UK Food & Drink is Open for Business Leading global brands gather in London for the UK’s biggest food & drink event

As the doors close on the 20th edition of the UK’s biggest food & drink trade show  and the show floor falls silent, The International Food & Drink Event (IFE 2017)’s organisers can reflect on yet another successful exhibition.

The vibrant four-day show celebrated the latest NPD, newest trends and in-depth insight across the global food & drink landscape. Visiting buyers witnessed huge growth in many trends including the adult soft drink category, as well as an increasing demand for convenient, alternative protein snacks. The two and a half miles of stands showcasing exciting food & drink innovations ensured that everyone left with new found business inspiration.

ExCeL London welcomed thousands of international buyers, suppliers and distributors as IFE 2017 invited the world to London. Buyers came from across the food & drink industry including Tesco, Ocado, Amazon, Sainsbury’s, The National Trust, Bidfood, PepsiCo and Claridge’s who all took time to walk the aisles and sample the latest offerings across a range of categories from confectionery and snacking to meat, seafood and health and wellbeing products. The organisers were delighted that while maintaining visitor numbers, there was a significant increase in visitors with purchasing authority, rising from 65 percent to 78 percent. Meanwhile 28 percent of IFE’s audience had a purchasing authority of more than £500,000 per annum, a whopping 10 percent increase compared with 2015’s edition. 

International interest from suppliers continued to grow with Denmark, Singapore, Ukraine, Pakistan, Palestine and Tunisia all exhibiting for the first time, bringing the total number of countries exhibiting to more than 60. With international suppliers in abundance, the show floor was attended by some of the industry’s most influential international buyers including Carrefour, Aldi and Nandos.

Tammy Butterworth, Global R&D Manager at PepsiCo commented: “IFE has been great to visit. There is a great range of things to see and such a passionate selection of exhibitors sampling and talking about their products. I will be back next year.”

While Frankie Najduck, Director at Barbaran Delicatessen commented: “There’s always an interesting variety of products and it’s always good to network in the food industry with these kinds of reps and suppliers. I have found some good new products for the deli.”

IFE 2017’s inauguration ceremony was led by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), Minister George Eustice. Really bringing home the importance of IFE and the UK’s huge food & drink industry, he commented: “Food & drink is our most important industry. It’s bigger than aerospace and automotive put together, employing millions and there are many opportunities for us to export to other countries”.

With the UK as Partner Country, IFE 2017 had the backing of two Government departments; the Department for International Trade (DIT) and Defra. Partner Country status offered the UK an unrivalled opportunity to showcase the very best of the UK’s food & drink brands to the world’s leading food buyers, producers and investors; truly illustrating that the UK is open for business.

DIT hosted its ‘Exporting is GREAT’ hub, providing in-depth advice to ambitious food & drink producers looking to get their produce overseas. While for the event’s international visitors, the Department for International Trade’s Business Lounge offered opportunities for buyers looking to source and refresh their lines of UK products.

There were more than 30 seminars hosted on IFE 2017’s new Talking Trends stage and Big Picture theatre, led by some of the industry’s leading names including food industry expert, Jane Milton as well as Ben Carter, UK Marketing Director, Just Eat and Andrew Roberts, Commercial Director, Bidfood. Covering a diverse range of industry relevant and on-trend topics from the sugar tax to the rise of craft gin and the impact Brexit could have on the UK’s food and drink exports, the industry has been armed with the most up-to-date knowledge giving them the opportunity to help drive their businesses forward in these challenging times.

The live theatres were a constant hive of activity, including The Staff Canteen Live, which saw a fantastic schedule of renowned chefs including James Golding, Group Chef Director at The Pig Hotel and Kim Woodward, Executive Chef at Skylon, demonstrate their enviable culinary skills to a knowledgeable and enthusiastic audience.

Celebrating and rewarding industry progression, IFE 2017 hosted the World Food Innovation Awards. Judges considered 265 entries from 29 countries, across 23 categories, and finalists and winners were recognised for their innovation, new flavours, convenience and environmental responsibility. Importantly, entries encompassed categories relevant to all three co-located shows; IFE, Pro2Pac and Waste-Works. The Big Picture theatre also hosted the People’s Choice Quality Food Awards in association with Campden BRI, with a range of retail products put through their paces by 50 consumers before the winners were announced at the show.

IFE also launched its very first experiential Ice Cafe in collaboration with British Frozen Food Federation and the Craft Guild of Chefs and sponsored by Bidfood, helping to highlight the benefits of cooking with frozen food and illustrating how chefs and catering staff can reduce overheads and food waste; all without compromising on taste and quality.

With so many exhibitors showcasing products, IFE 2017 worked to minimise food waste across the show by teaming up with City Harvest to collect surplus products and redistribute to organisations that offer meals and food to those who need it the most.

With the most innovative offerings in food & drink, packaging, and waste, the co-located IFE, Pro2Pac and Waste-Works events offered the industry solutions to every part of the food chain; from Farm to Fork to Fertiliser and Fuel.

IFE Event Director, Soraya Gadelrab commented: “IFE is always the culmination of two year’s immense hard work from our sales, marketing and operations teams. We always listen to the feedback from both our exhibitors and visiting buyers and work to raise the IFE bar each time to ensure that everyone leaves feeling that their investment in the show has been a profitable one; whether financial or just in terms of experience and knowledge. This year’s visitor numbers are consistent with 2015 while we had an increased and consistently high calibre of buyers walking the show floor from when the event opened on Sunday morning to when we closed our doors on Wednesday afternoon.

“We have had extraordinarily positive feedback from buyers and suppliers alike and we can’t wait to welcome everyone back in 2019!”

To make sure you showcase your product at the UK’s biggest food and drink event, sign up for IFE 2019 by visiting www.IFE.co.uk