IFE 2017 is dedicated to showcasing the full scope of today’s global product innovations. Running from 19 to 22 March at ExCeL London, it’s the place to discover new products from 1350 foods and drink manufacturers and identify a range of future trend predictions

IFE has been running now for 40 years so we are quite proud that it has an established reputation in the industry and is very much considered the place to find innovative inspiration. It’s the gathering of suppliers and buyers from across the globe and it’s a networking opportunity for the industry to come together over the four days. We usually get around 29,000 visitors through the doors over the four days and last time they came from 108 different countries,” begins Event Director Soraya Gadelrab.

“We have hundreds of exhibitors who come back year after year and they come back to the event because they feel it’s the place to meet their existing suppliers and also find new customers, but we also have an influx of brand new companies who have just launched into the industry or launching new brands. It’s the event for well known respected brands and new, exciting and innovative brands to come together.”

From aloe vera drinks to immune system boosting juices and smoothies, the functional drinks market is huge and further growth is predicted as consumers become increasingly aware of their physical and psychological needs. The industry can also expect to see a rise in demand for groundbreaking premium adult soft drinks. Exhibiting at the International Food and Drink Event for the first time, Equinox Kombucha has created raw, organic sparkling energy drinks full of naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, amino acids and live bacteria at stand N1900. For the health conscious that like something a bit stronger Twisted Halo at stand N2145 has created low calorie alcoholic beverages. The range includes a gently sparkling blend of coconut water twisted with ginger and muddled with premium vodka at just 90 calories per 275ml bottle.

Consumption habits are changing more than ever before and continue to lead the way when it comes to healthy eating and drinking. Cleaner eating is a key trend to look out for and the International Food & Drink Event 2017 has a large section dedicated to health and wellbeing. New suppliers this year include Nutristrength, founded by two brothers devoted to producing clean living nutritional products. The brand will be showcasing a range of protein powders produced using goat and sheep whey and even peas at stand N2432.

Alternative protein
In many categories, industry forecasters expect to see consumers opting for authentic and traditional products, using unadulterated ingredients and locally sourced produce. Discover the Great British and Irish Food section, with a range of artisan products such as Snowflake Gelato at stand N2842. The brand has received 25 Great Taste Gold Stars and was voted the Great Taste Supreme Champion. The company Free From has already been one of the hottest trends across 2016 and will continue to grow in 2017 with brands launching exciting and innovative products, from avocado oils to dairy-free ice cream, vegan jerky and quinoa crisps.

“One thing that fascinates me is insects,” said Soraya. “Two years ago at the International Food and Drink Event I sat in a seminar with a futurologist called Morgaine Gay and she was talking about what we are likely to see in food and drink trends in the coming years. One of the things she spoke about was the rise of insects as an alternative protein, it’s much more sustainable when there are meat shortages and if you visit the Far East or Mexico insects are a staple part of the diet. A year later at another exhibition that I’m involved with four companies exhibited insect based products, protein bars and flour to add to smoothies. It may seem a little strange right now, but I bet in a few years time we’ll be tucking into ant egg ice cream.”

New for this year buyers can walk a dedicated trend trail to discover the latest suppliers and products. The simple to follow trail maps will highlight relevant stands to source new and on-trend produce, such as free-from, healthy alternatives for children and innovation on-the-go.

As well as the trend trails available the exhibition has been split into product sections that will enable buyers to find what they are looking for: “What we have done is streamline sections based on how the market has changed, so for example this year we can see there is a huge amount of innovation in the snacking and convenience sector, so we’ve introduced a new section called snacks and confectionery,” said Soraya.

This year the International Food & Drink Event’s message is focused on innovation and getting inspired and communicating that message effectively. The aim is to get traders looking for new ideas, learning more through immersion in the food and drink industry, networking with people and feeling inspired enough to move each business forward.

“As well as revising the product sectors to keep up with what is mapping or mirroring the food and drink industry we are introducing two brand new theatres at the show. The first is called talking trends because people come to the show to find out what is going to be new and exciting,” said Soraya.

The big picture stage will be the setting for discussions, talks and debates about big issues on the food and drink industry. There are some very key newsworthy topics to discuss like the impact that Brexit could have on imports and exports, sugar taxes, the obesity levels in the United Kingdom and the effects on-line shopping has had on consumers.

Another useful tool to help visitors get a head before the exhibition opens is the planning programme that is being developed on the website to enable buyers to search for the exhibitors and speakers that they would like to attend. The system will then create a personalised printable itinerary with a floor plan highlighting all the events including time slots.

As a trade event suppliers can be confident that the people attending are genuine trade buyers from the industry. Organisers are keen to point out that interaction between people is important: “The networking element can get pushed aside. We are urging visitors and exhibitors to grab a coffee or a beer and chat; it’s how relationships are born,” concluded Soraya.

The spirit and excitement of the organisers and exhibitors promises to deliver at the International Food & Drink Event 2017. For further information about the show, visit: