THE PROSPECTS of new trading opportunities in the British red meat industry created an air of excitement among UK and international exhibitors at this year's Foodex Meatex. Changes in legislation, the lifting of the beef export ban and the resumption of trade in over thirty month cattle meant there was a positive outlook among visitors presenting real business opportunities.
David Norris, managing director of DCN, a manufacturer of cooking and cooling systems, said: "We had about four or five clients that are key executives and one extremely good inquiry which, if it comes off, would pay for the show, but it's not about quantity it's about quality."
Brian Nott, managing director of Brighter Food Equipment Systems, said now that butchers are able to remove the vertebral column in cattle aged 24-30 months in their shops, it would boost the company's specialist area of manufacturing - spinal cord removal and trimming equipment. "It's a growth area in the UK and in Europe," he said.
Meat Processing Systems (MPS) was represented by Berry Klerks, who said the business had 25 customers in the UK including large meat processing plants. He said the experience was more positive than two years ago. "I think in the next 12 to 18 months, we will have sold the slaughter line equipment to the major players - it will be a breakthrough in the UK."
Interfood Technology, which occupied a 380-sq metre stand, has already booked a bigger one for Foodex Meatex 2008. Director, Mark Bishop, said hygiene is now a dominant trend in the industry. "All the machines we have (on the stand) are designed to be easy to clean, so self-cleaning is becoming more important in the industry."
Jason Temprell, from Paragon Processing Solutions, which offers machinery for a number of industries including ready meals and the fresh and frozen meat sectors, said visitors enquired mainly about meat-based machinery, including slicing, dicing and tenderising equipment.
But it was the presence of two big name equipment manufacturers - Stork Food Systems and Townsend Engineering - that indicated the renewed optimism in the British meat industry. Dutch manufacturer Stork Food Systems and Townsend Engineering, the US-based company it is acquiring, were busy showing off their kit. "It is a great show for us. The calibre of visitors has been good," said Gareth Watkins of Stork.
Andrew Cox, of Double D, which produces in-line and batch processing cookers, said more companies were looking for recipe ready meals. "Apart from steak, they want everything partly or fully cooked." The trend is similar in the retail area too. "People want quality, well cooked recipe dishes."
Spanish equipment manufacturer Ulma said visitors wanted to know about how automation, especially before and after packaging as everyone was being pushed on margins. "Food manufacturers are being pushed to buy new machines while the contracts they are being offered are getting shorter," said UK director Derek Patterson.
On the Unitech stand, John Morgan was busy selling tailor-made, one-stop shop production line solutions. "People don't just want us to supply equipment, they are enquiring about an integrated production line," he said.
Devro showcased its pork collagen casing for sausages which created quite a stir. "In the past we produced collagen casing made of beef but M&S has started using our pork collagen casing as they wanted a pork-on-pork product," said Madeleine Devlin at Devro.
Sirane meanwhile reported a high degree of interest from supermarkets in its bio-degradeable absorbents pads for food packaging. "We had a couple of buyers from supermarkets who wanted to talk to us about the Dr-Fresh Resolve range," said Jeremy Haydn Davies, sales and marketing manager for Sirane.