Eighteen buyers and distributors from ten countries attended the Salón Gourmets gastronomy conference in Madrid and learned in depth about the wealth of Extremadura's agri-food industry.
The goal of ICEX's Hosted Buyers Program is to offer a general overview of the Spanish food industry, with visits to companies both large and small, in the course of a week that brought 18 buyers to Spain, from Russia, Serbia, Poland, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Switzerland, Finland, Italy, Ireland and Sweden. The program could not have gotten off to a better start at Salón Gourmets, the Spanish agri-food industry's leading event, held from October 18th to the 21st in Madrid after a hiatus last year due to the pandemic. On Monday the 18th and Tuesday the 19th, buyers had the opportunity to attend one of the great exhibits of gastronomy in Europe and to see firsthand a wide variety of products and speak one-to-one with exhibitors.
On Wednesday the 20th, the group traveled to Extremadura, where the objective was to get an overview of that region's food industry. The first stop was Jaraíz de la Vera, where the buyers visited the Pimentón de La Vera PDO Regulatory Council headquarters and the La Dalia pimentón factory and learned about production and the different uses of this unique condiment, which has been made from peppers since the 15th century in the Extremaduran province of Cáceres. They saw the drying sheds, which use the smoke from burning firewood as a source of heat to give the pimentón its characteristic flavor.
Fig chocolates and DO Ribera del Guadiana
The next day, the group learned more about another of the area’s most well known products: figs, with a stop at the company La Higuera de Almoharín (Cáceres). During their visit, they saw the versatility of dried figs as an ingredient in gourmet products such as Rabitos Royale chocolates, sold by La Higuera, which are popular throughout Spain and which have even begun to be recognized in other parts of the world, such as the United States and even Japan.
That same day, the group had lunch at Bodegas Martínez Paiva, in Almendralejo, in Badajoz province. All of the wines from this winery are part of the Ribera del Guadiana DO, established in 1999 and which, despite its relatively recent creation, is increasingly recognized. There they tasted the winery's range of whites and reds, and even its cava. The Almendralejo area is the only one in the Extremadura region authorized to produce sparkling wines under the Cava DO.
After the winery, the group enjoyed one of the most special moments of the trip: a visit to Marqués de Valdueza, a company that produces both wines and extra virgin olive oil of the highest quality. The buyers toured the olive groves and the vineyards, where they were able to see the olive milling process and oil production, a unique opportunity as the olives are currently being harvested. A tasting of both oil and wine capped off a day to remember.
Ibérico ham, the grand finale
The group was in Badajoz on the last day of the program. In the morning, the buyers visited a factory belonging to the company Apis, in Mérida, mainly dedicated to canned meat products. There they learned about one of the largest agri-food companies in the country, comprising more than 2,500 cooperative members.
One of the most eagerly anticipated visits was scheduled on the last day in the afternoon. Montesano, specializing in Ibérico products, welcomed the buyers for a guided tour of its factory, where they learned the ins and outs of pork product production, including DO Dehesa de Extremadura Ibérico ham and lesser-known embutidos such as morcón (cured pork sausage). At the end of the visit, there was a tasting of both fresh meat, such as ham, and also embutidos.
This three-day visit to the region included lunches and dinners in restaurants serving typical Extremaduran dishes paired with local wines. Full immersion in an area of great gastronomic wealth, much of it still undiscovered, together with the visit to Salón Gourmets completed five days full of flavor and networking with the best products and producers of Spanish gastronomy.