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Food Matters Live 2017 - Who we met and what we learnt

Friday, December 1, 2017


“Food Matters Live is the UK's only cross-sector event bringing together the food and drink industry, retailers, foodservice providers, government and those working in nutrition, to enable collaboration and innovation to support a sustainable food landscape for the future”

The diagram below colourfully summarises the relationships between food, health and nutrition and how each comes together to form the food industry we know today.

 With seminars, panels and talks on topics from ‘social-media strategy’ to ‘nutrition in old-age’ and ‘the latest packaging trends to watch out for’ there’s something for everyone within the food sector as well as a bustling hall exhibiting the latest in food-technology, products and concepts that appeal to every market.  

Why were we there?

As the marketing coordinator for Kafoodle, I visited food-matters live to learn more about successful marketing in this diverse and ever-changing area and to meet the faces behind products. I spent the morning learning and absorbing as much information as possible in seminars such as ‘Understanding the free-from consumer landscape’ and ‘what’s new in social media and what does it mean for your brand’ before then exploring the floor, meeting the exhibitors and chatting to like-minded foodies, suppliers and innovators.

What we learnt

Although perhaps a little biased, one topic that kept recurring throughout the day was that of ‘free-from’ and how even the big-boys such as Mr Kipling Cakes are now extending their range to accommodate special diets. Free-from was by far the biggest trend of 2017 and interesting research by Happen Innovation Consultancy suggests that when looking at consumer behaviour by generation and their acceptance of the free-from the trend we are emerging into a new age where consumers are searching for shortcuts to health, becoming more in tune with their bodies and exploring the idea of ‘cleaner’ eating - the free-from trend is here to stay.  

An annual study by Future Thinking seemed to reiterate the use of free-from as a shortcut to health with 9/10 free-from purchases being made by someone without an allergy or intolerance. But allergen sufferers are not to be forgotten. Despite only 1/10 purchases being made by a food-allergy sufferer, they make up 42% of the total spend in this category. Karen Fewell at Digital Blonde Marketing gave a fantastic talk about what she as a coeliac and free-from consumer experiences from a customer's perspective with one single word standing out. TRUST. When eating the wrong foods can cause you severe discomfort or possibly a fatal reaction it can be hard to trust food-service providers who may talk-the-talk but have yet to demonstrate that they walk-the-walk.Trust is something providers must earn by showing that they are knowledgeable about allergens and cross-contamination, not simply hiding behind a may-contain label. Increasingly, review websites such as TripAdvisor are becoming the go-to for sufferers who seek the positive experiences of others as an affirmation of a restaurant's suitability before they dine there. When a bad customer experience can be life-threatening the reputation of a restaurant as allergy-friendly amongst the food-allergic community has a heavy weighting in their decision to eat there. The prevalence of free-from was also echoed on the exhibition floor with a fantastic array of new free-from products such as Botonique an alcohol-free sparkling soft-drink for wine lovers and Chao Cheese - a dairy-free meltable cheese alternative with new and exciting flavours (The tomato cayenne would make a fantastic spicy pizza topping or toastie filling).

The lust for ‘cleaner’ eating was also evident. Perhaps not in the form we saw earlier this year which encouraged the exclusion of food groups such as gluten and dairy in order to live a ‘cleaner’ lifestyle. This new form of ‘clean eating’ welcomes all food groups but champions products made as naturally as possible more often than not from smaller independent suppliers whose story captures the hearts of the millennial consumer. Simply Ice cream - ‘Lovingly handmade in small batches in the heart of Kent’ captures this sentiment. Produced without artificial colours, additives and preservatives the old fashioned way in small batches alongside a captivating story Simply Ice-cream can now be found in over 400 outlets across the South of England and has earned a number of awards including a Guild of Fine Food and a Great Taste Gold Three star for their Heavenly Honeycomb Crunch.

Our number one takeaway

Food Matters Live was a great way to see first hand the changes within the food-industry and take hold of upcoming trends at their humble beginnings. If we learnt one thing from Food Matters Live this year it was that the free-from craze is here to stay and with new products emerging to cater for special diets every day there’s never been a better time to brush up on your allergen training and create new menus to suit all. We’ll see you at the 2018 show on the 20th-22nd November!

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