Feeding the World
Feeding the World
Food is the key emphasis of this year's world exhibition in Milan. Representing Slovenia at the EXPO are its water, salt and honeybees, trying to get new markets and partners for its food and beverages industry. Its natural resources and rich traditions offer a starting ground for the growing number of organic food producers.
Natural water, salt and honeybees are three of the five main themes of Slovenia's presentation at EXPO 2015 in Italian Milan. These are at once symbolic both for Slovenia's traditions and for the country's rich natural resources owing to its well preserved nature. Traditions and natural resources are well on its way to becoming the backbone of Slovenia's food and beverages industry. Or at least its most dynamic part.
The tastes of the market are definitely moving towards healthy food produced using sustainable methods. This is a big opportunity for Slovenia, with its largely unspoilt nature, small farms and local food producers, plus a landscape that mostly doesn't allow for industrial farming.
Beekeeping is a cornerstone of traditional Slovenian culture. Slovenia is the homeland of Carniolan Bee (Apis mellifera carnica), the second most popular subspecies among beekeepers around the globe. A century ago local beekeepers and merchants used to control the global market trade of Carniolan bee colonies. As a designated homeland of a popular bee, Slovenia has one of the world’s strictest rulesets when it comes to beekeeping. This results in an extremely high quality of honey and bee-related products. The beekeeping remains very popular and is the basis for, besides honey, numerous other products and businesses including apitourism. Most Slovenian beekeeping operations are small – industrial methods of beekeeping are practically prohibited by law, which states that »nothing should be added nor taken away from the honey«.
The sunny side of the Alps has no oil reserves to speak of. Yet it has vast reserves of clear drinking water rich with minerals. Some Slovenian mineral waters like Radenska and Rogaška used to be famous throughout the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Today a variety of bottled water can be found in Slovenia's shopping malls. Costella, for example, comes from densely forested area of Kočevski Rog, an almost uninhabited part of the country. Water branded Zala, on the other hand, is pumped from Šišenski hrib hill: a green area which blends into Tivoli park and reaches the very center of Ljubljana.
Nowadays, salt production plants in the country have more or less all been converted to open air museums. Yet roughly a decade ago the production of the salt restarted using entirely pre-industrial methods. Only small quantities are produced as a premium product, rich in ingredients and flavor and much healthier than the chemically pure sodium chloride normally used as salt. The product branded as Piran's Salt is part of the EU's protected designation of origin scheme.
Many small companies offer organic food products with a distinct local flavor – like elsewhere in Europe. Some mid-size companies also focus on eco-friendly production of high quality food products. One example is Mlekarna Kobarid, offering diary products typical of alpine farms above Soča valley in western Slovenia. It is the main producer of Tolminc cheese also boasting the European protection of designation of origin. Pekarna Pečjak, with its pastry products, is one of the companies present at Milan's expo. It is another example of the food industry vital to Slovenia – one of 2.000 companies with a total turnover exceeding 2 billion Euros. Not much, but for a small nation only quality makes sense as the name of the game.