BACK TO NEWS LIST
It was about this time last year that I wrote in an article for the Penguin News about the Falkland Islands Fishing Companies Association’s attendance at the annual Seafood Expo now held in Barcelona. I recall saying that this was the largest show of its kind ever to be held even though China and Russia were unable to attend. This year, China were in attendance, making this show even bigger than the ones ever held before, 22% bigger to be precise and with a projected growth over the next 3 years at least.
Whilst FIFCA’s attendance at last year’s show was considered very successful, and noting the significance of 2023 to the Island’s fishery, it was discussed and agreed that perhaps we could scale up our presence at this year’s event. After many hours of discussion, it was decided that we would double the size of our stand, refresh its appearance and for the first time ever, showcase some of the Islands’ finest seafood products. We also sought about relocating our stand from one of the fringe halls to a hall with a higher profile and we were grateful to find ourselves in Hall 2 with the likes of Scotland, Great Britain, Denmark and the Faroe Islands to name just a few. In addition, FIFCA felt that whilst the focus of the show had to be primarily about fish, we wanted to promote other aspects of the Falklands more generally. It was with that in mind that we had a tourism video produced which would be played continuously at the event on a large TV mounted on a wall just above the large display freezer. The idea being that once visitors to the stand had watched the video, their gaze would be drawn below to the freezer and its world class contents which contained Loligo, Kingclip and Toothfish. This video drew a huge amount of attention to the stand and our thanks must go out to Ruedhi & Priska Abbuhl from naturemovie.ch for such a stunning video.
We also met with FIMCO about the possibility of promoting lamb at the event and had 20kgs of slow roasted pulled lamb prepared and consumed during the 3 days. This drew lots of positive attention with one gentleman saying it was the best he had ever tasted and wanted to make direct contact with FIMCO. Even a couple of New Zealand visitors to the stand begrudgingly said it was, “ok”, which we obviously took as a huge win!!!
The welfare of our seafarers is of vital importance to anyone working in the seafood sector and we were very happy represent the Lighthouse Seafarers Mission by talking about welfare on our vessels and handing out the leaflets that were produced on their behalf.
We were keen to promote other areas of Falklands innovation and demonstrate that whilst we are small in stature and remote geographically, we are still able to demonstrate that we are innovative and able to produce world class products and who better than to turn to than Richard Mckee from Falklands Distillers and Jeff Halliday from Falkland Beerworks, so we took gin, lots of gin and beer!
Planning, organisation and execution for the 2023 began immediately after the end of the 2022 event and with the upscaling of our presence at this year’s show, came many more elements. I first had to block book a number of rooms at our preferred hotel, (across the street from the venue) and book the floorspace at the exhibition hall itself. Once these were confirmed, I could then set about planning for the event in earnest. I reached out to 10 Barcelona based stand design companies detailing our requirements, ideas and colour schemes and invited them to come back to us with their concept designs, but more importantly their budget! I was then able to shortlist 5 of the proposals, present them to the FIFCA board and between us we all agreed on the successful bid.
Having never organised an event of this scale, I was surprised by the level detail that we had to go into to pull it all together. Picture a 44sqm grey slab on the floor and then imagine that everything on top of that had to be decided and approved, right down to the size of the plumbing work for our sink and electrical arrangements. Naively, I thought this was going to be a case of appointing the stand design team and instructing them to, “make it happen”! It soon became clear that it wasn’t and between FIFCA and the local company, we were able to put together a stand that looked exactly like the one that was proposed It was clean, modern, innovative and inviting.
We also were clear from the outset, that we wanted to cook some of our world class products and for that we would need chef, (preferably with a lot of fish experience) and a host/ess service to support him/her. We were very lucky to have Carlos and Mar in those roles who both performed superbly and did all our products proud. On the menu, we had the deep fried Loligo squid, Panko Toothfish bites, Kingclip in a sauce that Carlos had produced , Toothfish ceviche and 3 Toothfish different pates on various crostini’s as well as the lamb! We weren’t planning on going hungry! Mar said that she had never been to an event like this and by the end of the first day was able to speak to all of the products as though she had decades of experience.
I arrived in Barcelona on the Sunday before the event as I was expecting my consignment of imported goods, (alcohol, fish and lamb) from the Falklands to reach me on the Monday. I also wanted to ensure that progress of the stand construction was well under way, which much to my relief, it was. First box ticked! The second box to tick was the arrival of the products that needed to be sorted into products for display freezer and products that needed to be prepared by the catering company in order that our chef could then simply cook them at the stand. They also had to slow roast the lamb overnight. This being the first time we were going to be catering for an event we weren’t entirely sure how much to take so all in all, we took about 100kgs of fish and lamb products.
We were now set, (albeit nervously) for the beginning of the 2023 Expo where it soon became apparent that this had all the makings of a successful event. We had 22 representatives attend the show on behalf of FIFCA, (our largest attendance to date) and FIG, all playing their part in promoting all things Falklands at the event as well as catching up with their partners. Word quickly got around about the positive buzz and vibe around the 2023 Falklands stand to an extent that one of the show organisers from diversifiedcomms said that she had to come to the stand as she had been told by one of her colleagues that one of her clients, the Falklands was killing it!
At around 11:30 on the first day, the first of the food offerings was served and this attracted a very steady stream of visitors, as did the liquid refreshments that also began to flow. Food was more or less continuously served until about 3pm on all 3 days. I managed to get a sense of the buzz and vibe by taking myself away from the stand and looking at it to watch people enjoy our fish over a nice gin & tonic. There was something very British about the picture!
The second day was very much the same as the first. They are long days but rewarding when you are able to speak with pride about the Falklands and what they are capable of producing, and the steady stream of visitors continued, all very keen to learn more and sample our produce. We had one gentleman from Norway taste one of the Toothfish bites who told us that over the past 2 days he had tried lots of fish, but the bites were the best thing he had tasted at the event. I said, “I bet you said that to all the stands” and he assured me that he didn’t and that he was serious.
On the evening of the second night FIFCA hosted a reception at the hotel where we were staying. It was described as a sister one to the that was held in the Malvina in February to celebrate the commencement of ITQB, the enduring strength and importance of our relationships not just with our Spanish partners, but those from Taiwan and Korea also, as attention will shortly be turning to looking at ways that Illex can be bought into the ITQ system. This was attended by 60 people and speeches were given by Hamish Wylie, (FIFCA Vice-Chair) and Andrea Clausen, the Director for Natural resources.
Then it was back to work for the third & final day. Traditionally a shorter day in that it finished at 5pm, allowing people to catch their flights out of Barcelona.
All in all, the 2023 Expo can only be described as an extremely successful event for FIFCA and the Falkland Islands and one that I was proud to play my part in. There were a few minor lessons learned for next time,(like I need to pack or order a cork screw) for the wine. I was asked how much extra business is generated at the events like these for member companies? I had to say that I didn’t know, but what I did say that is that one of the key things we draw from our attendance was the projection of the Falklands’ brand on a massive global stage, demonstrating that despite our size, location and politics we are capable of great things and this worth cannot be measured. Towards the end of each night, where all the business had been done, we had visitors come to the stand, taking a seat and asking just to know more about the Falklands over a gin & tonic and I know that all of those people left the stand with very good stories to tell.
As for the fish that was displayed in the chest freezer? During the event we were approached by the food bank of Barcelona where we gave them permission to take it away after the event.
FIFCA would like to thank everyone who assisted in anyway, whether it was through the provision of recipes for the products, getting our products from the Falklands to Vigo and then into Barcelona and on a personal note, I would like to thank Argos Group, Beauchene Fishing Company, Bold Ventures, CFL, Dragon Fishing, Fortuna Group, Golden Touza, Polar Seafish, RBC, Seafish Falklands and Sulivan Shipping Services Ltd for their support in making the 2023 Seafood Expo a reality.
FIFCA/FIG commit to long term funding of the Lighthouse Mission to...
As the Falkland Islands prepares to send its largest ever team to the Natwest...
It was about this time last year that I wrote in an article for the Penguin News...
The CFL Charitable Trust is again accepting applications for educational and...
Over 100 guests were gathered at a reception at the Malvina House Hotel on...