For 20 years Food & Drink Expo has been at the forefront of the grocery retail sector. The show has provided a platform for producers to launch some of the nation’s favourite and most forward-thinking products, as well as a meeting place for the brightest minds in the industry to come together as they debate and discuss the future of the food and drink industry.

Celebrating two decades in shaping the industry, Food & Drink Expo 2014, incorporating Farm Shop & Deli Show, returns to the NEC on 24-26 March to once again provide the number one route to the UK food and drink market.

The grocery retail sector is one of the UK’s most dynamic and fast-paced industries. In the past year alone, the industry has seen ‘click and collect’ adopted by some of the biggest retailers and discount stores establish an ever-growing share of the market changing the face of grocery retailing forever. We have seen foodie fads come and go, scandals such as horsegate catch supermarkets off-guard and TV shows such as The Great British Bake Off encourage consumers to go back to their roots and experiment with cooking at home.

From issues such as traceability, food waste and the obesity crisis to trends including edible labels, high-protein insect bars and ‘health-giving’ junk food, 2014 looks set to be another exciting year in grocery retail.

At Food & Drink Expo 2014, buyers on the look-out for eye-catching products that marry with consumer demands can discover thousands of new and exciting products all under one roof. Grumpies of Cornwall, Joe & Steph’s, Lee Kum Kee, Delicioso, Petty Wood, R&R Ice Cream and Viva Drinks are just some of the companies already confirmed. In addition, interactive and informative seminars will enable visitors to gain crucial insights that will help inspire new marketing and business strategies.

Feeding hungry minds

To help visitors and exhibitors keep pace with the industry’s hottest topics, the Brainfood Factory will once again be packed full of masterclasses, interviews, panel debates and product innovations from the UK’s most well respected names. 

Here, visitors can attend panel debates where topics include whose responsibility it is to improve the nation’s health, how businesses can win by leveraging new foodservice channels and selling direct to consumers, and honesty and integrity in the food industry.

Live interviews with the industry’s finest will also enable visitors to gain insights first hand with vegan baking specialist Ms Cupcake and other high-profile names already confirmed, while other sessions take a look at the future of menu development and new food and drink concepts.

Also in the Brainfood Factory, Dragons’ Pantry invites the most daring entrepreneurs to present their newest product launches to a panel of industry experts. With dragons including the likes of Owen Gower, buyer at Aramark, Simon Hurrell, buyer at Swithenbank (3663), Jody Scheckter, owner of Laverstoke Park Farm, Nigel Barden, BBC 2 gastronome and Steve Quinn, MD at Cucina, the stakes have never been so high for producers who could walk away with new listings and business opportunities.

Making it easier for visitors to pinpoint innovative thinking, the Great New Idea initiative returns to the show. Exhibitors can enter their products with the winner crowned in an awards ceremony. Last year’s winner at Farm Shop & Deli Show, The Big Cheese Making Kit, has gone on to gain listings in top retailers around the country.

Regional produce on display

As consumers question the provenance of their food more than ever before, traceability and local sourcing will be top of the agenda when making food and drink choices. In recognition of this renewed focus on local and regional products, there will be a dedicated Regional Quarter.

Visitors will be able to source products from specific parts of the UK to build an offering that consumers will identify with. Food & Drink Expo is working closely with all regions including Heart of England Fine Foods, Wales The True Taste and Deliciously Yorkshire, to ensure some of the most exciting and up-and-coming brands in the UK’s larder will be exhibited within this regional showcase, including: Scotland’s St. Andrew’s Farmhouse Cheese Company; The Real Norfolk Cake Company from East Anglia; and Northern Ireland’s Irwin’s Bakery.

One-to-one networking opportunities

The export market is hugely important for the UK’s food and drink industry. At Food & Drink Expo, UKTI will host a stand where specialists from more than 13 countries including Brazil, China, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Thailand and Turkey will be on hand, along with international buyers from these regions. Visitors can meet with market specialists across the three show days to discuss the specifics of exporting in each represented country.

Visitors can also benefit from a brand new platform – Engage – that enables them to plan their day by searching products and companies and pre-arranging meetings. The online portal allows users to request meetings, send private messages and favourite companies and products to ensure visitors don’t miss out on important business opportunities.

Speciality Food focus

Farm Shop & Deli Show – one of the UK’s most respected speciality food and drink trade events – will be incorporated within Food & Drink Expo 2014. Visitors interested in stocking some of Britain’s finest produce will be able to source artisan products from respected brands such as Olives Et Al, Fosters Traditional Foods, Lakeland CCs, Anthony Rowcliffe, COOK and JCS Fish to name just a few.

Visitors can learn from the speciality food industry’s leading lights in Farm Shop & Deli Live, where the live seminar sessions are guaranteed to provoke and inspire.

Masterclasses help visitors get to grips with the art of retailing and selling product categories as diverse as coffee, cheese, wine, olives and charcuterie. Attendees will gain advice on selecting product ranges, as well as engaging with consumers to enhance the buying experience.

Great British Bake Off star Brendan Lynch holds a session on creating a range of baked goods that reflect current bakery trends, and award-winning writer, cook book author and TV chef presenter Richard Fox matches beer and food to demonstrate how retailers can boost sales by offering advice on complementary products.

Former rugby player and passionate foodie Phil Vickery MBE also takes centre stage in a live interview. He’ll be offering his thoughts on responsible farming methods and the importance of good animal welfare standards.

Attendees can also gain exclusive insights from Booths buyer John Gill who talks selecting and sourcing suppliers, meet the buyer days and relationship building with smaller suppliers, as well as hear practical advice on improving profit by leveraging social media channels.

In the Dragons’ Pantry, daring entrepreneurs will pitch their new product ideas to an expert panel of judges, while the winners of the Farm Shop & Deli Awards, in association with Olives Et Al, will also be announced at the show.

Food & Drink Expo, incorporating Farm Shop & Deli Show, is co-located with National Convenience Show and Foodex. It is a trade event and strictly no under-16s, including babes in arms, will be permitted entry to the show.