The ultimate, nerve-shredding test returned to Farm Shop & Deli Show on day three of the UK Food & Drink Shows as courageous entrepreneurs faced down fearsomely experienced industry ‘dragons’ in a series of 15-minute pitches. Only one successful pitch would be chosen to receive the kudos and the prize of exclusive awareness driving coverage in The Grocer, and with it the tantalising chance of national listings.

Revibed’s range of superfood infusions was named as overall winner. Founded by young entrepreneur Eugene Patterson and his father Ivor, the pair’s range of zero-sugar drinks, born out of lockdown, is aimed squarely at improving hydration. The judges were unanimous in their praise of Eugene’s pitch and took only minutes to come to their decision to crown the business as winner.

Elsewhere on the show floor, the subject of plant-based food was high on the agenda with no fewer than four sessions dedicated to the topic. The question of whether meat has a future was posed by an expert panel including The Vegan Society’s Claire Ogley, who discussed where the category might be five years from now. We also got to hear from the Plant Based Food Alliance – a coalition of organisations from across the UK’s plant-based value chain, who discussed – among other things – if more needs to be done to push consumers towards meat-free or flexitarian lifestyles, especially in light of a recent report which found that half of UK adults who reduced their meat intake (49%) are finding that a plant-based diet is actually more expensive.

Throughout the three-day spectacular, talk from exhibitors has fixated on reports of visitors with unrivalled purchasing power and authority out in force on the show floor.

With this in mind, many were quick to commit themselves to next year’s shows, and even quicker to praise the high quality of visitors to their stand as a key reason for this.  

Lorna Holland, Holmach Ltd, Foodex Manufacturing Solutions

“We’ve had some great conversations and real interest in some of our equipment that we’ve had on the stand today. We’ve gained some new leads and met a lot of existing customers as well so it’s been a fantastic all-round networking opportunity too.”

Susanne Casey, COO, Velo Coffee Roasters, Food & Drink Expo

“We’ve been trialling a new product at the show and it’s been really great for us. We’ve had a huge range of people come to our stand from different sectors - from innovation to sales to buying who have all been willing to try the product. We’ve made some leads with innovation teams which has been great – we’d definitely come back again!”

Alex Dimmock, Senior Concessions Manager, COOK, Farm Shop & Deli Show

“It’s been a really busy show with lots of visitors from farm shops and convenience stores, so exactly the customer we are trying to meet at this show. We’ve had some great new leads and spoken to lots of our existing customers who are here too which is really important for us. I’m really pleased to see the show is buzzing again after Covid, it has been really positive and we’ve already booked for next year.”

Penny Williams, Senior Category Manager, Müller, National Convenience Show

“We’re here to launch our new range for convenience stores and it’s been a really good show. We’ve had some great leads and met some really interesting people to talk to. It’s also been good to see what else is out there in terms of flavour profiles. We’ve been coming to NCS for a while and convenience is an emerging channel for us and a real focus for the business so this is the right place for us to be – I’m sure we will be back again!”

Andrew Reed, Managing Director – Wine & Exhibitions, William Reed, added: “The UK Food & Drink Shows are simply unique in their ability to unite the very best our country has to offer across multiple sectors, while attracting serious visitors with spending power. It’s been fantastic to witness exhibitors, visitors, and speakers alike return in their droves to the NEC. In a period of great turbulence, the sense of togetherness and of business as usual has been palpable. With a wealth of exhibitors already signed up for the shows next year, the future looks bright for our exciting, resilient, and ever-evolving industry.”

See you in 2024.