At 2,240 meters above sea level, Mexico City quite possibly boasts the highest food and drink trade show on the industry’s calendar, and with over 12,000 delegates pre-registered, the Food Tech Expo and Summit one of the key events in the LATAM region.
With an extensive conference program with a high caliber of international speakers and an extensive seminar schedule, it’s easy to see why almost 200 exhibitors, including the major global players in the ingredient sector, have committed to support this event, now in its 8th Year.
Taking a walk around the show there were five main innovation themes that seem to be occupying the minds of the Mexican food and beverage professional:
Mexico took a bold step in 2013 by introducing a tax on sugar sweetened soft drinks. This was in direct response to the accolade of being announced as the ‘fattest nation in the world, and while the relative merits of such a sin tax are hotly debated, reduced sales of products affected by the tax, with a corresponding rise in sales of those exempt, are reported. Further analysis suggest that this amounts to around six calories per person per day.
So in addition to the global focus on sugar consumption, Mexico has an added incentive, so it was no surprise to see a wide range of sugar reduction innovations being showcased at The Banamex exhibition center.
One of the most surprising was shown by BioSpringer, demonstrating that with the use of yeast extracts, more commonly seen in salt reduction applications, sugar can also be reduced.
There was also a focus on not only sugar reduction technology, but solutions that had a positive impact on blood sugar as a whole. Such products were being actively marketed towards diabetics. With obesity levels at almost 33% and diet related diabetes at 14% there is an immediate need for such innovation and this was certainly evident.
A truly Mexican solution was offered by Nexira in the form of NeOpuntia, a dehydrated cactus (Opuntia ficus indica) that can be used in weight management applications and to reduce blood sugar.
Another global trend is the need for alternative protein sources. The Food Tech Summit and Expo certainly reflected this, with textured soya protein being the main offering. Interestingly, however, from discussion with the exhibitors the trend was driven more by cost – textured soya protein being employed as a meat extender rather than a more holistic protein sustainability issue.
Tangible Nous is among the innovators in this arena looking to bridge the nutrition gap using alternative good quality vegetable proteins and is following some of the European trends in looking further afield than soy to deliver a textured protein offering.
Beauty from within
The concept of ‘beauty from within’ and the impact of nutrition on wider health is certainly ‘on message’ and this was evident in a number of areas. Natura Extracta showcased its Phosphatidylserine-Sharp PS, promising enhanced cognitive function; and Dannova promoting the benefits of collagen for hair and skin.
Colors.. both natural and synthetic
As a European at a LATAM show I was initially wrong-footed by the big color companies actively promoting their artificial color portfolio, after all with the fallout from the much publicized ‘Southampton six’ study, it's not something that is often seen at equivalent events in Europe. Mexico is a colorful place, and this was reflected in the strong colors on offer – both natural and artificial. While there is a preference for natural and clean label in the region, it was widely acknowledged that without the restrictions of use that Europe is bound by, cost is often the determining factor.
Taste, of course, is often a regional preference, therefore one of the exciting aspects of travelling the world, especially to food events, is to experience the core flavor trends of the region. The abundance of Chilli, Habanero and Chipotle was a delight, but some of the more unusual flavors were also on show. The millennial generation is often described as being ‘experimental’ ‘global’ and ‘agents of change’; so maybe the rest of the world should be taking a long hard look at Tamarind from Technaal, Chamoy from Comax, or the Basil, Cucumber, Rose, Jasmin and Cardamom offered by SoDexim.
Overall The Food Tech Summit and Expo was an exceptional event, with high quality delegates and exhibitors – everything you want in a trade show and conference. It is no surprise that Revistas Enfasis, the event organisers are delivering a ‘sister’ event, Food Tech Expo & Summit, Guadalajara at the Expo Guadalajara on the 1st & 2nd June 2016.
Steve Osborn BSc (Hons), M.Phil, CSci, FIFST, is principal consultant, food and beverage, at the UK-based Aurora Ceres Partnership, which provides innovation management, product development, change management and business support for the food and beverage industry, along with open innovation and technology scouting through ‘ACTION’, the Aurora Ceres Technology Innovation Open Network.