Riga Food 2023 ends a success with an extensive list of events, and much interest among international professionals

Riga Food 2023, the most important food industry fair in the Baltics, hosted by Ķīpsala International Exhibition Centre and bringing together 423 companies from 30 countries, which presented the latest industry trends, ended in September. Gourmets, specialists, people from government and non-government organisations, industry professionals, and entrepreneurs from all over the world gathered in Ķīpsala for three days!

‘The Latvian economy must prioritise its exports, and international fairs like Riga Food are very important for our food industry,’ Minister of Agriculture Didzis Šmits said at the Riga Food 2023 opening ceremony.

Rolands Nežborts, Riga Food manager, also emphasised the international nature of the fair: ‘I am proud to see Riga Food bringing together more and more international food industry professionals looking to strike new partnerships. The share of professionals from other countries rose 12% this year. Thanks to our partners, we could offer a diverse list of events at the fair, with something of worth for everyone, from export-orientated companies to professionals, to gourmets!’

President of Latvia, Edgars Rinkēvičs, also visited the Baltics’ most important food industry fair, meeting Latvian and foreign entrepreneurs and assessing what the industry has to offer at the moment. ‘Very creative people work and live in Latvia! At Riga Food 2023, I learnt a lot about our food manufacturers and the products they make,’ President of Latvia Edgars Rinkēvičs said.

Riga Food 2023 hosted 423 companies offering their products and services and coming from a total of 30 countries: Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Armenia, Belgium, China, Germany, Spain, UK, Georgia, Italy, Moldova, Poland, Portugal, Netherlands, Finland, Turkey, Sweden, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, France, India, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Azerbaijan, Canada, Slovenia, and Denmark. 77% of the participants were manufacturers, 13% were retailers and wholesalers, 5% were service providers, and the remaining 5% included various other businesses.

The fair featured the joint national booths of 9 countries: Latvia, Azerbaijan, Lithuania, Ukraine, Italy, Spain, Georgia, Canada, and Moldova.

Over its three days, the fair was attended by 21,381 guests, 35% of whom were from abroad, representing 37 countries. There was a strong representation of retail chains from Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Finland, Sweden and Denmark, as well as wholesalers from many other countries. As their main goals, professionals visiting the fair reported obtaining information, making new contacts, and placing purchase orders.

Latvian flavours
25 Latvian companies presented their sweets, beer, spices, jam, juice, canned foods, meat products, dairy products, and many other delicious foods at Latvia’s joint national booth. There you could find the Ādaži meat manufacturer, as well as Balticovo, ‘Jaunpils pienotava’, Very Berry, ‘H2O manufaktūra’, Kronis, and Valežs. The joint national booth was a place to discover and taste various ciders, made by participants of the ‘Latvian path of cider’ such as ‘Sabiles sidrs’, ‘Abavas dārzi’, Tālava, Abuls, ‘Mūrbūdu sidrs’, Mr. Plūme, Herbst, Zilver, ‘Līgatnes vīna darītava’, Turkalne, Lauskis, and ‘Kabiles muižas vīna darītava’. Members of the Latvian Baker Association presented the range of products made by Latvian bread manufacturers: Dona, Lāči, ‘N. Bomja maizes ceptuve “Lielezers”’, ‘Hanzas maiznīca’, Puratos Latvia (Pūre brand products), and Lanordija, a subsidiary of Orkla Group.
Royal Nordic, Syfud, Verģi, Karavela (with its Kaija brand), Sudrablīnis (with its Express Gourmet ready meal brand) presented their products at the joint fishing industry booth.

Gastronomic potential in Latvian regions
Every region of Latvia has its own special story and culinary heritage, which the fair’s guests could fully experience by visiting the Latvian region and Region Flavours exhibitions. They found out what Latvian foods are included on the European Union’s list of protected products. And they could obviously taste them all at the fair, including rye bread with malt, sklandrauši, Jāņi cheese, lampreys. Small regional companies, farms, and artisanal producers from Latvia proudly presented and sold their foods and culinary heritage. Honey Avenue was the place to taste and buy products by Latvian beekeepers.

Baltic food industry innovations, all in one place
Healthy and innovative: the two words accurately describe what Latvia’s food industry has been creating in recent years. The innovation was not just about the foods themselves, but also about their manufacture! Every guest of Riga Food 2023 could discover this themselves, as Latvian, Lithuanian, and Estonian companies brought their latest innovations, technologies, and news related to the production and processing of food and beverages to Ķīpsala. At the innovation stands set up by the Latvian Technology Centre, the fair’s guests discovered and tasted a range of new products: dandelion spaghetti, ice cream that doesn’t melt, vegan butter, grasshopper bars, vegan camembert, rhubarb powder, roasted chickpea snacks, dehydrated onion and sauerkraut snacks, rhubarb chutney with physalis, freeze-dried snacks, etc.

Diverse events
Across its three days, Riga Food 2023 offered an unprecedentedly broad variety of events for food professionals and gourmets alike. More than 55 exciting events took place on the GEMOSS Anniversary Stage and Riga Food Open Stage, at the Innovation Lounge, Grill Park, chef competition area, Riga Food living room, and exhibitors’ booths.

