Gama spoke to Marina Calheiros, Coordinating Manager, ahead of the 2024 edition of Lisbon Food Affair.
The receptiveness of the market, particularly towards new companies, allows us to be optimistic with regard to achieving the objectives we have set for this second edition, particularly because it is taking place at a very challenging time for the entire agri-food sector, marked by changes in post-pandemic consumption habits, the war in Europe and the Middle East, the difficulties related to logistics and the price of transport, as well as the increased demand for differentiated products.
We are very pleased to note that 48% of registered companies are participating for the first time, a clear sign of the need to present new concepts and projects that attract business value to this sector and the event.
Another important indicator is the 23% of international companies directly represented. For now, the countries represented are Brazil, Slovakia, Spain, France, Italy, Peru, Tunisia, Uruguay, Latvia, India, and we expect to be able to welcome others.
The Lisbon Food Affair has positioning based on three strategic pillars, which are innovation, internationalization and sustainability.
The Buyers program will see a strong increase both in the number of international buyers invited, and in its scope in terms of the market they represent, which at the moment are more than 30. Lisbon Food Affair aims to position itself as the business platform between four continents, which is why the international buyers program is a priority, along with a commitment to maintaining its privileged status as a natural marketplace for the food trade with Portuguese-influenced countries (Brazil, Angola, Cape Verde, Mozambique), totaling more than 300 million potential consumers.
In terms of innovation and sustainability, attention is focused on LFA INNOVATION, which supports the efforts of companies in the design, development and launch of new products, equipment or technologies for the food sector that have a strong component of innovation.
Elsewhere, Food LAB allows a range of organisations to promote their R&D projects, enabling them to establish networks with companies and potential partners, both national and international. This area offers opportunities for visibility away from the main exhibition, such as lectures and workshops, where it is possible to share knowledge and discoveries with a professional, diverse audience interested in the area of food and beverages, machinery and equipment.
How would you describe the market environment for food and drink companies heading into 2024? In particular, what are the main challenges the industry is facing?
I would say that we have an extremely challenging period ahead of us. Inflation is expected to remain high in many food raw materials and we will have factors that could exert even greater pressure, namely access to certain raw materials, transport costs altered by energy and fuel prices, and the economic slowdown in some countries. These are, naturally, extremely worrying factors that threaten competitiveness in a sector such as agri-food, which is fundamental to every country. Due to the increase in interest rates, family consumption levels were compromised, which resulted in a slowdown in economic activity and company turnover.
However, the sector aims to continue to grow in exports, with estimates that such exports will exceed €10 billion within three years.
The agri-food sector represents one of the strategic areas to boost the national economy and this is revealed by export figures, job creation, and innovation in the sector. Events such as Lisbon Food Affair allow us to assess the degree of innovation within the food industry, trends, technological advances and the resulting factors that can determine the increase in investment.
The sector, as a whole, may experience an increase in investment, especially if there is a convergence of factors that encourage modernization and efficiency in production. However, the decision to invest will depend on the companies’ individual strategies and market conditions.
What other key trends do you expect to shape food and drink innovation in Portugal and elsewhere in 2024?
Trends in the food sector have evolved very quickly in recent years, with transformations in terms of production, investments and maintenance or search for new raw materials.
Innovation and sustainability will be the basis of any future trend and will be complemented by other trends such as demand for local produce: consumers are increasingly concerned about the environmental impact of their food choices. Local and sustainable sourcing of ingredients andeco-friendly packaging will continue to be important, as will plant-based and alternative proteins: the rise of plant-based diets and alternative protein sources has been a notable trend. This could continue to evolve, with more innovative plant-based products and protein alternatives hitting the market. The same goes for functional foods: foods that offer health benefits beyond basic nutrition are gaining popularity. This includes ingredients with specific health-promoting properties, such as probiotics, prebiotics and superfoods. Technology is playing an increasing role in the food and drink industry. This involves innovations in food production, delivery, and personalized nutrition. The use of digital platforms for ordering food and meal delivery services has been on the rise, and innovations in this area could further shape the way people access and consume food.
About Lisbon Food Affair
Lisbon Food Affair is the new professional fair for the agro-food sector in Portugal, aimed at manufacturers and distributors of food and beverages, equipment, services and technologies for distribution and for the Horeca channel. To find out more or to attend, visit lisbonfoodaffair.fil.pt