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KL Keller Foodways is an importer and producer of artisanal food products from Europe, the US and Australia.

Kitty's Travels - Europe 2013, Part 1

on Thursday, 07 February 2013. Posted in Import Chronicles

Kitty's Travels - Europe 2013, Part 1

Kitty tells it how it is on her recent trip to Europe for the SIRHA and ISM food shows. (Broken down into three parts/posts for easier reading...) 

Kitty says: Hi! I know that blogs are supposed to be sound bites, but I wanted to paint the color of the work we do into these tales. So this is long and opinionated, but with it I am trying to reflect the real environment we participate in rather than sanitized pabulum from a P.R. firm.

January 24, 2013
Food shows are always a forced march… but a stimulating forced march. They are exhausting, there is no stopping, no going back, no relief, and your feet are in rebellion the whole time. But as our participation in the Fancy Food Show has proved to us, shows provide an incredible way to connect with customers, tell them what’s new and discuss specific aspects of their business with them—all the things that cannot be transmitted in the who, what, why, where and when format of an e-mail. Participation in shows in Europe has that same importance for an importer. Which is why Kitty (me) and Linda Sikorski from the Pasta Shop were in Lyon, France, at the Sirha and then off to the sweets ISM show in Cologne, Germany: to see what’s new and make those connections.

Here is my blow-by-blow of both shows, with a little travelogue thrown in for good measure.

January 25, 2013

The SIRHA is a show I have always wanted to attend. It was started by Paul Bocuse to highlight the best of France, and is all about restaurants and ingredients. It includes important events and competitions like the Bocuse d’Or and other competitions about pastry, bread, and so on. Even cheese presentations are done in a theater in “Chopped” format! It is a chef’s dream, located in the culinary capital of France.

We arrived in Lyon without too much drama, checked into our cool (in ambience and temperature) apartment, showered, took a 45-minute nap and then… off to the races! We had a dinner date with Jean-Michael Leblanc, general manager of Huilerie J. Leblanc, the first producer imported at K.L.Keller. Fatigue does not matter when you’ve got stuff to do and limited time.

Because we had requested a ”small dinner” (meaning we had just arrived, wanted to see them but were probably not up to extravagance), we went to a charming neighborhood bistro to break bread and chat. It has always seemed to me that there is a formula to this type of meal: they’re a little like a date. First, get reacquainted, talk about business in the abstract (“last year was great,” etc.) eat, talk about kids, family, health and then, ever so gently, talk about business in the specific. My grandmother had a country saying that when you are asking for something difficult, it is better to ask in person, because it is tougher to say no face to face. And that is what we did: We ask for some stuff that was way out of the box! I have a couple of interesting new projects that I think will work in the U.S. market, so we discussed them, reached some tentative agreements and had a wonderful time. Then slept like we were dead… the best sleeping pill is jet-lag!

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