The Food Show, one of the benchmarks on a European scale, started this Monday in Barcelona with the agri-food sector installed in a new crisis caused by the increase in the price of raw materials, energy and diesel. After the break since 2018, this year’s edition, held at Fira de Barcelona, should be the one to return to normality. But that recovery has been clouded by the new inflationary crisis that the world is experiencing as a result of the war in Ukraine, which dominated the talks at the exhibitors. The CEO of the Spanish Federation of Food and Beverage Industries (FIAB)Mauricio García de Quevedo assured Efe on Monday that high inflation and increased costs in the food industry will prevent the sector from recovering business levels prior to the pandemic, as planned, in 2022.
Daniel Sánchez-Llibre Galván, CEO of the company canned Dani, this Monday he was at the foot of the canyon with a large part of his family in the exhibitor of his company. “Last October we went to the Anuga fair in Germany. It was the first food fair to open after the covid restrictions. We were looking forward to Alimentaria and just when it arrives we find brutal instability. Sunflower oil and gas have risen… In addition, the Russian and Ukrainian markets are great consumers of our preserves and have closed. Last week we were about to close our factory in Galicia for a few days because nothing could come out of the transport strike”, warns Sánchez-Llibre.
The canning company has a fishing company in Chile where problems have also come. “There are no containers there now, but what’s more, just a few months ago a container took 45 days to arrive from Chile and now it takes three and a half months,” he denounces. Dani’s CEO knows inside out the price increases that his industry is suffering. “Many of our preserves go in glass jars, since the glass has risen 30%. Sunflower oil a few months ago was paid at 1.45 per liter and now at 3.05 euros. The tinplate with which we make our cans has risen 54%. What’s more, before a container from China to Barcelona with these materials cost me 1,200 dollars and today that same container costs 16,000 dollars”, he laments. Sánchez-Llibre assures that inflation is much more than the 9% they say. “The problem is that there is a price above which the consumer cannot go. They will buy two kilos of rice to feed the whole family sooner than a can of cockles”, he maintains.
“More sausages and york ham”
The director of Marketing from the Argal meat industry, Meritxell Domingo, is clear that “prices will rise but consumption will fall”. Argal had not had an exhibitor at Alimentaria for 25 years. “In 2020 we wanted to come because at Argal we have launched a wide range of prepared dishes. The pandemic has made us delay this presentation and just when we were more optimistic, this crisis arrives that not only raises the price of our raw material, but also energy, packaging and diesel, ”he argues. Argal’s strategy is to try to recover the balance by reducing production costs. “We cannot load all the costs on a consumer that in the end will not be able to contain. The crisis does not have to make us panic but a reduction in the volume of business has already begun to be noticed. This February the meat market has noticed a reduction of 8.6% while in Argal it has only been 5%”, he warns. He knows that if the crisis lasts a long time, consumers will opt for white brands and the consumption of cheaper products will grow: “Sausages and York ham”.
Laia Mas is the director of corporate and public reputation at Danone. “These are not easy times and the solution to get out of this crisis is to continue betting on the value and innovation of our products. The consumer has to know that when he buys from us, he buys quality”, she points out. In another exhibitor, the communication manager of Casa Tarradellas, Miquelina Saborit, shows the new slow fermentation pizzas of her signature, with more than 45 years of history. “Our first pizza is from 1996. Since then we have been through many crises and we have learned that a crisis is an exercise in adaptation. The pandemic taught us that we have to have a waist and we will do that ”. For Javier Coromina, Director of Communication at Idilia Foods (Cola Cao or Nocilla), the main problem is the rising cost of raw materials. The war in the Ukraine has complicated everything tremendously. We decided for a matter of health and concern for the environment to stop making our products with palm oil, but now sunflower oil has multiplied by four the price it had in 2020. We will never go back to palm oil , We have that clear, but we have to face the rise in the price of oil, energy, cereals… 70% of the cereals we bought from Russia and Ukraine…”, he laments.
He knows in depth all the sides of the coin.
Alimentaria is also a space for innovation. The CEO of Torrons Vicens presents, for example, the novelty of the first nougat of donuts But it is also aware of the price crisis. “The pandemic did not affect Christmas consumption but it did affect our stores, many of which were closed. Now this crisis is affecting the cost of raw materials, energy and oil and the only formula that occurs to me is to try to optimize logistics resources so that it has the least possible impact on the price”.
Presence of the King
King Felipe VI, who inaugurated the hall on Monday, encountered a new plan from the Catalan authorities: neither the president of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, nor the mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, were present at the monarch’s formal greeting at one of the doors of the fair. Minutes later they did pose with the monarch inside the enclosure, although the president of the Generalitat did not accompany Felipe VI on his visit to the fairgrounds.
Those who did receive the monarch were the Minister of Agriculture, Luis Planas; the Government delegate in Catalonia, Maria Eugènia Gay; the mayor of L’Hospitalet de Llobregat and president of the Barcelona Provincial Council, Núria Marín, the president of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce and Alimentaria, José Luis Bonet; the president of Fira de Barcelona, Pau Relat, and the president of Hostelco, Rafael Olmos.