Swiss gastronomic show a hit among consumers

BULLE, Switzerland — The 8th Swiss Exhibition of the “Taste of the Local Culture” (Salon Suisse des Goûts & Terroirs), which opened four days ago in an 8,000-square-meter exhibition hall in this small Swiss town, saw 250 food and wine producers showcasing gastronomic specialties.

The five-day exhibition garnered a considerable amount of media mileage from the major Swiss broadcast media for its wide array of food and beverage offerings and its interesting lineup of activities, ranging from film showings, cultural shows and fair trade open discussions to cake decoration exhibits, cooking/baking competitions and nutritional value workshops for kids.

The regional specialties, which were readily made available to the public for sampling, were showcased in different stalls as well as makeshift restaurants, scattered in 28 exhibition zones. An estimated number of 40,000 visitors from different parts of Switzerland and from abroad flocked to the venue during the five-day F&B expo.

Goûts & Terroirs drew a huge crowd of Swiss consumers because it afforded these patrons of fresh and quality products the rare opportunity to meet with local food and wine makers and sample their home-made cheese, sausages, bread, pastries, honey, jams and wine, to name just a few.

Also present at the show were a handful of exhibitors from France and Italy.

This year’s special exhibitor was a group of food producers from Vendee, a French province situated on the Atlantic coast of France. With a strong partnership with the region of Gruyere, Switzerland, the Vendee group was able to present their food products, gastronomic culture as well as tourist spots through a food showcase and a video presentation. Their oysters, for example, was a hit among the Goûts & Terroirs fest visitors because Switzerland does not have its own sea shore to speak of. A food court was attached to the Vendee exhibit area where a number of customers converged to try out the regional specialties from this French province.

“This is our first time in this exhibition. And since we’ve been invited this year as honorable guests, this is most probably a one-time thing only for us. The coordination with the organizers, the promotion of the event, and the overall logistical setup were very good. But it was hard for us to bring our products here in Switzerland. There were lots of paperwork involved. But even for that, the organizers were of great help to us. They made it possible for us to come here in Switzerland,” said Elodie Lefebvre, marketing and PR manager of the Association Interconsulaire pour la Promotion des Produits Vendeens or AIPPV based in France.

The space limitations of the exhibition hall notwithstanding, exhibitors saw it as a potent avenue to present their local culture by making visitors feel at home with the specialties they showcase.

Wine producer David Huggler of Les Peres Fruit’art based in Vaud, who had been participating in the Goûts & Terroirs event since October 2002, cited the strengths of the show: “Visitors come here for the sole purpose of tasting what exhibitors have to offer. Thus, half the work of selling your products is already done. This is the main advantage of this event as compared to other shows where we are in between sofas and furniture pieces.”

Huggler, however, suggested ways on how to improve the event in the coming years. “If one could eliminate cigarette smoke inside the exhibition hall, that would be perfect. It’s an event for tasting and appreciating new things. If there will be people who would be smoking during the show, there would be a problem with the tasting. With a food fair like this, one should be able to appreciate the food 100 percent. Apart from that, it is really well organized.”

Hotel Suisse head chef Livio Tuena-Triacca shared the benefits of being part of Goûts & Terroirs show. “It’s my fourth time to be here. Twice, I was here only with a stall with local home-made products like jam. But since last year, we’ve been invited as representatives of our hotel. It’s really interesting; it’s a valuable addition to my professional enrichment. You get to know new people and new ways on how to go about things. And for us who come from the Poschiavo Valleys in Grisons (Italian-speaking part of Switzerland), this is a nice opportunity to be known in the French-speaking region of Switzerland,” he said.

Tuena-Triacca only had good words for the organizers: “The organizing committee is really very helpful and nice. There is really nothing I can say on how they can improve the exhibition in the future. It is really perfect.”

This observation was echoed by Caroline Buscachi, F&B lecturer of the Glion Institute of Higher Education: “I have no qualms about how the event was organized. The organizers are very open to suggestions…you know, talking to us. They come and see what we are doing. Perfect!”

The Glion Institute of Higher Education, an internationally renowned institute for hospitality and hotel management based in Switzerland, showcased the school projects of its students in a rather crowded exhibition space, where visitors came in droves to taste its food offerings lined up in a chain of stalls. The students dished out exotic food specialties from Thailand, Japan and Sweden, among other things.

For their part, the visitors –“the grassroot buyers” — got to taste at a leisurely pace the local food products from all over the region. People were seen leaving the exhibition hall with big bags of homemade treats — with a contented shopper’s smile and a full tummy, what with all the non-stop food and wine sampling.

“There are many products being offered in this exposition that you can’t just find in any Swiss supermarket. I bought three bottles of wine from an exhibitor from Vendee, France because they really taste good. I’d like to come back in Bulle next year,” said wine lover Markus Massmuenster, a first-time visitor who also bought a bottle of home-made honey and a pack of smoked sausages.

Next year’s “Taste of the Local Culture” fest is slated on Oct. 29 to Nov. 2, 2008.

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