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Lunch! Show 2017: a dichotomy of health and indulgence in food-to-go

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Over 330 exhibitors and speakers have come together to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Lunch! Show, reports Emily Lewis

Thursday 21 September saw the kick off of this year’s Lunch! Show, a trade-only event dedicated to solely the food-to-go sector. Having moved locations to the more spacious London ExCel centre, the show organisers promised an array of insight from industry leaders such as Starbucks and EAT, alongside promising newcomers.

Speaking to Chris Brazier, one of the show’s organisers, he highlights the focus of Lunch! as one of its core strengths. “By keeping the show targeted at the food-to-go sector, the experience of our attendees is kept relevant and efficient.”

Brazier recognises the major developments in the food-to-go sector that have taken place over the show’s 10 years, with brands becoming increasingly health-conscious, and expanding their scope into mealtimes other than lunch.

Offering everything from the exotic Little Moon’s black expresso mochi ice cream to CocoPro’s coconut water laced with whey protein, the Lunch! Show delivered on their promise.

Polarisation of quick food

As the day continued, a consistent theme arose among the exhibitors and speakers alike. Earlier, Brazier identified this trend in the food-to-go industry: as brands become more health conscious, this opens up space for indulgent food and drink products.

Brazier’s observation of this polarisation was also spotted by UK coffee house EAT’s CEO, Andrew Walker. Taking part in a Q&A on Thursday, Walker stated that the secret to EAT is consumer choice. He believes that, while competitors have concentrated efforts on delivering mainly healthy options, EAT believes that “you’ve got to have indulgence where indulgence is right”, offering consumers “good mood food”.

Detailing in the Q&A that EAT is striving for a balance between indulgence and health for consumers, Walker’s ideas reflected what was embodied in the range of exhibitors present at Lunch!.

Side by side stood exhibitors such as the Food Doctor, with kale and cashew Goodness Bars, and the Broderick Brothers, offering peanut butter and caramel flapjacks.

Lunch! revealed how far the food-to-go sector is able to cater for changing diets. With the 2016 British Social Survey reporting that 33% of Brits have either cut back or completely excluded meat from their diets, the number of exhibitors catering for vegetarian and vegan consumers was at an all-time high.

Innovation challenge

Innovation was a keyword on the show-floor, with the food-to-go industry seeing more products launched in the past 12 months than ever before.

“These advancements are reflected in the show’s Innovation Challenge, which works as a measure of the advancements taking place in the industry,” explained Brazier.

The Innovation Challenge allows Lunch! attendees to vote for their favourite products showcased throughout the show’s two days. Last night, the finalists were announced, including last year’s winners Karma Cola UK and show newbies Born Tasty with their easy avocado snack, Snackamolé.

Innovation was not just a target for new arrivals to the scene, however, with global coffee house Starbucks delivering their own keynote speech on new products and initiatives within the EMEA markets.

Rachel Chatterton, senior innovation manager at Starbucks EMEA, described the success of the company’s newest product, the nitro cold brew. After having proved its popularity in UK markets, 2018 is set to see the rollout of nitro cold brew throughout the whole of Europe.

“What cold coffee provides my team with is the opportunity to innovate,” says Chatterton. “It gives us a completely new space to create products that we’re really proud of.”

The future of Lunch!

As the popularity of food-to-go and the Lunch! Show itself continues to grow, Brazier emphasises the show’s commitment to responsible growth.

Having already sold out three months early, next year’s show will expand by only 25 stalls, in an effort to maintain Lunch!’s commitment to relevance and quality to the food-to-go sector.

With the show’s first day a resounding success, and it’s second day already well underway, Brazier promises that Lunch! 2018 will be “bigger and better,” and that the show is grateful for the support from the industry.

Further details

Finalists of the Innovation Challenge are to be announced on 22 September. For more information about Lunch!, please visit: http://www.lunchshow.co.uk/

Emily Lewis