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New products, packaging trends at Sial show

Attendees upbeat as food companies from around the world came to Toronto

Food manufacturers from around the world descended on Toronto last week for Sial Canada.

The three day show, April 30 to May 2 featured a virtual United Nations of exhibitors, with countries such as Brazil, France, South Korea, China, Italy, Morocco, the United States and Turkey participating.

Several of these countries had large stands, with various exhibitors seeking to introduce their products to Canadian consumers.

The Brazilian pavilion featured Novo Mel Brazilian Honey and an energy drink called Organique, billed as Brazil’s first organic energy drink. With a stylish black and purple can, the drink contains organic acai exract, guarana extract and cane sugar.

VIEW: Sial Innovation Award finalists

Over at the Columbian pavilion, a collection of interesting exotic fruit in clear bags that could be eaten just as one might eat fruit cocktail were featured. The products, available under the brand name Turumbo by a company called Fruexcol, included soursop, a fruit that’s high in antioxidants.

Seasnax, a Los Angeles-based company, debuted a gluten-free pasta alternative. Called “Oodles,” the product is made of wakame seaweed noodles. According to a company rep, the ready-to-serve product retains the rich colour and health benefits of seaweed.

Other companies, meanwhile, updated their product packaging. Wowbutter, a peanut-free, nut-free peanut butter replacement, came out with a new way to help families navigate schools’ strict food allergy policies. Underneath the label on each tub of Wowbutter is now a layer of peelable “Nut-free” stickers. Parents can affix them to their kids’ sandwich bags, reassuring teachers that their kids’ lunches follow school rules.

Citadelle, a Quebec-based maple syrup producer, came out with innovative new packaging. Its products are now available in a squeezable pouch, called a SmartSak. It’s more environmentally friendly, according to a company rep, and curbs sticky mess.

Packaging was also the theme at one of Sial's education sessions. Isabelle Marquis of XTC World Innovation, a French company that tracks new products, said that consumer packaged goods companies are increasingly trying to make packaging more convenient.

Marquis pointed to a few examples from around the world. For instance, cold soup by the French firm Giraudet comes in a milk-bottle shaped container. The bottle is easy to pour, or consumers can simply drink directly from it.

Another example: Fresh asparagus from Sheppard Farms in the United States comes in a stand-up microwavable pouch. "This is functional packaging," Marquis said. The asparagus remains standing, the way it is supposed to for optimal storage, and the bag can be put into the microwave and steamed.

Marquis said food makers must consider the end user when designing packaging, rather than the person buying it, "because they are not always the same person. So for example kids are more autonomous these days so they need to be able to open up the packaging. Cookies that need scissors to open may not be a good idea," she explained.

Out on the show floor, several Canadian companies had new items on display. Quebec's Prolimer displayed a range of seafood pizzas while Fumoir Le Fee des Greves, also from Quebec, featured a smoked coho salmon log (a ring of coho salmon around cream cheese filling).

At the other end of the show, in the Dairy Farmers of Canada booth, the grand champion of the recently held Canadian Cheese Grand Prix awards was on display. Quality Cheese Inc. Ricotta is the first Grand Prix grand champion from Ontario.

VIEW: Canadian Cheese Grand Prix winners

Also featured at the show was Marble Pop, an innovative new carbonated beverage. Inspired by the classic Japanese soda Ramune, the product uses a glass marble rather than a twist-off cap to seal the drink. To open it, consumers use a special plastic “popper” to push the marble into the beverage.

On Wednesday morning, trend hunters at XTC told conference goers that the beverage category saw the most innovation last year–the first time drinks have ever taken the top spot.

They also revealed that more than half of all products launched last year focused on pleasure above all other factors–even health.

In fact, food makers used their products’ health features more as a “reassurance factor” for their new launches, rather than the main selling point. Health benefits, the presenters said, merely supported the primary pleasure benefits.

Exhibitors on the show floor were generally positive about the turnout for this year's Sial. It was the second time the annual show had been held in Toronto.

Sial was a Montreal-only event up until two years ago when show organizers decided to hold the event in Montreal one year and Toronto the next.

The first show in Toronto, in 2011, drew 12,415 attendees from 60 countries, according to figures supplied by Sial. There was no word yet on attendance figures at this year's show.

In addition to Toronto and Montreal, the Sial Group, based in France, runs food trade shows in Paris, Shanghai, Sao Paulo and Abu Dhabi.

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