It was hats off to Quesadillas, Nopal de Mexico snacks, Tapa Balls and Bombas Mexicanas presented at the Mex-Al El Sombrero stand in the Koelnmesse’s Foodservice Hall during the October 5-9 Anuga. That’s where and when members of the Mexican food and drink specialties team served up the tasty treats to the delight of hungry visitors.
“Try the Quesadilla de Trigo con Frigo (wheat flour tortilla with Chipotle-refried beans and grated cheese) with chunky salsa,” suggested Erwin Wolharn. “Or maybe you would prefer the Quesadilla de Verdura (filled with cream cheese and diced nopales, red bell peppers, onions and finely chopped cilantro), which is an equally good choice.”
With “mucho gusto,” personnel from FrozenFoodsBiz.com sampled bites of both tasty variations of the half-moon shaped tortillas, as well as other products recently launched by the family-owned and operated company founded by Carmen and Erwin Wolharn back in 1988. In those days, when the Mexican cuisine scene in Germany and Europe was just budding, Mex-Al was a pioneer in developing the market.
During the 1990s Mex-Al began producing frozen burritos, tacos, tamales and other items at its cold storage distribution center in Aachen, Germany, the nation’s westernmost city situated along the borders of Belgium and the Netherlands. Today, under second generation leadership of Richard Wolharn and Linda Gnass, its much expanded assortment encompasses an A to Z selection of products that range from avocados and piñata decorations to tableware, Tequila and Sotol spirits, zumo and more.
What the company offers is a total system of Mexican foodservice solutions for restaurant operators, as well as private label opportunities for retailers, and an online catalog of products for home shoppers to choose from.
“The market is very stable now, after sharp ups and downs during the past few decades,” said Erwin Wolharn. “Perhaps the growing popularity of Mediterranean food across and beyond Europe has something to do with this, as certain Mexican menu items fit right in with this cuisine. Tapas appetizers and snacks are a Spanish tradition, and our Tapa Balls and Bombas Mexicanas are being very well received.”
Indeed, Anuga visitors were pleased to sample each offering. Mex-Al Tapa Balls are potato croquettes filled with cheese and olives, while Bombas Mexicanas are potato croquettes loaded with chili con carne.
Cream and Onion Potato Bites, also in the Tapas category, were a big hit at the show. Mex-Al’s recipe, fired up with bits of jalapeños peppers, features an outside layer of soft potato dough covered with a thin layer of crunchy breading.
Also in high profile at Anuga were Nopal & Cream Cheese bites. Shaped like small cactus leaves, the core filling consists of dried nopales, diced red bell peppers, onions, cilantro and spices. It takes about three minutes of frying to prepare the 30-gram morsels to eat.
Another cactus leaf product, Penquitas de Nopal, attracted a great deal of attention at the fair. The young leaves, harvested in Mexico from tender cacti, are marinated before being enrobed in batter and breading. Each piece weighs 12 grams, and distribution is in 3-kg cases.
Mex-Al management is optimistic about ongoing growth for the Mexican foodservice market in much of Europe, or at least in the countries that are coping best with the aftershocks of the post-2008 financial crisis and economic downturn.
“Demand should continue to rise, but we are concerned that production costs will rise even more,” stated Mr. Wolharn. “The price of corn, which is used in making maze tortillas, has gone up quite a bit already. In addition, the cost of labor in Germany is expected to increase.”
Having said that, the Mex-Al co-founder is confident that the value for money offered by Mexican foods in general and by his company’s product line in particular will keep customers coming back for more. – JMS