), Trudie Broekmann, a consumer law specialist with Trudie Broekmann Attorneys; and Wendy Knowler, well-known consumer journalist.

AECI Food & Beverage together with AECI Water came together as “One AECI for a Better World” and were part of the expo.
Monique Barnard from AECI F&B gave an interesting presentation at the product theatre on using fortification to differentiate beverages with collagen, fibre and protein.

And lastly, congratulations to the Congress Organising Committee – what a great three days!