Ice Joy, a Russian-American company founded in 2012, won SIAL D'Or's best sweet frozen product for its granular ice cream
Ice Joy, a Russian-American company founded in 2012, won SIAL D’Or’s best sweet frozen product for its granular ice cream, made for the Russian market. Sold in a tub, the product consists of frozen balls of ice cream in several different flavors, including strawberries and cream, and Neapolitan.

Editor’s note: The organizers of SIAL call it “the largest food exhibition in the world.” Dairy Foods sent British journalist Geoff Platt of Dairy Digest to the Parc des Expositions near Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris to see what’s new. Here is his report:

For the 25th show, it was predicted that there would be 6,000 exhibitors and 140,000 visitors from 200 countries. In fact, there were 150,192 professional visitors, a 10.2% increase from the previous edition of the show in 2010.

Held every two years (in alternate years to the Anuga exhibition in Germany), SIAL  showcases dairy products, beverages, meat, fruit and vegetables, seafood, confectionery, bakery, frozen and ready-prepared products. It is attended by buyers from across the retail, food service, wholesale and hospitality spectrum.

While a significant number of exhibitors are from France and the surrounding West European countries, there are many national pavilions and companies representing countries from every continent and area of the globe.

There were around 350 dairy exhibitors listed. Walking through the beverage stands to reach the dairy section, I noticed an energy drink or two. I could not resist thinking: “Of course they are not as good as chocolate milk!”

The first dairy stand I visited was Mevgal from Greece, displaying a wide range of Greek yogurt. With the explosion in interest in Greek yogurt — especially in the United States — I expected to see lots of the stuff. There were several other Greek companies at the show but most seemed to focus on Feta cheese, with a bit of yogurt on the side.

But there was a great deal of interest about the news that U.S.-based Chobani was shipping product to Europe and selling it at a reasonable price, despite the freight costs. There was perhaps a little nervousness in the comments?

So, I didn’t find much Greek yogurt but there was chocolate milk from several of the exhibitors. However, nobody was linking it to sport and exercise and promoting it as a great recovery drink.  Perhaps it was because this is Europe and health claims legislation makes everybody nervous. Still, there might be a missed opportunity.

Milk is a great product with many constituent parts that can be used in a wide variety of food sectors and beyond. That is why probably there are more and more companies at SIAL offering bulk ingredients made from milk, like milk powders, butters, whey powders and derivatives. These are ideal for bakery, ready meals, confectionery, sauces and pharmacy, as well as for dairy.

Interfood, FrieslandCampina and Hoog-wegt Dairy (all from The Netherlands), Euroserum and Erie Europe (France) and Arizona Dairy Ingredients (United States) were among those at the show. Ingredients & Erie Europe were at the show. A lady at Toronto-based Chisholm said there only ever used to be two or three of the big companies at these shows. Now there were many. No doubt, growing demand from China, South American countries and Africa is creating a huge market that — at the moment — is creating sufficient demand to accommodate them all.

Spotting a Disney stand, I wondered what it was doing at such a show. It was promoting Food Licensing and its approach to nutritional standards for foodstuffs that carried Disney characters.  I found several examples of dairy products, mainly yogurts and beverages and nearly all from Groupe Danone it seemed — that used Disney characters (Pixar Cars, Disney Princess, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, and Donald and Daisy Duck) to promote these items among the younger generation. With the power of film and television these days, does the dairy industry take enough advantage of character merchandising?

Elsewhere, it was good to see cheese products aimed at children. Canada’s Saputo had its CheeseHeads and string cheese; Germany’s Baackes & Heimes had Jumbo & Mike cheese slices shaped as an elephant and a mouse, and lactose-free Gouda slices shaped like ducks, rabbits, bears and reindeer.

Germany’s Milkana used the dairy and sport link to introduce Milky snack — a net bag of five 25-gram cheese snacks wrapped separately and each picturing an athlete or sportsman representing many different sports, including boxing, rugby, fencing, surfing, baseball, curling, motor sports and golf.

California is debating the labeling of food products containing genetically modified ingredients (the state’s Prop 37 initiative failed in the November election). The subject is a hot one in Germany as well, where Zott introduced Zottarella, a range of mozzarella cheese clearly labeled as GMO-free. It is the first international mozzarella brand so labeled, according to the company. The company did it because of consumer demand.

SIAL returns to Paris Oct. 19 to 23, 2014. Toronto hosts a North American version from April 30 to May 2, 2013.