Anuga 2009: Sprechen Sie Essen?

I won’t vouch for my German grammar in the title above, but if you “speak food,” then you'll find a great deal to talk about this October at Anuga 2009, the global food and beverage fair, which will take place in Cologne (Köln), Germany, from Oct. 10 to Oct. 14. In 2007, the Koelnmesse (Cologne’s convention center) was host to 6,795 exhibitors from 95 countries and welcomed more than 163,000 visitors from 174 countries around the world. It is, by all accounts, the world’s largest trade fair for specialty food. In fact, it is really 10 specialized trade shows in one, including Fine Food, Drinks, Chilled Food, Meat, Frozen Food, Dairy, Bread & Bakery & Hot Beverages, Organic, Catering Tec (equipment for the foodservice and catering market), and Retail Tec (technology and services for the retail trade).

Apart from the sheer number of innovative products that one can see and taste at Anuga, attending the show couldn’t be more pleasant these days. The entire convention center has undergone renovation in recent years, and the new halls were available for the first time in 2007. First, there are four separate entrances, which cuts down considerably on the crowds in the morning. There is a main artery called the Central Boulevard that dissects the entire convention center with access to all the halls, making it easy to get from, say, Hall 3 to Hall 8 on the opposite end. The spacious and well-lit halls are easy to navigate due to the clear and efficient signage throughout the Koelnmesse, with plenty of places to meet, rest or eat during the show. Best of all, perhaps, is that the Koelnmesse is located just across from the center of Cologne, with great rail access directly from the convention center to four major airports as well as all the nearby cities. One can even take the train right into Cologne, although personally, I like to walk back over the Rhine at the end of the day, usually ending up in one of the charming beer gardens along the river just down from the cathedral. How civilized!

Anuga is a great place to see all kinds of innovative products, usually before they ever reach our shores, as well as classic foods from every corner of the globe. In fact, touring the huge international pavilions is the next best thing to visiting the country in terms of getting an overview of the foods and products, as well as meeting the manufacturers and representatives of some of the world’s top food companies.

“In addition to generating ideas, many attendees form relationships with foreign exhibitors that lead to future business transactions,” says Mette Petersen, president and managing director at Koelnmesse Inc. in Chicago. “At Anuga, meetings take place on the show floor. There are opportunities to import, export and co-pack, which is becoming a part of everyday business as the food and beverage industry becomes increasingly global. Further, in 2007, two-thirds of exhibitors indicated they use Anuga to debut new products. Anuga sets the trends and puts all the important topics in focus.”

There is a large U.S. presence at Anuga, both in terms of visitors and exhibitors. In 2007, there were 148 participants in the U.S. Pavilion, covering 25,150 square feet of exhibition space, and according to the USDA, these companies generated an estimated $9.8 million in on-site sales and more than $89 million in 12-month projected sales. You’re almost guaranteed to see American-made products there that you haven’t even seen at the shows here in the United States.

Since the majority of exhibitors at Anuga are German companies, it’s an excellent opportunity to see a wealth of products from a country that has been ahead of the curve on healthy, natural and organic products, all categories that are generating enormous interest from American consumers right now. From baked goods and sweets to cheese and cured meats, Germany never fails to excite me when I attend the Anuga fair. German products have always had great appeal to U.S. consumers. Perhaps because we have borrowed so many of our most cherished traditions from German culture (especially involving Christmas) and because German ancestry is so prevalent here in the Americas, we have a special affinity for German products. Or perhaps it’s just because the products are so good, so innovative and so well packaged that we’re naturally drawn to them. Whatever the reason, you’ll find plenty to choose from in the German Pavilion and throughout the show.

I’ll be at Anuga again this year, scouring the floor for new products, trends and merchandising ideas, all of which never fail to be in abundance at the show. After the show, I will once again be enjoying the bounty that the beautiful city of Cologne has to offer. Throughout the city, including the area around the great cathedral that sits in view of the Koelnmesse, there are wonderful restaurants, from both traditional and modern German fare to some of the most innovative international offerings to be found anywhere. In fact, when I’m in Germany, ich habe immer hunger (I’m always hungry). I hope to see you there. Auf Wiedersehen!

- Nielsen Business Media
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