French flavours impress at Dubai food expo

L'Aperitif a la Francaise a hit as chefs enjoy gastro goodies

Sopexa's Eric Santier with the French consul general to Dubai, Nada Yafi.
Sopexa's Eric Santier with the French consul general to Dubai, Nada Yafi.
EMF Emirates' Pierre Feghali.
EMF Emirates' Pierre Feghali.
Chefs serve up gourmet appetisers at the show.
Chefs serve up gourmet appetisers at the show.

UAE F&B professionals were treated to a spectacular display of top French produce this week, at the 2010 edition of established food trade show L’Apéritif à la française.

The annual showcase, presented by Sopexa and the French Food Marketing Board in conjunction with several leading French brands, took place at Sofitel Dubai Jumeirah Beach.

Speaking to Caterer Middle East at the show, Sopexa Middle East managing director Eric Santier said around 400 people had attended, most of whom were chefs and F&B managers from four- and five-star hotels in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

“This event provides an opportunity to bring together and showcase a wide range of the top French products available on the market,” he said.

“This year we have more than 20 brands involved, which is great, and we’re trying to promote and display their products in a different way, with new recipes and new serving ideas.”

Commenting on the status of French products in the Middle East market, Santier noted: “There are more and more French products becoming available in this region. We have always had a large range of cheeses and other typical French products here, but now we have much more variety coming in: chocolate brands, delicatessan products, fresh items, seafood — nowadays, it’s right across the board.”

However Santier added that he felt there was “still more growth potential for French products in the region, particularly in the foodservice area”.

Commenting on this year’s edition of the show, Pierre Feghali, general manager of EMF Emirates — whose new range of chocolates and artistic sugared flowers were a big hit with visitors — said it offered “great exposure”.

“This is the fifth year we have participated and each year it gets better and better,” he asserted. “All the attendees are from the right field – chefs, F&B directors, people from the industry. And since the event specialises in French products, visitors come here knowing what to expect and what they are looking for.

“The advantages of these trade F&B shows, be it Gulfood or L’Aperitif, is that it’s a time when we suppliers can meet the users, face to face; you can build friendships, rather than just associating in a work environment — and that is very valuable,” he observed.

Lactalis International also had a strong presence at the event, with an eye-catching stand showcasing a range of products including a wide variety of cheeses and artisan breads.

The group’s sales director for the Middle East, Dany Abi Khalil, said it was important for French products to come together and boost their market presence in this way.

“Although the [brands] are very well known in France, we still need to work on local awareness of French products,” he commented.

“I think that, as a supplier of quality French food items, Lactalis is really credible in this field, which is why we need to mark our presence.”

Meanwhile flavourings provider Monin had a bar set up, creating both cocktail and mocktail beverages for the crowds.

The brand’s MEI sales and marketing director, Jeremy Coulbeck, said he was pleased to see that attendees were “mainly on the F&B side”, adding: “This show always seems to generate good numbers, so it’s very worthwhile.”

The live bar was a way to introduce visitors to the company’s new product lines, Coulbeck continued.

“We have the new coconut purée, which isn’t in the market just yet – we’re just going through the Municipality approval stages now, to check all the labelling is correct so we expect it to be in the market within the next four weeks,” he explained.

“We’ve also got a new Sweet & Sour mix as well, which is at the lower end of our product range in terms of costing, but we know it’s going to be a winner with the bars and foodservice areas in particular.”

Click here to check out photos from the evening of French foodie fun!

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