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Report: Food Matters Live

I recently attended the Food Matters Live 2016 event – 600 exhibitors, showcasing the latest developments in “better for you” food and drink innovation.  It is an eclectic mix ranging from major food and drink manufacturers to new and enterprising start-ups, together with ingredients suppliers, retailers, foodservice providers and academic research bodies.

Here are 4 of the main themes coming out of the event:

1. Sustainable Alternatives

Sustainability has been a buzz-word for many years now but despite this, most consumers still don’t think much about how food is produced.  However, there is a renewed optimism that the tide is now beginning to turn.  With more people believing that modern, Western farming methods aren’t sustainable in the long term, it seems inevitable that a change is coming.

For some people the answer is insects with bug-based offerings increasing in popularity as a source of protein.  Yumpa (http://www.yumpabar.co.uk) is one example, with their cricket-flour power snack bars going down a delicious, if slightly wary, treat.

But beyond our chirping friends, there was plenty of talk about meat alternatives with several plant-based options being championed (http://www.meatless.nl/en/).  But just how quickly consumer will forego their Big Mac for its botanical or entomological cousins remains to be seen.

2. Point of Origin

Related to this is the idea of food stories, where knowing the origin of product becomes a potential driver of purchase.  This has opened up a lot of opportunities for products with strong, clear origins.  Noteworthy mentions from the exhibition include California Almonds (http://www.almonds.co.uk) Saile Irish Seaweed Foods (http://saile.ie), Produced in Kent (http://www.producedinkent.co.uk) and Food Wales (https://businesswales.gov.wales/foodanddrink/)  If food is indeed a form of cultural expression (as was championed in one of the break-out discussions), it will be interesting to see how larger, mainstream, brands try to build credible food stories into their products.

3. Time for Tea

Despite the multiple drinking options available at Food Matters Live, from protein enriched water (https://www.proteinwater.co) to natural energy drinks (http://sunsouldrinks.com), the beverage of choice was clearly tea – and not just because Unilever, the makers of PG Tips, were one of the main sponsors.

I counted no fewer than five dedicated tea stands – not to mention other exhibits that had tea as a component of a larger offering.  Pretty much every conceivable type of tea seemed to be available – from totally organic products through to super premium Chinese blends.  However, my favourite concept was Hoogly tea (http://www.hyggetea.com) which captures the Danish concept of Hygge (one of the words of 2016) and talks about the ‘cosiness of the soul’.  Ahhh!

4. Free From

It was impossible to walk far in the hall without coming across the words “free from …” plastered across a stall banner or packaging material.  Whether it is the popular “free from sugar”, the topical “free from allergens” or the golden-oldie “free from artificial colours” – everyone it seems is NOT putting something in their products.  The message is “reformulate, reduce and re-educate” – acknowledging the broad consumer perception that “free from” food can be bland and tasteless.  Whilst there are clearly very good reasons behind not including these items unnecessarily in food, however if everyone is giving out a similar message, the challenge will be how to gain commercial advantage.


Food Matters Live was held at the London ExCel Centre from Nov 22-24 2016

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