F&B Experience Trends from IFE

London’s International Food & Drink Event (IFE) hosted a range of global and disruptive players from future food, drink, manufacturing, dispensing, and hospitality. With exhibitors from over 50 countries, the event featured pavilions from Turkey, Thailand, France, Sri Lanka, China, Ecuador, Hungary, and Cyprus, among others. Showcasing some of the yummiest, authentic, and innovative ingredients in the ever-growing F&B market.

We came away full of treats, insights, and ideas. Here we share four themes from the event that sparked our interest.

Global Startups Take Centre Stage

The success of startups in major economies like Dubai and Singapore will spark notable effects on UK and US retailers. Retailers are under increasing pressure from consumers to prioritise authentic brands with distinct purposes; we predict that conventional ‘world food’ sections will have to undergo category aisle revamps to champion a diversity of cuisines.

Kentaste aims to unlock the economic potential of Kenya by connecting rural coconut farmers to international supply chains. Their passion lies in meeting tomorrow’s market needs with innovation that embodies authentic Kenyan creativity. They cater specifically to the preferences of the next generation of global consumers, who prioritise cultural sincerity yet seek earth-progressive and health-conscious options.

Contextual Brand Moments

When discussing future ambitions with direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands, it was evident that they place significant emphasis on the versatility of their brand across various contexts, from retailers and B2B establishments like restaurants to D2C sales channels. Their core strategy revolves around advocating for their products, fostering communities, and ensuring smooth integration into their customers' daily routines through inventive packaging and formats.

BANG! Curry meal kits provide easy-to-use 3-step ingredients for various recipes. Their 'professional' packs uphold brand consistency for bulk B2B purchases. They bolster their online presence through partnerships, such as International Women’s Day, and offer branded gift packs and merchandise for special occasions.

Brands Turn Waste into Gold

Some brands primarily focus on private labelling, depending on retailers for substantial changes or investments, especially regarding sustainability initiatives. However, others are proactively embracing sustainable food systems. Startups are emerging with innovative solutions that target supply chain waste while prioritising health and taste.

Cocoa beans are encased in a pod with flavourful pulp; however, much of this pulp goes to waste after cocoa bean extraction. WOW Cacao addressed this issue by creating the UK’s first hydrating cacao water, utilising discarded pulp to minimise waste. Additionally, they responsibly source the cacao pods from trees in the coastal regions of Guayas and Santa Elena to contribute to deforestation prevention efforts.

The Role of Suppliers in Building Consumer Loyalty

As customers shift from traditional shelves to platforms like TikTok, customised hardware and user-friendly interfaces become essential for fostering loyalty in physical spaces. Regarding purchasing kiosks, we observed solutions that displayed menus in the same format for different retailers on factory-ready hardware. This presents suppliers with opportunities to enhance value and offer more personalised experiences. 

What if kiosks …

  • elevated retail environments?
  • purified the air to enhance wellness?
  • gamified menu selection for a sports F&B retailer?

The Elephant in the Room?

As we can see with companies such as ZOE, food is now intricately linked to health — with consumers using different tech to track everything from metabolism to fitness goals. To thrive, retailers and brands must embrace technology shaping consumer choices.

Furthermore, prioritising sustainable supply chains is crucial. Whether starting from scratch or transitioning to full sustainability, transparency and authenticity are paramount. Merely claiming sustainability isn't enough; consumers seek to understand the brand’s efforts so they can invest in their mission.

Success in the F&B market today goes beyond attractive packaging; it demands a holistic approach starting from where products have come from to how they fit into consumers' lives at different moments.

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