EU cereal sector plans groundbreaking summit

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: European union, Cereal

AACC International's European section plans to hold its first-ever
spring meeting in order to tackle the EU cereal sector's most
pressing concerns.

The two-day event, which will run from 2 to 4 May 2007 in Montpellier, France, is being billed as an opportunity for the European cereal industry to learn about important new consumer drivers and trends.

For example, the opening plenary session will outline the major challenges the cereals industry is facing today in view of consumer demands and expectations, while the meeting's technical programme will feature a science track and a technology track.

The science track will offer information on how to translate nutritional issues into raw material, processing, and product requirements; the resulting technological requirements and how best to meet these requirements. The technology track meanwhile will focus on new processes, ingredients, and final products.

A concluding plenary session will combine information from both tracks, leading to discussions on the future of the grains industry.

The event comes at an important time for the cereals industry. Consumers are increasingly tuned in to what they perceive to be healthier options presenting opportunities to the sector.

Indeed, according to Leatherhead Food International's recent Market for Cereal Snacks report, the cereal bars market is continuing to show very strong annual growth, having risen 9.6 per cent in seven countries under review in 2005 (the US, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK), and is expected to increase a further 7.2 per cent to $2.54bn in 2006.

Leatherhead says that global cereal bar markets are generally led by companies with existing interests either in breakfast cereals, or confectionery or other baked snacks (e.g. biscuits or cakes).

Although the sector also supports a multitude of specialist health and natural food suppliers, the products sold through mainstream supermarkets tend primarily to be those manufactured by major food groups.

There are also threats however. Last year the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) forecast a sharp decline in global cereals due to a slight decrease in global cereal output and a significant growth in demand.

But according to the European Commission, this year's total EU cereal harvest remains in line with the last five years, though droughts continue to put pressure on prices.

The geographic area affected by drought is less extended than that of the extreme droughts in 2005 and in 2003. For instance, the area affected by the drought impact on wheat production makes up 14 per cent of the total EU area in 2006, compared with 17 per cent in 2005 and 23 per cent in 2003.

However, some of the affected regions such as southern France, Catalonia in Spain, Sardinia, and central and north-western regions in Italy, show a worsening situation in terms of the water reserves accumulated since last spring.

The AACC International meeting in Montpellier aims to cover all these issues. The AACC, a non-profit organisation of members who are specialists in the use of cereal grains in foods, recently changed its name from the American Association of Cereal Chemists (AACC) to AACC International in order to better reflect the direction of the association and the grains industry as a whole.

More information on the meeting can be found by visiting www.cerealsandeurope.net.

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