Food & drink sector celebrates a successful IFE 2023
IFE, International Food & Drink Event, alongside IFE Manufacturing and Hotel, Restaurant & Catering (HRC) welcomed more than 27,000 buyers from the worlds of retail, wholesale and hospitality to ExCeL London on 20-22 March for three packed days of networking, learning and streamlined product sourcing.
Food & drink buying teams from top UK and international retailers including Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason descended on the show to check out the very latest new products and innovative launches.
Abigail Wilkinson, Category Buying Manager – Cooking Ingredients & Global Cuisine – Grocery at Tesco, commented: “It was a really well organised day and a great opportunity to catch up with our current suppliers and discover potential new partners.”
Louise Dolan, Director of Ambient, Waitrose, added: “IFE was a perfect opportunity to meet so many current and potential suppliers in one place, great use of time.”
Innovation was high on the agenda at IFE 2023, with the World Food Innovation Award winners announced on day one of the show and plant-based meat & fish brand The Mighty Kitchen triumphing in the inaugural edition of IFE’s Big Business Break with Surya Foods, which took place in the New Products Tasting Theatre.
Key insights into the food & drink sector
This year’s event included two stages – the Trends & Innovation Platform and the Sustainability Stage, sponsored by Elopak – packed with insights for retailers, wholesalers and hospitality professionals to grow their businesses and enhance their product ranges.
The Sustainability Stage included a full day of content curated by the Food & Drink Federation, which saw sessions on building resiliency into our food systems, meeting evolving customer expectations, the transition to a circular economy and more, while sustainability partner WRAP discussed barriers to success in sustainability.
Sian Morgan, Behaviour Change Project Manager at WRAP, commented: “IFE is a really great opportunity to bring such a range of business and operators within the sector together and to share our latest research and bring food waste up the agenda in a hospitality and foodservice sector setting.”
The Trends & Innovation Platform saw a wide range of sessions focussing on the latest innovations in food & drink, with presentations from the British Frozen Food Federation and IGD on 2023 frozen food trends, from thefoodpeople on emerging food technologies and from Kantar examining the rise of the discount retailers.
The stage also featured a discussion around managing allergens from Bertrand Emond of Campden BRI, Nicki Clowes of the Free From Awards, Julianne Ponan MBE of Creative Nature, Anita Kinsey of Pret a Manger and Hari Ghotra of Virgin Atlantic.
Ghotra commented: “I'm here because I love experiencing all the food and innovation that's around, from packaging to vegan offerings to all the lovely drinks. We've also been having a chat about allergens, talking with amazing panellists highlighting some of the issues we face in the industry. A fabulous day; can't wait for next year.”
A hub of new product launches
IFE’s new Startup Market featured new-to-market suppliers and product such as plant-based Irish cookie dough brand Naked Bakes, freshly frozen banana brand Pukpip and Saved’s high-protein puffs made with cricket protein.
Elsewhere at the show, buyers could discover a new nut kernel range from Catcher Gourmet, new FiXX Coffee Capsules from FiXX Coffee, new chocolate soft serve ice cream from Jersey Dairy, a new range of gluten free sweet & savoury baked snacks from Liberate Foods and much more.
Exhibitor Nicola Bourne, UK Sales Director at Forbidden Cocktails, commented: “It was our first IFE, alongside launching a new brand, so we didn’t know what to expect! Overall, a fantastic few days with such a mix of buyers – from export distributor opportunities to festival operators to high street multiple chains. We have so many leads to work through and for us it was very well worth it!”
IFE, International Food & Drink Event will return to ExCeL London alongside IFE Manufacturing and Hotel, Restaurant & Catering (HRC) on 25-27 March 2024. To keep up to date with the latest news, interviews and industry trends, subscribe to our newsletter.