Deputy Minister of KSA Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture outlines importance Saudi Arabia places on agricultural sector in forward-focused opening address on Day One
Iconic British chef Marco Pierre White treats Kingdom’s newest F&B mega-event to masterclass, shares award-winning risotto with visitors, and says key to being great chef is “humility”
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia-: InFlavour 2023, Saudi Arabia’s newest F&B mega-event, opened its doors yesterday with the international food and beverage industry convening to discuss how innovation and targeted investment can assist in the fight for global food security. The opening day also provided an early taste of the networking, partnership, and culinary opportunities on offer at the Riyadh Exhibition and Convention Centre in Malham over the three day event.
The inaugural event, a first-of-its-kind in Saudi Arabia, was officially opened by Engineer Ahmed Ayada Al-Khashmi, Deputy Minister of Agriculture at the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture (MEWA), supporting partner of event organisers Tahaluf.
During his keynote address, Al-Khashmi outlined the importance Saudi Arabia places on the agricultural sector, including the implementation of various national strategies, as well as numerous sector-specific policies, plans, and initiatives that can ultimately lead to the enhancement of sector output and the safeguarding of food supply networks. Al-Khashmi emphasised InFlavour’s role in showcasing solutions and encouraging greater investment in food services, driving F&B sector growth, and highlighting opportunities that arise within the Kingdom.
“At the Ministry, our efforts are directed towards guaranteeing resilient food supply chains, be it in stable circumstances or during emergencies,” Al-Khashmi said. “This is achieved by incentivising the private sector to broaden their sources of food imports and establish robust strategic food reserves. Furthermore, we are engaged in the process of refining our national agriculture strategy. This endeavour is aimed at attaining loftier goals in agricultural production and fostering increased investment prospects in both plant and animal sectors.”
With this week’s event focusing on unearthing innovative solutions to meet rapidly increasing challenges, more than 200 investors responsible for more than US$700 billion in F&B assets joined thousands of sector professionals at the Riyadh venue, underlining Saudi Arabia’s growing role in the global food future.
Elsewhere, a line-up of culinary experts and master chefs are displaying their talents across 100-plus demonstrations and knowledge-sharing sessions. Chef Marco Pierre White, the first Briton to receive three Michelin stars, delighted a packed Chefs’ Arena, cooking his award-winning saffron risotto, and dishing up for attendees to try. Before his live masterclass, White spoke on the Main Course stage in a fireside chat with Bahraini chef Tala Bashmi, recently named the MENA region’s Best Female Chef by the 50 Best Restaurants in MENA programme. The high-calibre culinary duo discussed the evolution of the culinary industry, the importance of awards, the concept of success, and the role of mentorship. “Enjoy your success because one day that place will be filled with someone else,” White told Bashmi.
Speaking about his own three Michelin stars, White said they are a testament not to his cooking, but rather the work his team put in. Similarly, when asked how he navigated his professional life outside of cooking and how to be a great leader, he added: “A successful chef is one who is arrogant; however, a great chef is one who practises humility. What the world gives is also what it can take away. It is emotional honesty and passion that are vital traits in being a great cook – one must be willing to infuse emotion into the dishes they create.”
Other renowned chefs demonstrating their culinary skills at Chefs’ Arena on day one included Yasser Jad, a famed TV chef and President of the Saudi Arabian Chefs Association; Ghassan Sukkar, the Saudi chef whose YouTube cooking programme has garnered more than a million views, and TV chef Manal Al Alem.
Chefs’ Arena continues today with another strong line-up of gastronomy gurus sharing their secrets live on stage.
Meanwhile, InFlavour’s Main Course stage featured the unveiling of 22 winners of the “Food Ecosystems and Arid Climates Challenge”, a competition launched earlier this year in partnership with the Saudi Ministry of Economy and Planning and Uplink, the World Economic Forum’s innovation platform. The aim of the competition is to uncover transformative solutions designed to enhance food security in countries affected by low rainfall, drought, and desertification.
Among the winners were creative entities such as AgraTech Plus, which builds solar-powered walk-in cold rooms, Hydroponic Africal, creators of a growth medium that uses neither soil nor energy and uses 80 per cent less water, and Orbillion, producers of safe and sustainable cell-cultured beef and lamb that emits 92 per cent fewer greenhouses gases. All 22 will receive targeted support networking and mentorship to help scale their solutions.
On the Invest and Indulge stage, global thought-leaders and entrepreneurs discussed how Environmental Sustainability Goals (ESG) are playing an increasing role in how investors promote food security and sustainability. Christine Gould, founder and CEO of Thought For Food, says ESG is now a ‘minimum entry requirement’ for how to do business, adding that “corporations, when they look at solutions for food, now want to see things that are mitigating climate impact, making our food systems more resilient to climate change, regenerating our environment, improving nutrition, empowering farmers, and preventing food waste.”
Gould added technology plays a huge part in the advancement of the F&B industry and could bring better understanding and improved connectivity on a business-to-consumer level.
“I live in Switzerland, where people love farmers’ markets because you get to talk to the farmer who grew your food, and you get to understand who they are and where it came from,” she added. “In today’s digital era, we could ostensibly build a farmers’ market in every single supermarket by implementing video connectivity to farmers all around the world and get a more profound understanding of our food systems.”
Bjoern Witte, Managing Partner and CEO of Blue Horizon Corporation, used a creative “error” to make his point. Showcasing predicted figures for 2050, he said the global population is expected to reach 11 billion, meat consumption will surge with 50 per cent more people eating close to 75 per cent more meat, and increased temperatures will make it impossible to grow feed for cattle, he finished thus: “This will all have a big impact, but please excuse the typo on my presentation – this isn’t actually 2050, but data collected from June 16 of this year. This is happening around the world today.”
He added: “Our path to net zero is pretty clear and consists of four pillars to scale a sustainable food system. We have production innovation, driving consumer awareness, private and public investment, and reshaping global policy. If we can tackle these in a meaningful way, we may be able to mitigate some of the pressing issues discussed here today.”
Starting as it means to go on, the inaugural InFlavour promises a hive of activity with more than 40,000 attendees, 400 exhibitors, 200 investors, and 200 speakers representing 143 countries expected to turn out – unprecedented numbers for an F&B event in the Kingdom.
“We can see from the pening day that InFlavour 2023 will lay the marker for things to come in one of the most vibrant and high-growth sectors in Saudi Arabia,” said Annabelle Mander, Senior Vice President of Tahaluf. “This inaugural event emphasises the importance of partnerships and collaborations to accelerate the F&B industry’s evolution, driven by a mutual passion for food. It also drives investment and assists Saudi’s Vision 2030 plans by propelling economic growth and global competitiveness from within the Kingdom.”