London: Innovation played a big role at this year’s lunch! billed as the UK’s biggest ‘food-to-go’ two-day trade event at the ExCel exhibition centre that was held mid-September.
A record 370 exhibiting companies showcased the latest developments in food, drink, packaging and catering technology. Coconuts, mangoes, pineapples, turmeric, ginger and paprika popped up in various products at the show.
Chris Brazier, Group Event Director said, “Our growing appetite for high-quality, good value, food-to-go meals, drinks and snacks has created huge opportunities for the trade’s operators and retailers. Everything they need to run their businesses is here, from catering equipment to counter displays, the food and drink they serve to how it is packaged and paid for.”
Exhibitors included leading brands like UCC Coffee UK & Ireland, Rombouts Coffee, Douwe Egberts, Union Hand Roasted & Traders Coffee, Cawston Press, Urban eat, Bord Bia, Adelie Foods, Propercorn, Hippeas, Natural Balance Foods, The Handmade Cake Company, Raynor Foods, The Food Doctor, Country Choice, Rude Health, Kepak, Europastry, Magrini, Glen Dimplex, Melitta UK, and Biopac UK.
The Innovative Challenge gallery, which was a magnet for visitors, displayed around 100 mouth-watering competition entries including Adonis Smart Foods’ low sugar turmeric nut bar; Ape Snack’s coconut and rice puffs Thai chilli; The Care Crew’s vegan cupcakes; The Collective’s mango and turmeric kefir; Green Sisters’ Choco’Licious samosas; Kestrel Foods’ Forest feast mango and coconut balls as well as pineapple, mango and lime fruit balls; Raw & Wild’s pili nuts with turmeric and ginger; and Well & Truly’s smokey paprika snacks.
Fourteen judges put their heads together to decide on winners of the gold, silver and bronze awards at the Innovative Challenge competition, among them Jay Morjaria, Chef and Restaurant Consultant, who recently appeared on BBC’s Million Pound Menu where his East Asian restaurant, Dynasty, landed an investment offer of £500,000. Other judges included Paul Ettinger of Caffe Nero, Martin Hambleton of En Route International, Alan Tomlins of Small Batch Coffee Roaster and Jack Hinchcliffe of KFC UK and Ireland.
Destination Reporter India spoke to Vishal Sodha, founder of DRGN Turmeric-infused Superdrink, one of the show’s Asian exhibitors. He told us he launched DRGN in 2012, the Year of the Dragon. The drink also contains ginger, black pepper and ginseng. He said, “It is a natural citrus drink with pan-Asian superfoods, vitamins and electrolytes and blended with Austrian spring water, devoid of caffeine, artificial colourings and flavourings. It keeps the body hydrated and reduces fatigue.” Having spent eight years in Hong Kong, he was inspired to research the region’s superfoods and came up with the refreshing and healthy drink which proved popular with visitors. He plans to launch more healthy drinks.
Wallaroo, founded by Abhisek Kanoi, produces single-ingredient snacks with coconut, mango and pineapple flavours. He said his daughter Ahana, aged 9, liked to eat snack bars which gave him the idea of producing “healthy, bite-sized bars” with no artificial additives, in compostable packaging. Combating obesity motivated him to start an online Children’s Food Foundation aimed at interesting youngsters in healthier eating options.
Green Sisters, run by co-founders Geeta and Reena Salhan, produces award-winning sweet and savoury samosas, bhajis and chutneys. Reena said, “Our products are free from gluten, lactose, dairy and suitable for vegans. What’s more, our samosas are baked, not fried. Billed as ‘deliciously healthy and nutritious’, the young entrepreneurs dealt with a stream of visitors eager to try their products which they declared “very tasty”. Their ‘VeggieLicious’ samosas have bagged two gold FreeFrom food awards. They also won a category of foods designed for children and judged by children.
Dhikari Foods, run by sisters Meera and Maya Shah, produce a healthy snack using “much-loved Indian flavours”. Meera said, “We spent over a year experimenting with our roasted Indian mixes and are delighted with the result.” The mixes, which generate a balanced array of flavours, proved a hit with visitors. “Everything we produce is completely natural with no additives of any kind,” said Maya.
Two keynote theatres, known for attracting some of the biggest and best-known speakers, included Sheree Ritchie, Operations Director, Leon; Masterchef finalist Arnaud Kaziewicz, Executive Chef, Eat; Richard Morris, Managing Director, Tossed. They examined the “challenges and opportunities” of competing in the dynamic food-and-drink market, plus other award-winning operators who shared their strategies on how to “compete and thrive” as an independent cafe, sandwich shop, coffee house, bakery or deli.
lunch! has been drawing thousands of food-and-drink professionals since its launch in 2008, registering significant year-on-year growth in attendance and floor space and winning three best trade show awards among others.