Exceptional entepreneurs and record visitors signal a thriving industry


Taking over the NEC once again for its biennial coming together of some of the most exciting businesses in food and drink right now, Food & Drink Expo and the UK Food Shows has announced record visitor numbers. A sign that in an increasingly digitalised world, unique opportunities for meaningful face to face time, still hold strong appeal. The show floor played host to some of the most cutting-edge trends in food right now from all things coconut and alternative grains to huge numbers of vegan-centric brands and those introducing clever uses of insects as a protein source. 

Once again, the show was a must-visit event for anyone who is anyone is food and drink and has already had a number of high profile exhibitors confirm attendance for the 2020 edition of the show. Returning companies include Bridor, Lee Kum Kee, Joe & Seph’s Gourmet Popcorn, Radnor Hills Mineral Water and Petit Forestier.

Andrew Reed, managing director of events and exhibitions at William Reed, said: “‘The line-up and content from an exhibitor and visitor point of view demonstrates the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of the UK food sector, despite the negative headline we’ve seen daily regarding Brexit. With improving attendance levels, we can see a vibrant future for the industry. William Reed is committed to the UK market and we look forward to many more years hosting the shows and providing business critical information.”

Exhibitor Marcus Hall, sales manager at Excelerate, said: “It’s definitely been a worthwhile experience exhibiting and we’re very pleased with it so far. We’ve had some big blue chip people on our stand today and have a number of appointments fixed for next week to follow up.”

Meanwhile a spokesperson for Nuto Snacks said: “I like that the show has retailers and big buyers speaking because you don’t often get the opportunity to see people of that calibre speak live. We’ve had a lot of good feedback on the product and a lot of people trying the lotus seed, plus a few big names who’ve said they will be in touch. We’ll definitely be returning in 2020.”

Great New Idea

A highlight of the show each year is the Great New Idea competition, which is designed to provide a platform for both fledgling and established business owners to showcase the most insightful and meaningful innovations in the industry from the last twelve months. This year, Food & Drink Expo received over 160 entries for this prestigious award and the winner was Belvoir Fruit Farms Ltd, which was awarded the title for its Botanical Juniper & Tonic. A delicate infusion of botanical extracts including Juniper and Elderflower, the tonic has a sharp, bitter edge of Quinine making this delightfully aromatic, sparkling tonic drink the perfect non-alcoholic alternative to a G&T.

The Grocer Talking Shop Live

This year’s Food and Drink Expo once again played host to a bevvy of exciting food and drink businesses with heads of industry and innovators gracing The Grocer Talking Shop Live stage. Its talks are a highlight of the show and this year covered topics including food waste, the rise of non-alcoholic beverages and the challenge of reducing plastic use. 

One of the most pressing issues for the food sector right now was tackled in a session titled ‘Waste Not, Want Not’ which saw leading representatives from the academic world, retail and broadcast media, discuss waste reduction, sustainability and the impact on business and society. Hosted by Love Food Hate Waste ambassador Richard Fox, who was joined by Manchester Metropolitan University Chartered Waste and Resource Manager Amanda Reid, Co-Op Corporate Responsibility Manager Hannah Gallimore, food writer and critic Matthew Fort, Chef Owner of the Adam Handling Group Adam Handling and Fareshare CEO Lindsay Boswell. 

Gallimore argued that we must tackle the food waste problem by educating children on the value of food and the processes which take the food they eat  from field to fork. Handling questioned why wonky veg is cheaper, criticising supermarkets for reducing availability of fruit and veg which does not meet consumer aesthetic standards and saying that by reducing it they are causing a problem rather than solving it.

Food & Drink Expo, Farm Shop & Deli Show and National Convenience Show took place at the NEC alongside Foodex and for the first time this year welcomed The Ingredients Show into the selection of world class exhibitions. The combined weight of these five shows this year brought together 1,500 suppliers representing a huge array of companies and technologies within the UK’s food and drink industry. 

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