As I walked into the IFE show,  International Food and Drink Event - which is the UK's largest food and drink show - I was fully prepared to be underwhelmed by the usual showcasing of flavoured mineral waters, oils and olives. There was a sense of déjà vue as I went through the first few aisles but it didn’t take long before I realised that in amongst the hundreds of stands I would find some interesting people with a story to tell.

I took time out to sit in one of the demonstration areas to hear about Lincolnshire food, a County which apparently produces 20% of our British food. The enthusiasm of Rachel Green was mesmerising as she took us through the wonderful range of food produced in her home County. Rachel is an excellent Ambassador for Lincolnshire and the Lincoln Red Beef was every bit as good as she said it would be. I’m sure all of the regional demonstrations were equally as positive but I will now keep a look out for the Select Lincolnshire logo.

What particularly impressed me was the number of new companies that were exhibiting their products. I enjoyed speaking to The Wise Owl Snack Company about their multigrain snack, Hoots. They have developed a baked bread like snack that is a good alternative to crisps.  It looks like a mini crostini but not as brittle and with five flavours there is likely to be something for everyone. Immergruen also had a tasty and interesting selection of snacks with the Landgarten’s product range. The soy snacks were surprisingly good, with or without chocolate and the packaging eye catching.

My view on the story of the show was that healthy alternatives both for food and drink are still popular. This is leading to a compromise approach; as long as an element of the product is healthy we are being appeased. Through conversations with stall holders it became clear that there is a limited market for a truly healthy offering. When faced with a choice only a small number of people buy it.  We want to see that it’s there but would prefer to spend our money on something that contributes to a balanced diet but more indulgent. 

Despite taking a systematic approach to walking around I still managed to miss some of the award winning products such as Qcumber, a new refreshing soft drink and Dorset Blue Vinny Purbeck Ice-cream.  However I did enjoy the baby peach that was thrust into my hand and a delicious cup of Hibiscus Tea. 

IFE was well worth a visit and gave me time to reflect on what a great industry I work in.  Well done to the organisers and exhibitors for putting on a great show.

Wendy Sutherland