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Food Innovation, European Style: Our Observations From Anuga 2017



More than 7,400 companies from 107 countries and 165,000 trade visitors from 198 countries around the globe converged at Anuga 2017 in Cologne, Germany, for what is billed as “one of the world’s leading food fairs for the retail trade and the foodservice and catering markets.”

Anuga (roughly translated as “General Food and Drink Fair”) is a biennial event spanning five days, and this past October 7th to the 11th, The Hartman Group was at the Koelnmesse to traverse its expansive trade show floors and explore the product offerings of the ten separate fairs under one roof. The themed halls are: bread & bakery, chilled & fresh food, culinary concepts, dairy, drinks, fine food, frozen food, meat, hot beverages and organic.

While the U.S. has a vibrant food innovation scene, we at The Hartman Group are always on the outlook for unique product concepts not yet tried or seen in the U.S. market. Europe’s food startup community is thriving and can be a source of inspiration for U.S. food and beverage makers and marketers.

Due to the sheer size and scale of Anuga, it took us the five full days to take in the experience and gather what we did from among the ingredient suppliers, wholesalers and private label producers. Innovative startups had a presence, and investors from Europe that we met tell us the scene is really starting to explode; it is maybe five to ten years behind the level of activity in the U.S.

We discovered many marketable concepts, more than we can possibly narrate here, so we want to focus on four that align with our Premium Pillars of Growth (discussed at The Hartman Group’s A.C.T. Driving Growth 2017 symposium in Seattle on Sept. 27, 2017):

  1. Nutrient Density: Drinkable Wild Berries

Roberts BerrieWhat is it?

Roberts Berrie: drinkable wild berries collected from the arctic forests of northern Finland and pressed directly into an unfiltered juice (skin, seeds and all). Please don’t call it juice. It’s just berries you drink. Sweet.

Could it work?

The current super-premium tier of HPP juices is crowded, but none of these brands contain the entire berry, especially the phytonutrient-rich skin. Roberts Berrie has a whole-food fruit product for easy, on-the-go consumption of berries, not berry juice. They’ve effectively released the berry from the consumer’s fridge where it waits for hands to reach in. But Roberts Berrie is also a shelf-stable product for broad distribution in a drinkable, hand-held cup.

Roberts Berrie’s product also has an amazingly pure sourcing narrative, one any American berry supplier would be challenged to counter, even the organic ones. Americans are increasingly concerned with the purity of their produce and its origins, and organic berries are mostly a commercial crop these days. The implied purity of wild forest berries is hard to impugn, given the lack of modern human development in Finland’s northern forests. Only northern Canada could match it. For the truly progressive consumer, “wild nutrition” is also an emerging attribute we’ve been quietly following for several years. The trend first began in mushrooms but is long overdue in other produce categories with wild origins in our cultural imagination.


Where do you merchandise drinkable berries in an American supermarket? Dairy case? Juice aisle? Produce department? Could be challenging to sell-in properly, since it is essentially trying to be a new category. While the product may present textual issues for some, the seeds and skin particles will cue nutritional density. But like drinkable chia seeds, it may be a deal breaker for the less adventurous. Wild, in some instances, can usurp organic in terms of purity, but consumers may perceive that wild, which is too far afield, is less convincing as a quality marker than USDA Organic. As such, it may require a more telling narrative to give the consumer reason to believe.

  1. Pleasure: Cocktail Mixer Botanical Kits

Té Tonic

What is it?

Té Tonic offers kits for home mixologists to make their own botanically infused cocktails. Multiple formats are for sale to allow for varying levels of customization and mixological talent. The more innovative offering is the Nano Pack, a set of six pyramidal mesh tea bags filled with mixed botanicals for easy infusion (even on the go). But the company also sells small samples of bulk botanicals for custom mixing for professionals or the highly aspirational.

Could it work?

Looking beyond the novelty aspect, these kits could reinforce the resurgence of everyday premium cocktail consumption at home throughout America’s major urban markets. It is well-timed to dovetail with the resurgence of artisan spirit distilling around the U.S. And investors in spirits would be naturally aligned to whimsy and playfulness that enables further consumption of their products. Moreover, this brand allows more nuanced customization for the DIY enthusiast than traditional pour-and-stir mixers and serves as a broad platform for consumer engagement without losing category focus.

The 6-variety Nano multi-packs Challenges

While cost may seem to be an initial barrier, it’s not much more than the variety of bitters and aperitifs on the market (e.g., Campari). The real barrier is in repeat purchase. Unlike a bottle of Campari, the kit (see right) presents itself as a special gift (~€35). The 6-variety Nano multi-packs (see top two rows in image to the right) are more reasonably priced at about €7.5 online. But the latter require special cardboard shelf containers to stay organized on normal retail shelving. Getting the pricing right will be important if it ever ships to the U.S.

  1. Pleasure: Crunchy Snacking Olives!

What is it?

Rice flour-coated olives in globally inspired flavors.

Could it work?

CielosThey are a delicious, plant-based snack with minimal processed carbohydrates. Unlike extruded snacks made from grains or legumes, these savory snacks deliver whole-food permissible indulgence rather than rationalization for eating junk food. We think savory coatings on high-value produce items like olives will stand a better chance of not becoming an expensive new kind of junk food, simply for the utter lack of simple carbs in the product, the savory profile and the presence of an entire, pitted, real olive inside. Cielos also delivers on satiety and can function plausibly as a meal-deferring snack or meal accompaniment.


Convincing consumers that the coating is not an encasement of empty carbs may be achievable by messaging the gluten-free attribute of rice flour. 

  1. Performance: Morning Care

What is it?

Hangover recovery shot from Korea using traditional Korean medicine!

Morning care pack in Anuga 2017

Could it work?

Overindulgence in alcohol is an age-old issue affecting millions of U.S. adults. There is currently no perfected hangover remedy out there for those who find themselves with a dreaded hangover after a night of indulging. If effective, this hangover remedy could command a price premium (online and in drugstores). Moreover, despite the Korean herbal botanicals involved, who, on such a head-pounding occasion, really would require a lengthy treatise to give it a try?


American marketers are extremely averse to even hinting that they support excessive or irresponsible drinking. Product marketing would be wise to play up the Korean botanicals as a method for detoxing rather than a direct connection to overconsumption of alcohol. By playing up aspirations around detoxification from excess (be it diet, stress or alcohol), marketing efforts would be tapping into the American obsession with the idea of a magical potion to cure what ails you…essentially allowing us to have our cake and eat it too.

Traditional alcohol companies would most likely not want to become anything more than minority investors. Getting an established Korean pharmaceutical company to understand the subtleties of marketing to American drinkers would also not be a particularly easy cross-cultural feat.

Anuga continues to impress us as a growing clearinghouse for European food and beverage innovation. We imagine that some of this has to do with the fact that it is so incredibly hard for European startups to get any audience at the larger, conservative retailers who control the European distribution environment. They really need Anuga. But also, we sense that the Millennial generation is much less wedded to traditional domestic foodways and actively reimagining what quality means, category by category.


Food & Beverage Occasions Consumer Package Goods Health & Wellness Organic/Natural Retail/Shopper Insights Trends Point Of View


As leaders in the study of American food culture, The Hartman Group has been tracking how Americans shop for food since the 1990s. From one-stop shopping to multichannel shopping to online markets and click-and-collect, we continue to track consumers’ evolving perceptions, needs, habits and relationships with food retailers. New to the 2017 report is a special section on the expansion of the discount grocery channel, the emerging fresh-format channel and smaller-footprint retail formats.


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