A Latin agenda: Espacio Food & Service Show 2014

The Espacio Food & Service 2014 show, held 3-5 September in Santiago, Chile, demonstrated the growing importance of Latin America in world cuisine, reports Liz Caskey

On the third and final day of the Espacio Food & Service 2014 show in Chile’s capital, Santiago, attendance had already surpassed that of the previous four years since the show’s debut, reaching nearly 9,000 visitors.

The largest exhibition of food industry suppliers in Chile, there was a 25-30% increase in the number of exhibitors this year with nearly 200 stands distributed over 12,000m2 of exhibition space. In 2014, a dozen countries from around the world from Peru to Germany to Ecuador and the United States, in addition to the many local Chilean companies, participated in the show.

The show served as a platform for different market players seeking to form new business ties, along with learning about the latest trends in food service such as new raw material, equipment, tools, supplies and services. The event also attracted international and local foodservice providers ranging from Chilean wineries to Italian espresso vendors, speciality cheese and bread makers, a line up of the country’s finest olive oils, gourmet Chilean juices made from the Maqui berry, and the inclusion of countries like Ecuador, Argentina, and Peru showcasing their culinary dishes for attendees (a trend in many restaurants in both Chile and abroad).

In addition to foodservice providers, many equipment manufacturers and outfitters were on-site to promote their services, meet with clients, and demo new technologies in machinery in the industry. The exhibition drew in mainly professional public such as those in charge of purchasing and operations for the major industries like hotels, restaurants, casinos, fast food chains, caterers, convenience stores, cook-chill system, among others. As it grew later in the day, the crowd increased and many other professionals such as chefs, sommeliers, and management from other industries such as healthcare and mining also paid a visit to the show.

“This year has been a good show,” said Wade Koehler, executive director of FCSI for the Americas Division, “We’ve had a lot of traffic particularly the first and last day. This show has been key in further promoting the FCSI brand in Latin America, attracting new members, and showing the world that there’s an opportunity in this market through the FCSI network.”

William (Bill) Taunton FCSI, chair of FCSI Americas and general manager of Santiago-based Gastrotec Food Design, added that many of his major clients in the mining industry were flying into Santiago that Friday for the show. “This year was the first year it was truly a tradeshow. People were extending their network and conducting business.”

Jonathan Doughty FCSI, president of FCSI Worldwide and group managing director of Coverpoint Catering Consultancy, who was visiting from London, remarked that, “The world has got smaller when talking foodservice in a particular country. This show is growing in importance in the region as all operators, not just Latin American ones, can come to network and learn. It is of particular relevance since Latin America is one of the biggest producers of food in the world today and that position is becoming more elevated and consolidated as the food they supply becomes more essential on an international scale.”

Global tendencies and Latin America on the agenda

This year, FCSI hosted a special seminar on the final day of the show entitled, “Tendencies & Technologies in the Development of Professional Gastronomic Installations.” The panel was moderated by Bill Taunton and included: Jonathan Doughty; Karen Malody FCSI, senior director of menu & product development for restaurants and vice president of A&B of Larry’s Market; Chris Tripoli FCSI, an international consultant and professor at the University of Houston; William (Bill) Caruso FFCSI, president of Caruso & Associates; and Ken Schwartz FCSI, president & CEO of SSA Inc.

In front of a crowded room with end-users from the hotel industry, convention centre, and equipment distributors, panel members shared their unique expertise on different trends and technologies answering a series of questions such as, “What are the tendencies in North America & Europe and the influence of Latin America in those?” and “What are the trends that are here to stay?”

All agreed that everything “Latin American” in food has exploded globally with clients from the United States to Canada, Singapore and Europe requesting restaurant items and menu concepts like Brazilian churrasquerias, Colombian Arepas, dips, and Peruvian ceviche.

As Jonathan Doughty noted, “People are looking for real experiences in food as they travel more. They are no longer buying a product or meal. They are buying an authentic experience”. Ken Schwartz also said that the industry is seeing a move “back to basics” which, in North America, means farm-to-table. Across the board, all the consultants agreed that end consumers want a fresher, local product that is sustainable and prepared on-site in the moment.

Other issues discussed included labour costs and profits. Bill Caruso explained that, as he’s seen in his consulting projects, labour in North America and Europe is at a premium. Thus, to get down on labour costs, there is a move to now employ robotics in the planning, design, and transport of food to remote kitchens for the mining industry.

Karen Malody also revealed that in North America, fast casual restaurants are expanding at lightening speed and are a trend that will only increase in the upcoming years. As a sweet spot for operators with the highest level of dollar spend per custom per minute, she estimated that most operations in fast casual generate net profits of 16-20%. “Look at successful brands like Chipotle or Five Guys (in the United States) and you’ll see even chefs with very upscale establishments are seeking how to get into the very profitable niche of fast casual these days”.

As the panel wrapped up and final remarks on branding trends were made, Jonathan Doughty reflected that, “One of the biggest issues in our industry is boredom. We are in an industry that constantly needs reinventing and refreshing”. Certainly this show is one of the ways for professionals to stay abreast of those changes.

During a cocktail after the seminar, Bill Taunton, a Chilean himself, reiterated the positive impact of Espacio Food & Service show this year: “There is a growing interest both in Chile and the region for what a food consultant brings to the table”. He estimated that his new client projects are growing at 15-20% per year as supermarkets, hotels, mining, and hospitals explode in growth. “In the next 5-10 years, I believe that Espacio Food & Service will be a destination show for many people in the industry. It is setting itself up not only as regional but global in scale”.

Liz Caskey


More Relevant

View More