María Naranjo is the current director of Food, Wine and Gastronomy at ICEX, an organisation to which she has been linked since 2002, where she has held various positions. She has a degree in Law and in Economics and Business Studies from ICADE. She has also completed postgraduate studies in Economics at Stanford University and has been a Commercial Technician and State Economist since 1997. This background gives her a solid strategic vision of the potential for internationalisation of the Spanish food and beverage industry, which is why she is an authoritative voice on this matter within the Food Organising Committee.
What is the international perception of Spanish food products, broadly speaking?
The image of the Spanish gastronomy and the products of our pantry is very good and does not stop to improve every year. The fact that Spain is a country with an annual level of tourist visits of over eighty million has contributed decisively. From ICEX we are working to promote this image in all our activities and in a very special way through the portal www.FoodsWinesFromSpain.com, and all its architecture in social meida, and also through the missions of buyers and journalists and influencers that we bring to Spain every year. The gastronomic spaces that we have created in the main fairs and the specific programmes in the most prestigious culinary schools in the world are elements that support the best knowledge of our products and the consolidation of the excellent image of our gastronomy.
What does a promotion platform such as Alimentaria mean for the internationalisation of the Spanish food industry?
From our point of view, Alimentaria Barcelona is a perfect showcase for the Spanish agri-food offer compared to the rest of the world. This is where companies from all sectors from all over the world come together to be visited by professionals from all over the world. The advantage of being able to receive these visitors in Spain gives a very positive “cancha effect”, since importers are becoming aware of precisely this diversity and of many other business and cultural elements that they would not otherwise be able to get to know. For this reason, from ICEX we support this fair by promoting the participation of international buyers who will get to know the exhibiting companies directly.
What aspects should be prioritised by Alimentaria exhibitors who wish to attract international business?
It is essential that companies plan their participation in the fair ahead of time by managing interviews with buyers in markets they are already working in on the one hand, and actively seeking interviews with markets they want to address in the short and medium term. In this sense, the virtual platform offered by Alimentaria for managing and requesting interviews is very effective, as it is not reduced to the days of the fair but remains active all year round.
At the same time, stand presence and interview management is also important. Being proactive and demonstrating the full range and excellence of our products is key. Presence at Alimentaria can become a lever that strengthens the company’s presence in markets where it already works and opens up new opportunities and distribution channels in other countries.
What are the priority markets for Spanish companies in the food and beverage sector? And which should Spanish companies begin to focus on?
Today still around 70% of our food and drink exports are concentrated in EU markets. This is logical because of proximity and the absence of tariff and regulatory barriers. However, the growth rates of other destinations such as China, Japan, Canada, the United States and many markets in Southeast Asia and Latin America are a sign of the need for diversification and the tangible opportunities they offer for our companies. There are many that already have a specific strategy to address these countries, but from ICEX we are designing a wide range of instruments and actions to help them explore them or deepen all distribution channels.
How does ICEX support the international promotion of Spanish companies in the sector?
Apart from our participation in the main international fairs, we are working on other instruments that rely on the lever of gastronomy (Spanish Extravaganza, World of Flavors in the USA…); or that seek the presentation of all the products of the Spanish pantry in order to give an image of diversity and excellence to importers and prescribers.
What is essential in this path is the constancy in the commitment to internationalization and the design of an integral strategy, which contemplates both the traditional channel and the online channel.
Which Spanish foods that have not yet been exported have the greatest potential to conquer other markets?
All the products in our pantry have enormous export potential, but we believe that we have not yet made the most of the wealth of the Spanish pantry as a whole (spices, sweets, preserves, fruit and vegetables…). Nor have we valued all the diversity of products of differentiated quality that we have and the fact that Spain is the first country in Europe in organic production and the first country in the world in organic wine production. We have a great margin to be able to exploit more thoroughly the excellence and diversity of our products, since all of them are exponents of a healthy diet such as the Mediterranean.