Monday, May 17, 2010

Barcelona Food Show | BCN Alimentaria 2010

My last week working at Alicia Fundacio, I had the privilege of joining my colleagues for the Alicia | Harvard Cooking + Science collaboration presentation at the BCN Alimentaria 2010. Besides the incredible presentations given by Ferran Adria, Jose Andres, Joan Roca & family, Pere Castells with Harvard & star chefs as a tiny part of the show, the main attraction of the show was the food with focus on the makers. My focus was to find those who proudly displayed their gluten-free (GF) products.

The show occupied 8 convention center halls, known as Gran Via Venue, Barcelona's giant convention center that dwarfs Chicago's McCormick Center. Only the Spanish can have dedicated halls to ham, cheese, and wine. All with samples. Delightful and dangerous. As well as gluten-free. I was in heaven. But I pushed through all these temptations to keep on course in search of GF. I headed with focus to Hall 6, the baked goods & sweets hall. Surprisingly, little to no gluten free goodies were to be found there. Mostly sugar-free and whole grains were the evident trends.

On towards the end the convention center to Hall 8, the "Multi-products", the varied food products area is where the beams of GF heaven originated for me. Seemed like everyone both had GF products highlighted. Amazing. There we were all speaking one common language. What a utopia. By far Dr. Schär had the most impressive booth: giant, open and inviting with everything you could ever dream of gluten free. Frozen selection included pizzas, tortellini, puff pastry, fish sticks, lasagne, and more. Schär also had aisles displaying other items such as many varieties of bread, cookies, cakes, and yummy treats that we all crave. They plan on increasing distribution and product line-up into the USA soon. Yay!

Another incredible booth was that of Aneto, a fine maker of broths: everything from vegetable, chicken, to five different paella broths. Aneto had giant coffee urns with every single variety of their broth to samples, proudly displaying all their products are GF. Cooks were happily making the broths from scratch on site, including the paella varieties with giant paellas. A very happy place indeed.

Pagesa (Productora Alimenticia General Española, S.A.), also known as Diet Radisson proved to be interesting vendor to me. They showed a number of great gluten-free products that seem like they would appeal to Americans very well. I asked if they planned on USA distribution. Their reponse was that most Americans would not buy their brand because of their name. If I were them, I would just change the brand name based on where it is distributed. Procter & Gamble does that with many of their products; like Tide in USA, Ariel in Europe and Latin America.

Overall, the BCN Food Show proved to be very progressive in the realm of increased presence of gluten-free products. And most of these products are well formulated; much better than the gluten-free products available in the USA. We do have to play catch up and it may take several years that will coincide with general dietetic awareness. It is encouraging to know that demand for gluten-free products are increasing at the rate of 20+% a year. And the demand for better taste and improved nutrition will increase, too. I hope so, and I hope to help develop such products.

-Erin Swing
The Sensitive Epicure

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