By John Prendergast, marketing and sales executive, Infood and CyBake
Now into its second year, Food Matters Live was a busy conference with over 480 exhibitors and more than 100 seminars. It was also my second visit to the show and what really struck me this time was the big increase in focus on food waste and sustainability.
Perhaps this shoudn’t have come as a surprise. Not only are campainers like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Tristram Stuart on the case, legislation like the Groceries Code Adjudicator Act 2013 forced dominant players to end some extremely wasteful practices. The requirement that suppliers destroyed produce that didn’t quite meet cosmetic quality standards was just one example.
The UN aims to halve food waste by 2030 and it’s is an issue that affects everyone in the food business. Our own experience would suggest that shaving even a couple of percentage points off the amount a food operator throws away each day adds some surprisingly big numbers to their bottom line.
The need for sustainability was underlined by an impressive array of speakers (including the aformentioned Tristram Stuart). Some sought to persuade us that the term food “waste” is in itself unhelpful, promoting instead terms like “maximising food resources”.
Notable initiatives included Company Shop, which redistributes 30,000 tonnes of surplus food a year, and Incredible Edible Network, guerilla planters trying to get more veg growing in urban neighbourhoods. I would suggest that there are some priceless PR opportunities to be had when food firms get involved in such programmes.
It was interesting to see how many big brands were exhibiting at the show as they align themselves with sustainability and the improvement of health through nutrition. Firms like Iceland, Iglo (aka Birds Eye etc) and even Coca-Cola all had big stands. It is worth noting how such companies are constantly redeveloping their products to fit with current food trends.
At Food Matters Live, they also get to associate themselves with food education. There were at least a dozen universities and colleges exhibiting at the show, offering a wide range of food technology courses. The event is also a hub for the burgeoning free-from industry and hosted this year’s FreeFrom Food Awards.
Any vistor would be impressed by the sheer amount of innovation within Britian’s food industry. As well as learning about new wonder-ingredient moringa (a tree with amazing vitamin levels), I was introduced to black mineral water and had my first sip of camel milk (a bit less filling than regular milk, but sweeter – thank you Camel’s Milk UK).
Healthy snackables were very much in evidence. A big shout out to Nim’s, maker of particularly tasty fruit crisps. There was also a good deal of activity surrounding the South American chia seed. Chia is just one example of the alternatives to soya, the cultivation of which, we were told, is an increasing environmental hazard that encourages deforestation.
All kinds of alternative flours were on show. Indeed, it seems like you can find anything that can be ground into a powder in a gluten-free product nowadays. Even insects. And yes, I tried those too in the form coconut and cricket jerky from London’s MightyBee.
The verdict? I’m not really a fan of coconut but I can’t say the cricket made it any worse so, actually, it was pretty good.
Food Matters Live does two important jobs. On the one hand, it is a great showcase for the vibrancy and pioneering spirit of today’s food industry. On the other, it allows concepts that were once considered leftfield to take centre stage and flourish in the mainstream.
Food Matters Live will return to London’s ExCel centre from November 22-24, 2016.
Photos courtesy of Food Matters Live (© FM Global Ltd)