30 Nov 2016

More than 13,500 experts from across the food, health and nutrition sectors attended Food Matters Live 2016 – making it the fastest growing cross-sector event of the year for showcasing innovation in the food and drink industry.

The three day event played host to 600 exhibitors – from global multinationals to young and emerging enterprises from the UK and internationally – all offering the latest innovations in food, health and nutrition through a range of interactive displays and thought-provoking talks, demonstrations and tastings.

More international ingredients’ companies, manufacturers and experts took part than ever before, with exhibitors from Austria, Belgium, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain, Thailand, Wales, the Netherlands and Czech Republic.

Whole teams from retailers and foodservice providers were in attendance over the three days including the likes of Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer, Planet Organic, Ocado, Holland and Barrett, Superdrug, Greencore, M&R Catering, itsu and British Airways.

Manufacturers seeking innovative solutions for NPD, reformulations and new ingredients included Nestle, Mondelez, United Biscuits, Whitworths, Kruger UK Ltd - while Amazon Launchpad and new crowdfunding platform Tesco BackIt attended to meet some of the many start-ups showcasing cutting edge products.

In addition to the extensive exhibition, there was standing room only in the many seminars and main stage conference, which featured 400 speakers covering wide-ranging topics such as nutrition for health and wellbeing, reformulating ingredients to create ‘better for you’ food and drink, sustainable food business, innovative packaging design and strategic marketing solutions.

The rich content programme focused on some of the most hotly contested issues to affect the food and drink industry this year. Industry speakers were keen to voice their opinions on the impact of Brexit and the UK government’s decision to introduce a sugar tax on carbonated soft drinks, combined with a controversial obesity strategy.

Emma Reed, the UK Department of Health’s Programme Director of Childhood Obesity, said she had been “reassured and motivated” by industry efforts to reduce sugar in food.

“This is my first visit to Food Matters Live and I’m overwhelmed by the breadth of the discussion I’ve had so far with some of the exhibitors,” she said.

“I’ve already seen some fantastic examples of how industry and food manufacturers have been cutting the sugar in their food products. I absolutely welcome that and look forward to working with the exhibitors here.”

Tesco’s Group Quality Director Tim Smith - who joined a conference debate on whether retailers can influence healthier food choices - said Tesco had reduced sugar in all its own brand products “to help customers lead healthy lives”.

“We decided to look at our entire range – 250 products – and each and every one of those we examined to see if it was possible to get below the proposed sugar levy – and in November of this year we have been able to do that,” he said.

But world-renowned behavioural economist Tim Harford urged government ministers not to demonise soft drinks because it might encourage people to increase their consumption of other sugary products.

Instead, he advised: “Raise the tax a bit on sugar, see what happens, collect some data and then you can make a sensible decision about how to move forward.”

Craig Sargeant, General Manager from Mars Food UK – who were represented in both the conference and Evidence Base attraction said: “Food Matters Live encourages the conversation and invites debate, helping people to consolidate the different messages out there into the most simplest way to help consumers make healthier food choices.”

Robert Lutz from Huegli UK Limited said: "As a new exhibitor to Food Matters Live 2016, we found the show a great mechanic to promote our business and generate new business leads and contacts.  What makes Food Matters Live unique is that is brings together a wide spread of visitor profiles, which is great for a pan European business like ours that has many divisions and customer types.  Based on the success of Food Matters Live 2016 we have already reserved a stand for 2017." 

Visitors attending Food Matters Live were able to benefit from a unique mixture of exploring the many new products on display with networking and sharing knowledge through the diverse and varied programme of debates, seminars, demonstrations and special events on offer.