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Key reasons to attend Fi Europe & Ni

4 days of thought leadership and networking

To gain insight into Fi Europe & Ni exciting new sections and initiatives, I spoke with Julien Bonvallet, Brand Director at UBM plc, about this year’s top challenges for the conference. Here are his expectations of what the event will offer

1. Fi Europe & Ni attracted 26.000 visitors in 2017. What are the expectations for this year's exhibition in terms of the scale and global span of visitors and exhibitors? What special features can attendees look forward to at this year’s Fi Europe?

For this year's Fi Europe & Ni, we expect more than 27,000 visitors from 135 nations – which will once again prove that Fi Europe really has become the world's leading trade fair for food and beverage ingredients in the 33 years it’s been running. This year we have returned to Paris - and that allows for completely new visitor groups. As a rule, up to 30 per cent of visitors traditionally come from the host country – yet a fair on French soil is also interesting for all countries that have a strong historical, linguistic or economic connection with France.


This year again we see Fi Europe & Ni as much more than just a show, as it will also be used by numerous trade visitors as a backdrop for professional training. That's why we have the Future of Nutrition Summit on the day before the start of the trade fair, and the two-day Fi Conference during the show, but also free to attend lectures and presentations on-site. The Innovation Tours are particularly recommended, as they are ideal for those who want to find out about the highlights and trends on a specific topic quickly and easily.


2. With continued growing demand for meat alternatives and quality plant-based proteins, what ingredients, new formulations and applications can we expect to star at this year’s conference?

Plant-based proteins and meat alternatives are a huge trend – its previously niche existence has now become mainstream. In order to give this ever-evolving trend a worthy platform, we are collaborating for the second time with ProVeg International. Over the course of three days, the so-called “Plant-based Experience” will give insights into plant solutions, with presentations, round table discussions, live cooking shows and also a dedicated award category, all demonstrating the enormous potential of the topic.


The subject of plant-based ingredient alternatives is interwoven with the green consumer, and issues surrounding sustainability, ethical and resource-friendly sourcing. Therefore, at our pre-show event Future of Nutrition Summit, there will be a whole afternoon dedicated to sustainable food systems. Prof. Dr Alexandre Mathys will give a talk entitled “In search of a circular economy: novel protein sources for tackling food system challenges”, while Heather Daniell, Founder of Satisfied Snacks, will present on “Sustainability from farm to fork: the business case for the sustainable manufacturing of innovative products”.


3. Digestive health is gaining momentum among consumers also as a gatekeeper to broader health issues. How is the functional food and supplement industry responding? What developments are taking place in the pre and probiotics sector?

When the topic of intestinal health came to the fore more than two decades ago with the launch of the first probiotic yoghurt, the subject rapidly gained traction. There is now a huge range of probiotic and prebiotic products on the market – from fermented foods such as kefir or kimchi to fibre-enriched products.


And science is currently proving what many of us have already come to realise: bowel health has a marked effect on our overall wellbeing. Furthermore, studies have also revealed links between a disturbed or unbalanced bacterial colonisation of the large intestine and various clinical conditions, such as inflammation or neurological diseases.


What does this mean for the industry? In the field of prebiotics, many manufacturers now offer tailor-made solutions for various product concepts to meet diverse consumer requirements. Today, randomly enriching a foodstuff with dietary fibres is no longer sufficient. Instead, it is important that functionality is controlled in a targeted manner: which types of fibre promote intestinal peristalsis, which are ideal substrates for the bacterial flora, influence the feeling of satiety, which are also suitable for people with intolerances, for example low-FODMAP. That said, dietary fibres be adapted to corresponding application fields: Solubility can be an issue in the beverage sector, for example.

4. What in your opinion are the major health and environmental challenges facing the global food and supplement industry today? What strategies are being put in place to address these challenges and what still needs to be done?

Although we know more than ever about nutrition and its effects on health, the downsides of a highly affluent society are becoming increasingly apparent: obesity and diet-related diseases such as high blood pressure, coronary heart disease or diabetes type 2 are all on the rise. And a fast pace of life has led to increasing consumption of ready-made products or heavily processed foods, which means we often consume excessive calories but still lack important nutritional components, such as vitamins, secondary plant substances or dietary fibre. And this is where the food and nutraceutical industries can really make a difference - through effective reduction strategies for sugar, salt and saturated fats, and through tailor-made food supplements or convenience products that are functionally enriched.


