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Products from around the world, and cheese, highlight Sial Montreal

Latest show in Montreal going straight to the source of innovation

Over 750 exhibitors from countries around the world came to Montreal last week for the Salon International de l’alimentation (Sial) and Set Canada.

Many of the companies exhibiting sought to extend their distribution, or enter the Canadian market for the first time. Sial also offered a variety of education sessions and special events for attendees.

"Cheese by Sial" was one such event. A first for the show, cheeses from across the globe were placed together for attendees to taste. Cheese experts were on hand to offer their opinions and answer questions.

“I really believe cheese will be the next big thing in the food market,” said Xavier Poncin, Sial director. “I anticipate a lot of growth from it in the coming years.”

Attendees could also watch chefs at work at The Lab, where famous French pastry chef Christian Faure showed different baking techniques, and La Cuisine by Sial, a booth that featured workshops and competitions for chefs.

Xavier Terlet, president of XTC World Innovation, discussed global food innovation and trends.

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According to Terlet, product innovation is generally based on five different elements: pleasure, health, convenience, practicality and ethics. While all elements are seen in innovative products, consumers have lately placed more emphasis on only one element: pleasure.

Almost one third of new products have features that appeal to the senses such as flavour, visual appeal and packaging. Consumers are that much happier when a product appeals to their healthy ambitions while still being functional.

Terlet identified tea as being an interesting new feature in food products. While tea used to be known as a beverage on its own, its now used in meals and foods.

On the trade-show floors, Deebee’s organic Teapops, popsicles which contain the robust flavours of herbal tea was a solid examples of this trend.

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The idea of “Newstalgia”—a new product that appeals to the consumer’s sense of nostalgia—was another fun trend identified by Terlet.

Bruce Cost Ginger Ale, a new-aged beverage with and old-school flair might fall into this category. The drink preaches the same healthy sermon as similar drinks—it uses all-natural ingredients. But Bruce Cost physically grates ginger into its drinks–you can actually see sediments of it sinking to the bottom of the bottle. That combined with a nostalgic-looking bottle kept Bruce's booth bustling throughout the show.

Meat substitutes and vegetarian alternatives were also on display at several booths. Atlantic Natural Foods announced the Canadian launch of its Meatless Select product line, including Fishless Tuna. Reps from Kelp Caviar showcased a seaweed based caviar at their booth . Tthe product was recently featured on the popular CBC show Dragon’s Den.

The Tunisian pavilion showcased a variety of spics and oils, with a specialty virgin olive oil being presented by Med Flavours. A representative from Kallpa, a company specializing in all-natural, gluten-free goods, noted the gluten-free movement is continuing to grow in Tunisia much like it is in North America.

Proexport Colombia was present at the show, having picked five top Colombia food companies to exhibit. Amor Perfecto, a coffee company which has been in the Columbian market for over 15 years, drew much praise for its sleek packaging and branding. Palm oil and chocolate were also widely promoted at the Columbian pavilion.

Terlet identified salty snacks, cereals, and non-alcoholic beverages as being the most innovative in the grocery sector. Convenience is also of the utmost importance when it comes to helping a company succeed.

“Consumers are saying, ‘Give me the basic ingredients, but tell me what to do,” explained Terlet, citing French’s new Flavour Infuser as an example. He added anything that helps with preparation of vegetable-based meals is key. Salad Express Dinner Helpers, for example, provide the consumer with already-cut vegetables so they only need to add meat to prepare a meal.

There was an excited energy at Sial from both attendees and exhibitors. But the reality is, true innovation is hard to come by.

“One out of two products launched in North America fail,” said Terlet in his presentation.

In other words, 50% of all products are doomed for failure.

So why continue to try to innovate?

“Innovations help companies find new ways to grow,” responded Poncin. “If you don’t try, you can’t succeed.”

He added that reports show that 50% of the products we eat today didn’t exist five years ago, and similarly, 50% of the products we eat today won’t exist in five years.

As consumers tastes continue to develop, so will products. While pleasure and health are major concerns in the market today, both Terlet and Poncin identified waste-reduction for food and packaging to be a foreseeable future trend.

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