Expoalimentaria 2015, held 26-28 August in Lima, was again a world showcase for the latest trends of ethnic, organic and gourmet foods and superfoods from the Andean region and Latin America in general. Purple corn chips with quinoa, chia and sesame seeds, chocolate with sacha inchi sweetened with panela and cocoa powder with maca, passion fruit snacks, jams made with agave, cereal bars with Physalis, and biscuits made of coca leafs, were just a sample of the variety of nutritious foods on display.

In its seventh edition, the fair is with no doubt an essential platform for the food trade in the continent. In an area of over 24,000 square feet, 587 exhibitors (425 from Peru and 162 from abroad) besides fifteen country pavilions, showcased an extensive range of food and beverages, machinery, equipment inputs, packaging and services.

The Peruvian Exporters Association (ADEX), in collaboration with the Export Promotion Agency (PROMPERU) and three ministries hosted the fair, attended by over 33,000 visitors, 3,000 of them from overseas, according to Carlos Lozada, president of the organizing committee.

One of the main highlights at Expoalimentaria this year was the further development of the quinoa market, and the uncertainty experienced in recent years. Quinoa is the most representative grain of the superfoods from Peru and its neighbors, conquering the organic and gourmet markets around the world.

“After the disproportionate price rise for some years, it plummeted in 2014”, said Daniel Castro of Rainforest Herbal Products SAC. “Peru declared 2013 as the International Year of Quinoa and demand increased. Many government programs included a budget to buy the grain. The price rose to 9 US dollars per kg. Everybody decided to cultivate it and the production duplicated. But in 2014 there was no more International Year of Quinoa and the government reduced its purchase. The surplus made prices fall”.

“Meanwhile, in the export market there were some refusals from the US and Europe of some quinoa shipments, due to the presence of pesticides”, said Magdalena Díaz-Canseco, director of Grupo Orgánico Nacional.  “This happened because the extension of quinoa crops extended from the traditional area of origin in the Andean highlands to the Peruvian lowlands by the coast”. The coastal zone has been exposed to high levels of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides for other crops.

She said that while in the highness of the mountains many microorganisms can not survive, keeping plagues more controlled in a natural way, is more manageable. On the coast, some producers didn’t know how to handle the situation, and they used forbidden insecticides. As a result, last year the production of thousand of tons was practically poisoned. “There are remains of this production, but “this year we have a more reliable product,” she adds.

The prices have rose again, although not to the previous levels. Quinoa’s price FOB is now around 3,5 dollars per kg, and everybody expects it will still go up a little bit to get a fair price for everybody along the supply chain.

Distributors say the low prices are allowing them to reach new markets, especially in emerging countries. Exhibitors at Expoalimentaria noticed the presence of more visitors from Asia, like Malaysia, Indonesia, and India. Sales have decreased in price but rose in volume.

In spite of a few bumps, quinoa has been again the star at Expoalimentaria this year. Interesting to note that more exhibitors presented products with added value, not just the grain in red, white and black colors, the flour, puffed or flakes, which is considered a further step in the consolidation of this Golden food in the world.

Quinoa flavored with carrots, peppers, fine herbs or garlic; quinoa powders or flours to prepare desserts like pudding, a pizza base or pancakes; quinoa with chocolate for breakfast; instant quinoa risotto or even a blend of cocoa, quinoa, purple corn and mesquite, where some of the new products seen at Expoalimentaria.“The new trend is going to be the developing of elaborated products, with added value. The organic market can make a better use of this kind of products, especially the Peruvian Superfoods”, said Jamir Inga, from the export department at Ecoandino, one of the leading Peruvian developers and exporters of Superfoods. Ecoandino introduced a blend of cocoa, quinoa, purple corn and mesquite, which was awarded as the best cocoa and coffee product in the fair’s innovation contest.

“We have reached a new stage”, said Diego Peláez, of Bolivian food company Coronilla. This firm is known for its excellent formulations for pasta with quinoa and brown rice providing the texture “al dente” hard for others to duplicate. “Two years ago, there was lots of quinoa at this fair but in bulk. Nowadays, most of the offer is based on quinoa but almost everybody has products with added value”.

One of the most appealing sections at Expoalimentaria was Peru Natura, a pavilion featuring the best offer of Peru’s biodiversity. The area also focused on added value products, as Arturo Zevallos confirmed. He is the coordinator of bio trade promotion at PROMPERU.

“We aim to take advantage of our biodiversity and offer added value products, following latest trends:  ready-to-eat, easy-to-peel, functional beverages, vegan foods and gluten and soy-free lines.”

The fair that included a comprehensive conference program and a business match will generate business transactions of over US$830 million, compared to the 730 million in 2014, according to the organizers.

Expoalimentaria has satisfied most buyers. “I found a lot of unique foods,” said Lu Lu of Chinese International Sourcing SCM. “Peruvian coffee is quite famous in the world but Chinese people are not familiar with it, so we came here to find good coffee. Organic coffee is quite good, so it is maybe going to be welcomed in my country,” she said.

Carlos Gomez and his spous, Estela from import/export enterprise Ecuadorian Cimexport, said that Expoalimentaria is a very comprehensive and international fair. “It has different sections, from every region and very competitive”. They said Expoalimentaria is the best Latin American food show they have seen so far.”