Between 21 and 23 March, thousands of key buyers in the global food & drink industry descended on IFE, International Food & Drink Event at ExCeL London for three days of product tasting, networking, learning and doing business.
The hotly anticipated twenty-second edition of the event took place alongside Hotel, Restaurant & Catering (HRC), IFE Manufacturing, The London Produce Show and The Pub Show, creating the UK’s largest gathering of food, drink and hospitality professionals.
Visitors from major retailers, wholesalers, distributors, caterers and hospitality businesses including Bidfood, Compass Group, Fortnum & Mason, Hello Fresh, Ocado, Sainsbury’s, Selfridges, Budgens, Waitrose and many more used the show to gain vital industry insights and to discover new products to meet customer demand for 2022 and beyond.
The shows also welcomed a number of famous faces in the world of food & drink, with celebrity chefs Michel Roux Jr, Tom Kerridge and Gennaro Contaldo all making an appearance.
Finlay Warren, Pan EU Category Manager at Amazon, commented: “IFE demonstrated the forward-thinking and constantly innovating global catering and hospitality sector, showcasing key developments within the sector from sustainability to new product developments.
“IFE is a great event to network and build on existing relationships and develop new one, understanding the changes and challenges faced by the sector, and drive exposures and opportunities for business at all levels.”
Emma Piercy, Head of Climate Change & Energy Policy at the Food & Drink Federation: “My first thought arriving at IFE was the scale! Having been in lockdown for two years to finally meet people in the industry and see all the amazing businesses, from the smaller suppliers to the larger pavilions from all around the world, has been great.”
The future of food
The Future Food Stage at IFE hosted a wide range of panel discussions and presentations across the three days of the event, tackling some of the most urgent challenges and opportunities in the sector.
From evolving the customer experience through 24/7 service, speedy delivery and reuse & refill stations to driving progress in sustainability, health foods and non-animal proteins, the stage was packed each day with visitors eager to stay ahead of industry trends.
One standing-room-only session took a close look at the industry’s road to net zero, with an all-star panel including Dr Stephen Mackenzie, Greenhouse Gases Specialist (Food) at WRAP and Dr Emma Keller, Head of Sustainability at Nestle.
Keller commented: “IFE is such a fantastic event. The different food businesses, the innovation, the ingredients that are being used, even the smells as you walk around – incredible. I think also the talks have been really on point, with relevant topics that we’re all facing. It’s been a really great event.”
Another key resource was the Certification Clinic, where organisations including BSI, The Soil Association, The Vegan Society, B Other Wise, Sugarwise, BRCGS, The Vegetarian Society, RSPCA Assured, SALSA, Fairtrade and more were on hand to provide advice to visitors on a wide variety of industry certifications.
Streamlined product sourcing
With nine distinct show sections, covering everything from frozen food to drinks to speciality food, IFE made it easy for buyers to easily source products in specific categories.
New for 2022 was the Vegan & Plant-Based section, in partnership with The Vegan Society, which proved a huge hit with visitors, exhibitors and partners alike.
Louisianna Waring, Senior Insight & Policy Officer at The Vegan Society said: “We’ve had an absolutely fantastic show. Everyone I’ve spoken to has said the Vegan & Plant-Based Section has been buzzing the whole time. It’s been amazing to try the new brands, connect with consumers. The Vegan Trademark has had hundreds of leads from the show and it was great to talk with the panellists at our very well-attended session.”
Caroline Timmins, Own Label & NPD Manager at The Vegan Kind, added: “I was wowed by the scale and quality of exhibitors at IFE. The Plant Based & Vegan section was well covered and created a real buzz. The speciality section was interesting, as was confectionary and drinks with standouts in all categories.”
In addition to receiving support from the UK’s Department for International Trade, IFE welcomed a number of luminaries to the 2022 event to meet with the show’s international suppliers.
The India pavilion was visited by Shri Sujit Ghosh, Deputy High Commissioner, London; the USA welcomed Philip T. Reeker, Chargé d’Affaires of the US Embassy in London; Serbia was joined by Ambassador Aleksandra Joksimović of the Embassy of the Republic of Serbia and the Sri Lanka pavilion hosted Saroja Sirisena, High Commissioner of Sri Lanka.
Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom The Hon George Brandis QC, who visited the country’s pavilion, hosted by Austrade, on 22 March, commented: “It’s great to be at the Australian pavilion at IFE with Austrade and so many Australian producers of excellent food and very good beverages. Food and drink is something that Australia does really well and at the top of the market in particular.”
Philippa Christer, IFE Event Director, reflected on this year’s event, saying: “It was absolutely fantastic bringing our food & drink community together once again and would like to say a massive thank you to our suppliers, visitors, partners and speakers for all their energy, enthusiasm and support.
“This is an industry built on strong partnerships and delicious products and there’s no more effective and efficient way to do business than at events like IFE. We can’t wait to return even bigger and better in 2023!”
Looking ahead to the return of IFE next year, the show has already confirmed a number of returning partners for the 2023 edition, including the Food & Drink Federation, the Federation of Wholesale Distributors and the Food & Drink Exporters Association.
IFE, International Food & Drink Event will return to ExCeL London on 20-22 March 2023. Find out more at ife.co.uk
This year’s seminar programme will soon be available on demand on the IFE Connects platform, at connects.ife.co.uk