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Innovation straight from Eastern Canada

Some of my favourite products at Sial were from Canada.

Perhaps it’s just my Nova Scotia upbringing, but I found the Atlantic Canada stand at the recent Sial Toronto exhibition to be particularly enticing.

Among the 15 exhibitors there were several standouts: the winner of the Sial Innovation Award, A. Acadien Atlantic, for its smoked salmon pâté; the winner of top Canadian cheese contest awards, Cows Creamery & Raspberry Point Oyster Co., with its Avonlea and extra old cheddars; and the Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association, producer of the only certified organic mussels in North America.

A chef at the Atlantic Canada stand was busy making delightful eats from the various exhibitors. The true taste winner here, to my mind, was the smoked Atlantic salmon pâté (photo, above) from A. Acadien Atlantic of Caraquet, N.B.

No wonder it won Sial’s Innovation Award. It is like no other salmon pâté on the market. It has the most delicate balance of hot-smoked and cold-smoked salmon, with just the right amount of natural spices and flavours. And it’s kosher, too.

I spoke with the president of this family-owned enterprise, Anick Lanteigne. She told me that in her small processing plant “we smoke our salmon using natural wood and according to a well-guarded recipe, in which previously unused spices enhance the fine taste of this noble fish. Our unique smoking technology and European expertise ensure our mission to market the finest products of the Atlantic Ocean. The lightly smoked and spiced products are tasted by fine gourmets, before release, to achieve and assure the best possible flavours.”

One of those gourmet tasters is, apparently, Lanteigne herself, who I was told has such sensitive taste buds, she can tell if there are just a few too many grains of salt, or too little lemon juice in every batch. If she isn’t satisfied, it doesn’t leave the plant.

Sial, of course, is an international exhibition, featuring nearly 770 exhibitors from 44 countries. It rotates venues each year between Montreal and Toronto.

This year’s Toronto show posted records for the biggest exhibition space and most exhibitors. There was a 5% increase (to 12,900) in the number of professional visitors over Sial Toronto two years ago. This year’s attendance was just 900 visitors below the record, set in Montreal.

Executive director for Sial Canada, Xavier Poncin, said with “a record for number of exhibitors and products exhibited, it is massive internationalization. The visitor base is on the rise, and a record number of decision-makers, more than ever previously recorded, attended.”

Quebec is always well represented at Sial Canada. This year, there were 73 exhibitors under the Groupe Export Agroalimentaire Quebec banner. Lots of delightful products were to be tasted here.

My favourite was Pouding Chômeur Pie. It is a twist on the popular Quebec dessert–a cake with a maple syrup sauce. As a pie, it had the same taste. Decadent! And very yum. Pouding Chômeur Pie is made by Gaudet Sweet Goods, a pie, tart and doughnut maker from Acton Vale, Que.

There were also 29 companies represented at a stand organized by the Canadian Food Exporters Association, including the well-known specialty food company Sable & Rosenfeld and cookie-maker Dare Foods. A really interesting company was Ann Payne’s Caveman Foods, out of North York, Ont. This company had a line of great tasting organic fruit drinks with fizz.

Another drink company of interest was Yomm Beverages from Winnipeg. It had a hibiscus drink (yes, the flower) and hibiscus herbal bags on display. Molly B’s Gluten Free Kitchen showed its gluten-free products. (Many gluten-free and health-sensitive products were exhibited throughout the show.)

The Canadian Birch Company, from Grand Marais, Man., had a new twist on sap and syrup. It exhibited Birch Tree syrup, a slightly bitterer version of maple syrup. Of course, more familiar maple syrup and sugars were well represented at the Sial show by Citadelle Maple Producers Co-operative and Decacer, both from Quebec.

With 44 countries on the show floor, there were lots of new products to discover. I chose to focus on Canada, and in particular Atlantic Canada. I feel no need to apologize for that.

George Condon is consulting editor at Canadian Grocer

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