Last Wednesday I trekked across London to the International Food & Drink Event (IFE) at the ExCel. The show is an event for buyers and suppliers in the food and drink industry to do a bit of networking and discover new products and trends. Technically, I shouldn’t have been there given that I am neither a buyer nor a supplier. The event is not open to consumers (i.e. me) and you can only apply for a ticket if you are currently in the food and drink industry. Realizing this, I asked my sister to apply for me and I showed up on Wednesday ready to bluff my way in using her name.
Initially, I tried to act up to my new persona, but this proved awkward as people began asking me questions about my sister’s company that I couldn’t answer. So, I soon decided to take the honest approach, telling people I was there in her place because I thought it looked like a really fun event. And it was. Rows and rows of stalls displayed every possible type of food and drink you could think of and more. Baked goods, meats and fish, confectionary, world foods, snacks, chilled foods, cakes and pastries, health foods, sauces and condiments, vegan and vegetarian foods… I could go on. It really was huge and the variety of products was more than I had imagined was possible to fit under one roof. I was there for about three hours and I’m sure I didn’t see it all. I would have stayed longer if I didn’t have somewhere else to get to. I wondered around the stalls trying everything on offer and picking up as many samples as I could carry. It was certainly a lucky decision on my part to go on the last day of the event as people were, quite literally, throwing food at me to take home. I waddled out of there with two large carrier bags filled to the brim with all sorts: popcorn, yoghurts, nut butter, coconut water, halva, olives and chocolate. It is safe to say that I have not been short of snacks since. Apart from a very suspect ‘dairy-free cheddar style cheese’ which I tasted, heaved and promptly threw in the bin, everything I have tucked into has been wonderful.
There were definitely a few trends that I picked up on whilst I was there. Popcorn has in no way had its day and is still going strong. Two brands that I loved were Ten Acre and Blooms. Ten Acre is a brand I hadn’t come across before and they had some really interesting savoury flavours, my favourites being the fennel & lemon and the lime & sea salt, a step above many other well known brands, in my opinion. Blooms was another name I hadn’t heard of previously and their popcorn, covered generously in sesame seeds, was so crunchy and moreish that I lingered around the stall for a few minutes more than was acceptable.
Fruit and vegetable crisps were also popular. Rather than fried, many of these crisps were freeze dried which not only preserves all of the nutrition of the fresh product but also gives them a really satisfying crunch. The Giving Tree had a great range of sweet and savoury flavours, the pumpkin and the mango being the standouts for me. Emily Fruit Crisps were also amazing and if you’re ever in Whole Foods I urge you to pick up a bag of the banana or pineapple ones.
This may be unsurprising to most of you but coconuts are still, hands down, the most loved food of the moment. Coconut water, oil, milk, chips and ice cream dominated the exhibition. I had been meaning to try a few of these brands for a while and they all lived up to expectations. Rebel Kitchen’s coconut milk drinks are divine. They come in a variety of flavours, all of which are worth a taste. The best coconut water I have tried so far goes to GoCoco for it’s lovely sweetness that comes from a subtle hint of vanilla. Sweet and savoury coconut chips were also a big deal and for good reason. I have been eating them non-stop since Wednesday, on my porridge, in some yoghurt and straight out the bag. Nudie Snacks do a surprisingly tasty salt and vinegar flavour.
And finally… coconut ice cream. Created as an alternative to dairy ice cream, these use coconut oil and coconut cream as the base, which keeps the rich and luxurious texture and taste that we all know from this treasured dessert. Two brands that really stood out were Oppo and The Nude Spoon, both of which have salted caramel flavours to die for. Oppo flavour theirs with lucuma, one of my favourite superfoods, which gives it that extra nutritional punch. The Nude Spoon use coconut sugar to create the caramel flavour and cashews to add creaminess. I seriously can’t describe how incredible it is, so decadent and smooth as velvet. Potentially my favourite product at the show.
I could go on and on but I really would be here all day. It was such an inspiring event seeing all of the innovative things people are doing with food and drink at the moment and it left me excited, thinking about what more can come about in the future.
I was pretty wrapped up in everything that I forgot to take many photos but here are a few things that caught my eye (sorry for the poor quality).
Delicious nut butters. These little pouches are perfect for on-the-go snacking. Coconut & Almond is the best.
These parmesan crackers were gorgeous.
Nutella filled gnocchi!
And finally… by far my favourite freebie from the show… a huge pot of date halva flavoured with saffron and chocolate covered dates stuffed with almonds. Heaven.