Samui Wining & Dining
Showing Off
European Fine Foods makes a successful exhibition of itself at ThaiFEX 2011.


Showing OffOur little island is a very small place. It’s not only a mere dot on the map but it’s small in terms of history, too. Just a single generation ago the only way you could get here was by boat and there was one solitary exchange bureau and one supermarket, both of them miles away from anywhere, in Nathon. And, needless to say, there wasn’t much in the way of European food. Basics such as potatoes, bread and milk, not being a part of the usual Thai diet, were regarded as specialised items and almost impossible to find.


But time marches on and today it’s a completely different story. Samui has now become a fine-dining haven that’s filled with internationally-renowned chefs and 5-star restaurants. You’ll find national dishes from all over the world and with cuisines to match. Specialised French, Italian and German delicatessens and bakeries have sprung up to supply the demand and you can now even enjoy such rare gems as the truly English toad in the hole, the Swiss geschnetzeltes or the Swedish gravad lax.


All of which immediately poses a question: where does all this specialised food come from? Much of it, of course, is made here locally. But what about the ingredients that go into it all? The meat and dairy products in particular? And that brings us straight to a flourishing industry; that of the specialised food importers. There’s quite a few of these now in Thailand and a number on Samui. The best-known of which being European Fine Foods.


European Fine Foods (EFF) is something of a success story. It was founded only as recently as 2008 but in the three years since then it’s gone from strength to strength, although already behind this was the management structure of a German-based company that had been trading successfully for more than 12 years. And, working in a triangle of partners between Germany, Hong Kong and Thailand, the company has just recently taken another leap forward – but more of this in just a moment …


The first EFF outlets were established in Bangkok and then, just two months later, they opened a branch on Samui: oowner and Managing Director, Guido Heynan, assessed that our little island had more customer-potential than any other beach-destination in Thailand. And at their shop in Chaweng you’ll find premium German brands such as dairy products from Mövenpick, meat and sausages from Meica, organic breads from Mestemacher and pickles and relishes from Kühne. Plus, in the last year, an imported range of prime beef from Australia and Japan, too. And at the end of May, the company made another big advance, this time as a result of promoting its products at the huge and prestigious annual food-products expo of ‘ThaiFEX – World of Food ASIA 2011’ in Bangkok.


This was organised by Thailand’s Department of Export Promotion, together with the Thai Chamber of Commerce and German world-class event organizer, Koelnmesse, and held at the Impact Arena, the extent and scale of which has to be experienced to be believed. It’s gigantic, bigger than an Olympic stadium, the second-largest in SE Asia and it takes a full half-day just to walk around the perimeter of all the stands! More than 1,500 national and international food entrepreneurs occupied over 2,600 booths for a seven-day period – and one of them was EFF.


One impressive aspect was the size of the booth. Many exhibitors opted for the less-prestigious (and thus less expensive) smaller display areas. But EFF grasped the nettle and spent the week in surroundings that were as big, as comfortable and as lavish as their shop in Chaweng. A full range of their products was on display, including 21 new items added this year in the range of yogurts and dairy products from both Bauer and Meggle, fish from Frederichs and preserves and jams from Maintal. And, for the first time, EFF was now carrying a representative selection of attractively packaged child and infant items from Kuchle’s Little Kitty range, including the now very popular ‘mouth tattoos’ on edible paper.


This was our second year at the fair,” MD Guido enthused, “and we thought the first time was a success. But this year exceeded all expectations. The first five days were for trade enquiries and there was a constant flow of interest. But we didn’t quite realize just how much interest until we’d returned to the offices in Bangkok and Samui and saw the hundreds of enquiries and orders. As well as regional hotels and restaurants we’re getting interest from Japan and Korea, too. And that has enormous potential, particularly as Samui is now gaining in popularity with this sector of the holiday market.


It’s no secret that German and Swiss produce has been around on Samui for some time now; just witness how many such restaurants there are. But what EFF has done is to make all the top brands readily available. In fact, their shop is well-worth a visit in its own right. It’s well-placed, in the far-right corner of the shopping court next to and north of Tesco/Lotus (which also features Wine Connection prominently displayed at the entrance). There are two shady tables outside where you can relax with a coffee or a smoothie, and a snack made-up from EFF’s selection of breads and meats. It’s a pleasantly quiet alternative from the crowds in the nearby food courts.


Yes, indeed, time does move on and the days when bread and potatoes were luxuries are now mere memories. And it’s a sign of the times that, today, you can find on the island just about anything you want when it comes to speciality foods.


Rob De Wet


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