At the same time, we can all see the effects of climate change in the media on a daily basis, along with evidence of the detrimental effects of factory farming. It is clear to us all that we need to live more sustainably and, crucially, make the right food choices. To really meet the needs of the modern mindful consumer, it is not enough to just offer alternatives of organic quality, as a comprehensive sustainability strategy is also required: If a product is purely vegetable and of organic quality, but has a high CO2 footprint due to transportation of the raw materials or energy-guzzling processing methods, or is packaged in plastic film, consumers will notice that - despite what the product may claim on its label.


In my view, however, the biggest challenge is catering for consumers who want healthier or more functional products that are sustainably sourced and produced, but are not prepared to accept any sensory compromises. The ingredients industry has done a lot of development work in recent years in order to satisfy the 360° demands of many consumers with the use of innovative ingredients.

5. What, in your opinion, are the leading nutritional trends that will drive new product development in 2020? What opportunities can companies leverage to commercialize on current market developments?

A central nutritional trend is definitely functionality: in these fast-moving times, it offers the opportunity to enhance everyday and convenience products such as pasta, baked goods and dairy products, with a health benefit. In addition, intestinal health alongside personalised nutrition will continue to drive the industry forward: The idea of offering health and wellbeing through individual products based on intestinal microbiome or genetic data may still sound futuristic, but I am sure that we can expect immense progress in this area. In order to make good ground in functionality and intestinal health, industry needs the close cooperation of product development and science. This is already standard for many companies exhibiting at Fi Europe & Ni: Product benefits are proven in top clinical studies.


My third major topic is sustainability - in the broadest sense: It is all about sourcing raw materials of the highest quality, and that also means in terms of ecological and social standards. It is all about resource-saving processing, too, along with sustainable packaging and plant-based solutions. And for ingredient manufacturers, it is all about convincing customers and consumers of their trust and transparency.


6. Governments globally are increasingly levying calorie or sugar taxes to drive healthier eating habits. Where do you see the ultra-processed CPG food space in five years?

In some countries, we have sugar taxes, while in others we have commitments to reduce salt and fat in ready meals. In France, for example, the NutriScore is intended to assist consumers with orientation. Of course, legislation is important but I think that the main push will really come from the consumer himself. But no matter how health-conscious we are, taste will always be key to consumer purchasing decisions. That's why low-calorie, low-fat or low-sugar foods can only exist if they meet consumers' high demands in terms of mouth feel, texture and taste.


Here at Fi Europe & Ni we have seen highly innovative ingredients in recent years - from established companies, but also from start-ups that make an important contribution with their unusual solutions and technologies. That is why part of the Future of Nutrition Summit, which aims to take a look at what the next five to ten years will bring, will focus on disruptive innovations. And I'm very excited to see what disruptive novelties will be introduced at our Startup Innovation Challenge.


7. This year will mark Fi Europe as stand-alone event. From next year onwards Fi and Hi Europe will be joining forces. What triggered this decision?

In recent years, our visitor surveys have repeatedly shown that many exhibitors and trade visitors use both Fi Europe and Hi Europe. At the same time, the border between "normal" food ingredients and nutraceuticals/health ingredients is becoming increasingly blurred, as the topic of health and functionality continues to gain in importance when it comes to new product development. Thus, the combination of the two fairs on an annual basis was an obvious and strategic solution. At the same time, the opportunities for exhibitors and visitors who have previously only attended one of the two shows will increase significantly, allowing them to discover new topics, customer groups and business fields. I am looking forward to three intensive, prosperous and highly successful days for all participants.


Thank you Julien. It was a pleasure speaking with you. Looking forward to getting together on 3rd December in Paris for another four days of enrichment at this year’s Fi Europe & Ni expo. And for our readers, come, join us and don’t forget to fill the registration form Happy mingling!

About the author

Liat Simha  is a public relations expert at NutriPR which  specializes in health and nutrition. She helps companies stand out in the crowd internationally by custom-developing a complete toolbox of PR promotions, social media and advertising for each client.

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