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SHOW PROFILEIssue 2 | 2012 www.62exhibition-world.netAlimentaria chairman, Josep-LluĂ­s Bonet, said the event is "dealing with the crisis positively and is highly important, economically, to the present and future of the country", a view echoed by Josep Antoni Valls, director of Alimentaria and deputy MD of Alimentaria Exhibitions. He stressed the food industry is "a cornerstone of the economy and progress and is fully committed to health, sustainability, employment, the economy, social cohesion, culture, innovation, the countryside and Spanish brands".To bring it into the fray, Alimentaria is hoping to occupy the higher ground of gastronomy. The Alimentaria Hub in Hall 7 is an educational pavilion that expands over a third of a hall and is a worthy and attractive neural centre for the exhibition. This hall of learning allows enthusiasts and seasoned foodies to learn the tricks of the culinary and drink trades.It's the fi rst year Alimentaria is offering a hall dedicated to education. The idea goes beyond education, serving as the show's public square; a gathering place for debate, the exchange of ideas, knowledge and discovery. It's also a place where new business opportunities are generated, mixing the traditional with the avant garde.Its natural complement, in Hall 6, is the BCNVanguardia conference area. The gastronomy conference, now in its fi fth year and co-organised by Grupo Caterdata, had a focus on 'innovation and integration' for 2012, offering a chance to see chefs with a combined total of 40 Michelin stars. Trade fairs, for all their colour, are so much more interesting when the subject matter lends itself to eccentricity. Many of the people at Alimentaria certainly fi t that bill, gourmet palettes all too often accompanied by gourmand paunches; sommeliers and vintners rarely without a glass in hand; celebrated chefs frequently accosted by fans of their craft.As a journalist removed from the hard core of the international food and drinks industry, it's a little disheartening to think that I taste the food with an unedifi ed palette. "Of course," says the man swirling the wine in the glass in front of me, "you can tell that this grape has stayed on the vine later than most." "So you can," I lie. It may not be Anuga or SIAL, but a better place to learn about gastronomy is hard to imagine. The Spanish food and drinks industry ended 2010 with net sales of ?81.3bn, maintaining the same level of activity as 2009 with a slight increase of 0.52%.Its contribution to GDP - accounting for 7.6% - is higher than other sectors considered 'strategic for the economy', such as ICT (7%) and the car industry (3.3%), and is onlytopped by tourism (10.3%). The sector employs a total of 445,457 people, representing 17% of industrial employment and 2.5% of total employment for Spain.The foreign market is a key area of growth for the sector and one expected to compensate for the drop in domestic consumption. In 2010 exports increased by more than 10% to ?16.7bn, while imports totalled ?16bn. This resulted in a balance of ?765m. The numbers put Spain among the top three exporters in the European Union.AboveThe Vinorum at Alimentaria, giving wine lovers a taste of many varietalsAbove rightThe broad array of exhibitors and products was rewarded with solid attendanceTHE COLD FACTS: SPAIN'S FOOD INDUSTRY

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