Neither a worldwide H1N1 virus pandemic nor political unrest in Asia could keep me from exploring the exotic, exquisite, mysterious paradise of Thailand. My opportunity came when attending Thaifex--World of Food Asia, organized by the Thai Chamber of Commerce, Dept. of Export Promotion and Koelnmesse Pte. Ltd., and held at the Impact Arena in Bangkok May 13-15.
In addition to being a popular tourism destination, Thailand’s vibrant export-led economy reflects its status as a pre-eminent trader to the world and logistics hub of Southeast Asia. Scrumptious tropical fruits and vegetables, seafood (particularly shrimp), frozen and processed chicken, sugar cane, tea, coffee and rice are Thailand’s major exports, and the Thais want to expafnd their markets.f
Despite the worldwide economic crisis, there were 2,100 exhibitors at Thaifex, one of the few trade shows with increased attendance -- 21,101 trade visitors and some 100,000 international buyers and visitors from China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and the U.S., a 40 percent increase compared to 2008.
“Due to increasing world demand, there is room for considerable business growth for Thai food exports,” said Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Commerce Siripol Yodmuangcharoen. “We aim to generate $22 million in exports this year.”
“More Asian manufacturers are producing more quality organic and Halal products,” said Michael Dreyer, managing director of Koelnmesse, which also sponsors the Anuga Fair in Cologne, Germany. “Halal-certified products could be the boom for the region, as there are 1.5 to1.8 billion Muslims in Asia.” The population in the region is gaining in income and they have the ability to eat and live according to religious standards.
Show security was tight, and attendees had to pass through airport-type detectors. Food safety is the No 1 priority in Thailand, as evidenced by the vast numbers of quality certifications prominently displayed in booths – ISO 9001-2000, HACCP, GMP.
Food Safety was also the primary emphasis during a plant tour at I.T. Foods Industries Co. Ltd., a seafood and prepared foods manufacturer; our tour of the Halal kitchen of Thai Airways International, a member of the Star Alliance, which feeds passengers of most major airlines; and even during a walkabout at Thai Organic Farm. In fact, the number of masks, gloves, booties and lab coats I wore could have clothed a plant shift, and my hands were in washing mode at every step.
We shared the wonderful flavorful dips called nam prik, sampled the flavorful, spicy sauces and stews, pork wrapped in banana leaf, salads with every fresh herb known to man, perfectly prepared seafood, fresh fruit with intensely sweet flavors and fragrant curries to die for, all family style. In Thailand, soup is served before each meal, both to curb appetite and for its healthful properties. Thais also eat five or six small meals a day, rather than three large meals. Although I ate every minute I was there, I lost three pounds.
Thailand is known as the “Rice Bowl of the World,” and of all the rice grown there, Thai Hom Mali Rice, naturally fragrant with a distinctive taste, is the most prestigious. Thailand also produces organic Thai Hom Mali (jasmine rice), long and slender, with its aromatic flavor and flowery scent released during the cooking process.
During the show, we found some unique products including black colored duck Century Egg (also known as 1,000 year old eggs) from Kasmmchai Farm Group; Juthathip brand Tuna Fish Sauce consisting of vitamin C, B2, iron and potassium; and Conz Corn Stick, square spherical sticks with corn in the middle, which contain no trans fat, no MSG and no sodium by San SeSan Global in three flavors: Roasted Corn, Chocolate and Cheese.
One of the most interesting concepts at the show was from C.P. Group, a supermarket chain. Most supermarkets deliver, but this one is setting up kiosks in office buildings and commuter train stations. Consumers can touch the screen and choose from a huge selection of groceries, including fresh meats, vegetables, fruits and prepared meals, which will be delivered to their home by CP Fresh Mart in time for dinner. As the store gets to know their taste, the kiosk also gives them suggestions and recipes.
I.P. Trading Ltd. showed its shelf-stable (packaged in Tetra Pak containers) Ivy Drinking Yogurt products in Mixed Fruit, Lychee, Hi-Calcium, Strawberry, Orange, Blueberry, Natural and Raspberry flavors and Ivy Chrysanthmum & Lo Han Guo flavored juice drinks. N.B. Value Link Co.’s Jus Cool & Rite brand includes an unusual but tasty beverage: Roasted Coconut Juice with Pulp.
Tipco F&B Co. Ltd. featured Juice Latte 100%, containing 98 percent of real fruit juice blended with 2 percent of soy milk in pomegranate and orange. Its Super Star beverages contain collagen, fiber, folate, vitamin B12, and vitamin C for beauty, body and brain in pomegranate and acerola-cherry varieties. And Cool Fit is mixed fruit and vegetable juices containing L-carnitine to boost fat burning plus vitamins A, C and E. I was rather partial to the Beetroot Mix.
Food and Drug for Health Co. Ltd. offers five varieties of Brighty health drinks – ginseng (high ginsenosides), mangosteen (high xanthones), pomegranate (high antocyanins), goji (high zeaxanthin) and malva nut (high fiber).
White Crane Health Products Co. Ltd. grows organic wheatgrass for juices and smoothies. Besides chlorophyll and a myriad of vitamins, minerals and enzymes, wheatgrass juice is said to have 30 times the vitamin B1 as a glass of milk, seven times the vitamin C in an orange, five times the iron and carotene in spinach and 11 times the calcium of a glass of milk.