The biennual food and drink exhibition, IFE, returns this month to London. And this time it is bringing the four corners of the earth with it.
The show houses over a 1,000 exhibitors -- a large proportion of which will be UK companies, ranging from large food producers to small family-owned businesses. Those visiting the show will not only get a sneak preview of what competitive products might be on retail shelves in future but also the opportunity to sample some of them.
While IFE has always had some global reach in term of exhibitors, much greater emphasis is being placed on companies from overseas this time around. According to organiser Fresh RM, when the event was last held in 2003 80% of the 24,000 visitors wanted to see more overseas companies and products to help in their search for the next big product concepts.
With expansion of the European Union to 25 countries the show has correspondingly seen an increase in exhibitors from accession countries such as Estonia, Latvia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Cyprus.
For example, new this year to IFE is the 'Walk the World' exhibition, which will feature products from Asia, Africa, the Americas and Europe. More than 40 countries will be represented, with companies travelling from as far afield as the US, Brazil, Mexico, Malaysia, Japan, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, India and Australia, each with new concepts to bring to the UK market.
Market analyst Mintel, which will be making a number of presentations at the exhibition on consumer food and drink trends, such as health and wellness, as well as flavour insights, says the increased presence of companies from across the globe at IFE reflects the growing market for international tastes.
It predicts that while the use of new Mediterranean-style flavours will increase during 2005, companies will also turn towards more untouched parts of the world for inspiration, such as sub-Saharan Africa, which it says is an area whose cuisine is yet to be fully exploited.
Snack foods, in particular, is one area where foreign influences will be more prevalent, according to Mintel. "Overall, we should see more exotic flavours going into everyday products like snacks, often as limited edition flavours," says David Jago, global new products database director at Mintel. "Looking around the world for inspiration, PepsiCo's snacks business already has plenty of flavours that are currently only available in one region, such as poppy seed-flavoured Doritos on sale in Turkey, but this flavour could work elsewhere."
According to Mintel, Japan, the US and rather less obviously Australia, are leading the way in shaping new product trends. Low glycaemic index (GI) foods, which have experienced large take-up in Australia will grow in popularity over here, Mintel predicts, with many UK companies developing low GI products. The same applies to products of low glycaemic load, which also takes into account the type and amount of carbohydrate in a single portion of a product.
Mintel also suggests that UK companies could follow the route of their Japanese counterparts and develop products that contain essential amino acids to contribute to a healthy diet. Its research has shown that in Japan there has been an explosion of products containing beneficial amino acids while in the UK consumers' only major contact with them is with hair care products, such as Proctor & Gamble's Pantone shampoo. Yet 2005 could be the year when amino acids make an impact over here, it says.
Concepts and flavours from countries whose influence are yet to be felt over here will also be on show.
Tiko International is among those first time exhibitors with a range of products new to this market. The Madagascan company will showcase its fair trade chocolate, honey, teas and coffees and indigenous herbs and spices that it believes will help meet the growing trend in the UK for more exotic foods. As well as supplying ingredients and branded products, Tiko says it is looking for strategic partners to develop own-label premium goods to widen the variety of ethnic food offerings currently on the market.
"Madagascar has much to offer the British Food Industry," says Neil Kelsall, director of sales at Tiko. "Consumer demand for fairly-traded products is at an all-time high and increasing year-on-year. Madagascar uses natural farming methods to create often unique tastes and naturally high quality produce."
Companies from the newly-expanded Europe will also be present many of their new products. For example those from Cypriot companies will include halloumi (cheese), wine and pasta and ice creams. "Food and drink production is one of the strongest industries in Cyprus," says Ionnis Shekeris, commercial counsellor at the Cyprus High Commission Trade Centre. "The show is a great opportunity to reflect the versatility and quality of Cypriot produce."
With continued demand for new authentic flavours and foods, IFE looks like the place to visit for creative inspiration. FM
IFE is at ExCel, London on March 13-16. For details contact Fresh RM on 0207 886 3100 or visit http://www.ife.co.uk.
British companies set to lead the way
British companies have also upped their presence at IFE this year to showcase their latest products and open up potential new markets for export. Manufacturers will be exhibiting their latest products in eight categories -- alcohol & soft drinks; speciality & regional food; frozen; wellbeing & organic; cheese and dairy; bakery and confectionery; meat & poultry; and general food.
In the bakery and confectionery category, BakeMark UK will be unveiling a new range of licensed products it has developed in collaboration with Nestlé. BakeMark, which produces Smarties and M&Ms branded cookies and a Simpsons biscuit with marshmallows and jelly beans, says the products will be new cookies produced for in-store bakeries and foodservice. Also in bakery, Anthony Alan Foods is launching two new cake bars under the Weight Watchers brand in a range of pack sizes for convenience stores. The new Jaffa Orange and Lemon & Ginger cake bars contain only 1g of fat and 105 calories and will be available in individual, twin and triple packs as from the start of the show.
In the alcohol category Leeds brewer Green's will display its range of gluten- and wheat-free beers. Green's produces Discovery beer, Pioneer lager and Explorer stout, which it claims are the first truly wheat- and gluten-free beers in the UK. Whereas conventional brewing processes employ either isinglass- or gelatine-based products in the clearing process, Green's uses natural tannins which also make the drinks suitable for vegetarians and vegans. Soft drink manufacturer Firefly also plans to launch an extensions to its ranges of drinks.
Silver Hill Foods will showcase its recently launched retail range of four duck products in the meat and poultry category. The duck specialist has developed a Chinese roast half duckling with pancakes and hoi sin sauce, a whole roast duckling, crispy boneless Chinese roast half duckling and honey roast half duckling.
Yorkshire-based cheese maker Shepherds Purse is to launch two new products this month. Its new Basilano cheese is made from ewe's milk which is marinaded in a blend of Italian and English herbs to create what it says is a pesto-style rind. Also new is its Bell-peppered Buffalo, a cheese made from Buffalo milk with sweet red bell peppers in balsamic vinegar.
In the frozen category, Dorset-based Purbeck Ice Cream is to unveil new flavours of both its spring water sorbets and ice creams while the Packaged Ice Company will launch a new premium range of ice cubes called Blue Keld Spring water.