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Visit to the SIAL: first impressions

Thanks to Jean-Christophe Samalens, the active founder of the well-known blog drinky.fr, I went this year to the SIAL in Paris. Thank you for this. For those of you who don’t know the SIAL, it’s the equivalent of the CEBIT in the food sector.

I went there as an amateur (I can’t say I’m specialized in the food sector although I worked for clients who are). What I was primarily interested in was the discovery of new products and services and the analysis of new trends. Looking back at my fast-paced journey, I remain pretty much amazed by how the energy drinks branch is evolving. It’s been invaded in the low-tier market by new brands which share the same communication stereotypes and don’t differ from each other. They even taste the same as Red Bull and seem proud of it. I remained shocked by the “safety drinks” branch whose representatives were sometimes positioning their products against the image they are trying to give, and amazed (positively) by how sme’s can be innovative. In that sense the SIAL gave a very good image of how important sme’s are in today’s society. Keep in mind that depending on countries, sme’s represent from 95% to 99,6% of all companies established in the European Union.

The upcoming posts will be dedicated to products and marketing trends I saw and, hopefully, to the interviews which will follow after the contacts I made there.

Among the most important trends (it shouldn’t be a surprise for you) the back-to-Nature wave was over-represented, be in the food or in the drink sector. One of the first booths I visited was that of Tao, a well-known Belgian brand which positioned its products in terms of functionality. I had an interesting conversation with Stijn Vergaelen, the export manager, who shared my view that consumers are actually more attracted by basic qualities of the drink (for instance the taste) than by functions they do not well understand. Stijn acknowledged a need to communicate better on some of the arguments printed on the can, although my belief is that consumers don’t really want to be educated.

My take:

A great show, huge and full of surprises if you go there with the intention to see novelties and if you remain open-minded. I’ll go back in two years.


Dr. Pierre-Nicolas Schwab is the founder of IntoTheMinds. He specializes in e-commerce, retail and logistics. He is also a research fellow in the marketing department of the Free University of Brussels and acts as a coach for several startups and public organizations. He holds a PhD in Marketing, a MBA in Finance, and a MSc in Chemistry. He can be contacted by email, Linkedin or by phone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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