Cider festival
We celebrated a true cider festival at Riga Food 2023! The Nordic International Cider Awards (NICA) took place for the first time in Latvia, with 251 ciders by 106 producers from 19 countries. The jury consisted of well-known cider experts and opinion leaders in the world of cider from 15 countries: they participated in the cider festival and in a discussion among Baltic and international cider professionals. 14 Latvian cider producers brought 37 ciders to NICA, achieving great success. See here for the competition’s results.

Baltics’ best foods
The Riga Food 2023 Baltic food industry fair hosted the first prestigious food quality competition The Baltic Taste Award 2023, for Latvian, Lithuanian, and Estonian food manufacturers who submitted 102 products in 10 categories to a top international jury. 13 products received the highest award, a gold medal; silver went to 11 products, and bronze medals went to 15. See here to find out the award winners and the line-up of the jury.

Valuable seminars for businesses
The Latvian Technology Centre and the Enterprise Europe Network in Latvia prepared a particularly useful set of events for food companies. Three key workshops took place on the Innovation Stage: Protecting Intellectual Property in the Food Sector in China, Asia, and the Third World, Fostering Digitisation in Food Manufacturing Companies, Food and Packaging: Challenges Preventing Food Loss and Optimising Packaging. Entrepreneurs learnt about the support the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia offers to food producers in the digitisation of processes, exports, and development of new products.

Chef competitions
Intense chef contests spanned all three days of Riga Food 2023 at Ķīpsala International Exhibition Centre. Fierce competition and hard work made it possible to determine the team that will represent Latvia in the prestigious 2024 Bocuse d’Or world chef competition In Norway. The team consisted of the Latvian Chef of the Year 2022 award winner Nils Ģēvele, head chef of the Ferma restaurant, with the Latvian Assistant Chef of the Year 2022 Agatis Batrags, and their coach: Latvian Chef of the Year three-time winner, Dinārs Zvidriņš.
Valērija Čudova, head chef at Ferma, won the Latvian Chef of the Year competition, getting the Reaton Golden Ladle, while Elīna Potapova from the Snatch restaurant became the Latvian Assistant Chef of the Year 2023 and received her Reaton Wooden Ladle.

Monin Cup Latvia
The Monin Cup Latvia 2023 cocktail competition took place on the GEMOSS anniversary stage, with 20 bartenders from all over Latvia vying for the main prize: an all-expenses paid trip to the prestigious Bar Convent Berlin fair. This year’s theme, Sharing the Unforgettable invited people to experience an unforgettable moment of cocktail coming into existence, with a recipe that tells the bartender’s personal story in the world of flavour. The cocktails were judged by a professional jury, with Raitis Akerblūms and Andris Noreiķis, founders of the Latvian Bartender Federation, Jānis Kaļķis, president of the Latvian Sommelier Association, and bartender Ansis Ancovs, while Deniss Smirnovs and Dainis Domiņš were in charge of the technical performance. First place went to Emīls Lemkens with his cocktail Spiced Almond Cake, Liubov Sazonenko got second, for her First Love, and third went to Ēriks Solovjovs for his April Dew.

French Gourmet Day
The fair featured a French Gourmet Day, with presentations of premium foods and drinks from France. The fair’s guests discovered red, white, and rosé wines traditional to French cuisine presented by Vignobles Vellas and Maison Sinnae, Rhum Isautier premium rum, Champagne Arlaux from the Champagne region, Comte de Grasse gins, Maison Boteh jams and spices, and Armin Armagnac, which is still more popular than cognac in France. The French Gourmet Day was attended by the French Ambassador to Latvia, Aurélie Royet-Gounin, as well as French gastronomy and hospitality experts, and Baltic HoReCa professionals, in an effort to foster communication and cooperation between these industries in France and Latvia.

Cake competition
24 cakes along with the pastry chefs from all over Latvia who made them joined the ‘Paaudžu mantojums’ (Heritage of Generations) cake competition. Their performance was judged by a professional jury, with Ieva Treija, head of GEMOSS, Maija Kaire, ‘Pavāru klubs’ board member and pastry chef representative, Airita Mieze, instructor at Restaurant Service School and cake magic expert, Normunds Skauģis, expert baker, Ilze Auzere, culinary expert, and true Latvian hostess Ilze Briede.
After several hours of tasting, they found the clear winners of the competition: The 1st prize went to Olga Frolova-Družiņina for her ‘Honey cake with home-style jelly’, Inga Grīsle with ‘Forest cake’ got the 2nd place, while Dita Grandāne was awarded the 3rd place, for ‘A land at sea’. The fair’s guests could also evaluate the pastry chefs’ performance, and the audience choice award went to Ilona Salma for her cake ‘Endless stories’. Head chef Ina Poliščenko presented a special prize to Pēteris Kasparovičs for his cake ‘Mum’s favourite’, which used semolina porridge and chocolate.

The next, 29th, Riga Food international food, beverage, food processing, technology, packaging, innovation, catering, hotel and shop equipment and service fair Riga Food 2024 will be held for three days on 5–7 September 2024, at the International Exhibition Centre in Ķīpsala, Riga.