All the way from Alimentaria…

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El Catedral Barcelona, just steps from my hotel.

Last month, I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Barcelona, Spain and represent Grocery Headquarters at the international presentation of Alimentaria 2014.

Alimentaria is a bi-annual trade show held in Barcelona to showcase the nation’s vast food and beverage products. Show organizers say that next year’s show, to be held March 31 to April 3 in Barcelona, has its sights set on foreign markets, with an overall goal of “maximum internationalization.” With this objective in mind, the Barcelona show has been promoted around the world to identify and attract buyers and distributors from emerging markets.

The press conference itself consisted of several panels and presentations on all things Alimentaria. Speakers and panelists consisted of officials from the Spanish government, world-renowned chefs, and industry experts.

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The fantastic meat and cheese plate I devoured during my first pilgrimage to Eataly NYC.

One of the press conference’s panels was assigned the topic of “Food, gastronomy and tourism. The great international momemntum of Spanish gastronomy.” One of the panelists was Doug Duda, former president of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. During the panel’s discussion, Duda referenced the success of Eataly, the Italy-centric specialty grocer that found massive success in midtown Manhattan. “Interest in culinary tourism has never been higher among Americans,” he said, explaining that specialty grocers like Eataly can help to inspire and promote this with consumers.

This week, Eataly opened its second U.S. location in Chicago. There are 15 other stores spread across Italy and Japan. In addition to being a full-service specialty grocer, Eataly Chicago has 23 eateries, including a Nutella bar. I’m going to repeat that because it deserves to be mentioned twice. There is an entire section of the store devoted to consuming and selling Nutella.

The reason Duda brought up the success of Eataly in the states was to highlight a specialty grocer’s ability to promote culinary tourism and educate consumers about a new culture and place. Both U.S. locations feature cooking schools, a practice that is becoming increasingly popular with retailers. Italian cuisine has proliferated through the states, but Spanish exports have not found the same success yet. Duda suggested, and I agree, that Eataly has showed the industry that one retailer can help change the way an entire culture and country in perceived internationally.

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