Tereza Vítková
CzechTrade México
Expert Contributor

The Czech Republic Present at Expo ANTAD & Alimentaria

By Tereza Vítková | Fri, 08/12/2022 - 11:00

When someone asks me what my biggest passion is, the first thing I answer is food. When traveling through Mexico, there is no better way to get to know a new state, region, city or village than through the flavors reflected in traditional local dishes. It works the same way with any kind of travel. The Czech Republic is similar in size to Jalisco but you'd be surprised how the same dish is prepared in the south or north of the country and the variety of traditional dishes each region offers. Czechs are known around the world as successful manufacturers of machines, cars or trucks and as software developers but few people can think of a typical food when thinking about us. When you say the Netherlands, the first thing that comes to mind is cheese, for Spain it is paella, for the Italians it is pasta, for Argentina it is traditional steaks. But what is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the Czech Republic? Probably not food, but our “liquid bread,” as we often call beer. This golden drink is synonymous with the Czech Republic, and we should rightly be proud of it because Czech beers are among the tastiest in the world. Even though I love Czech beer, it bothered me that all our food and drink treasures are narrowed down to this golden beverage. When I took the position of head of the CzechTrade foreign office in Mexico, I decided to change that. It was 2020 and I heard from a Mexican distributor of Czech beverage companies about the Expo ANTAD & Alimentaria, where "any Czech company that wants to establish itself in Mexico must not be absent." Although the plan for an official Czech stand was postponed due to the pandemic, in May 2022, the Czech Republic enjoyed the largest representation of Czech companies in the history of the fair.

The team of CzechTrade Mexico, the foreign office of the Czech state agency for trade promotion, consists of three employees, so you can imagine that we cannot organize a fair every month. Capacity-wise, we manage two to three fairs every year, so we must choose very carefully. Expo ANTAD & Alimentaria was a step into the unknown. There was also uncertainty about how the fair would be received among Czech companies. At the same time, the world was waking up from a pandemic, so many Czech companies were worried about cancellations of foreign events. In addition, Mexico, 10,000km away, is for many Czech companies a country that is remote not only geographically but in terms of business-relevant information. We knew it would not be easy to push the fair through, but we enjoy such challenges. The Ministry of Agriculture of the Czech Republic also helped us to bring the Czech participation in the fair to a successful end, as it contributes financially to similar events in non-European countries, both for the fair area and for the stand or travel.

The official stand of the Czech Republic at Expo ANTAD & Alimentaria was located in the same area as all stands of foreign countries: in the International Pavilion. We had the privilege to be alongside our European neighbors, Poland, and to watch the cooking show of the official stand of Brazil every day. Since it was the first time that the Czech Republic planned to officially participate in the Mexican fair, we made it our goal to present traditional Czech brands that are symbols of and synonymous with our homeland. However, we would never have dreamed that we would put together such Czech treasures. One of the most traditional Czech brands, whose products every Czech has tasted at least once in their lifetime, is undoubtedly Bohemia Sekt. It is a Czech producer of sparkling and still wines that has been on the market for more than 80 years. The popularity of Bohemia Sekt is confirmed by the fact that one-third of all sparkling wines drunk in the Czech Republic is produced by Bohemia Sekt. It is also one of the most important growers and processors of grapes in the Czech Republic. Hamé, which dates back to 1922, is an equally important brand in the history of the Czech food industry. Hamé's portfolio includes a wide range of processed foods, but the most iconic are the pates. There is probably not a child in the Czech Republic who has not received their pate as a school snack. I too grew up on it and to this day it is a symbol of nostalgia of my school years. Hamé's portfolio also includes jams, spreads, ketchups, purees, meat preserves, sterilized vegetables and pickles. The origins of another company, Vitana, date back to 1919, when it started producing soup spices. Just as Hamé is iconic for pate, Vitana is iconic for spices and soups in a bag. In addition to these products, Vitana's portfolio also includes broths, baking mixes, grilling mixes, salad mixes and mayonnaise. For me, Vitana symbolizes summer camping trips with friends, during which their soups in a bag saved us from starvation. Jemča is one of the largest Czech and leading Central European producers of bagged and loose teas. It offers herbal teas, fruit teas, as well as iced teas and teas in organic quality. When I look at their PIGI black tea, I always remember the cold autumn and winter evenings when my mother used to prepare PIGI tea with honey and lemon for us after coming home from work. Cereals from Emco have gained popularity not only with Czechs but also with foreign consumers. They are exported to more than 50 countries around the world. The history of the brand dates back to the 1990s and the production of muesli has been expanded to include oat biscuits, salty crackers, bars of various kinds, breakfast porridge and other products often sought by people inclined to a healthy lifestyle. Emco bars are shipped to Walmart in the USA, among other places. Semix Pluso, a manufacturer of bakery and confectionery mixes, for example, was also present at the fair, but it is mainly successful in export with its whole-grain cereal products. In their portfolio, for example, we can find sweet muesli hearts or salty muesli bars. They also produce cereal porridges, sprouted and protein products, or products for vegans. Semix Pluso and Emco often export abroad under private labels. In 1995, the family company Simandl was founded, which is the leading Czech producer of instant drinks (chocolate, cappuccino, coffee, and oat drinks, matcha latte, vegan soluble drinks). It is known abroad mainly under the DARKOFF brand and as a member of PLMA, it produces private labels for global brands and large retail chains. It exports to almost 30 countries around the world.

The Expo ANTAD & Alimentaria is not only a food and beverage fair (although this component is predominant) but gives space for the presentation of all retail products. For this reason, the leading Czech manufacturer of pharmaceuticals, medical devices, cosmetics, and food supplements, Dr. Müller Pharma, also participated. In their portfolio, for example, we can find products for childcare, products with Panthenol, hand creams, products for intimate hygiene or the famous Müller lozenges. Personally, I can't imagine not having their tea tree oil in my handbag, which I always use as first aid for mosquito bites.

This is my fifth year working for CzechTrade Mexico, but Expo ANTAD & Alimentaria was the best organized and most interesting fair when it comes to the quality of exhibitors, I have experienced in Mexico so far. I am sure that it was not the last time the Czech Republic will participate.

Photo by:   Tereza Vítková