Food Matters Live presented its annual conference at ExCel in London in late November, bringing thousands of industry experts from the food and drink sectors. What’s in store for 2019
The conference, now in its fifth year, analyzed the future of food, with a stream of seminars and showcases that presented how innovation is shaping the way we eat.
The free event brought to life new innovations and the latest trends — from sustainability to plant-based foods to tackling obesity — to food manufacturers, ingredients suppliers, start-ups, buyers, policy makers, scientists and health professionals. There was an exhibition hall curated by Food Matters Live that showcased healthy, sustainable and nutritious products and ingredients.
“The show provided a good opportunity to meet relevant contacts within the industry, from key suppliers and customers to industry experts and advisers," said Juliet King, product developer at Planet Organic said. "The seminars and conferences were particularly useful, providing excellent insight into the state of the industry.”
Countries represented included Denmark, Japan, Italy, Spain, China, Germany, Peru, and Greece, who also participated in a slew of live cooking demonstrations.
Seminar highlights specific to produce
Seminars were divided into several umbrella themes, including retail trends in health and well-being, which have been drivers for consumer behaviour. Speakers touched on plant-based food trends, the rise of veganism and vegan foods and included such topics as “the role of protein in plant-based innovation” and a case study of innovation in the plant-based diet category of food-to-go.
Another touch point was the role of snacking for kids, tackling obesity in schools and preparing to meet calorie reduction targets in the workplace and public sector catering.
The seminar Mum’s Consumer Habits And How They Define The Children’s Food Aisle offered critical insight into food decisions made by the largest group of consumers — mums — who comprise "80 percent of shopping decisions."
There was also a strong emphasis on the future of freeform foods, where experts discussed trends and launch ideas for brands, as well as new discoveries on allergies, and innovative ingredients. It raised questions such as: 'What's motivating the lifestyler? How important is the ethical outlook of the typical free-from consumer? Should free-from manufacturers be more aware of issues like sustainable packaging?'
Awards as a new part of the program
One of the highlights of the show was the Food Matters Live Awards program, which
showcased science and technological progresses, product development, healthy eating initiatives, and sustainable practices. The judging team included 24 leaders in the food and drink industry.
Among the winning innovators was Veggie Run, a healthy-eating app for school children launched by Havering Council and supported by Change4Life and Quorn. The main element of the app is “Crunch Bunch” characters, a mob of veg cartoon-like carrot heads, broccoli heads, zucchini heads, who are created to teach children to stay away from unhealthy foods. Kids can gain rewards by collecting fruit and vegetables on the app.
“One of the main reasons the app was developed is due to recent evidence that only one percent of packed lunches are healthy," said Dennis Brewin, head of HES Catering Services and the Veggie Run initiative, which came out of a collaboration with Engayne Primary School in Upminister. "We hope that by playing the game primary and junior school children in the borough will be able to identify the difference between healthy and unhealthy foods."
The Sustainability Initiative of the Year Award winner went to LeanPath UK for its Scaling Food Waste Prevention through Measurement and Data. LeanPath UK implements food-waste prevention as an everyday practise through coaching and technology.
"[The winners] impressed the judges with their distinctive, innovative approaches, which challenged the status quo and really made a mark in their separate competitive categories," said Briony Mansell-Lewis, Food Matters Live director. "We were delighted with the number of high-quality participants, reflecting the breadth of innovation across the food and drink industry meeting consumer demand for healthy, better-for-you food and drink."
Food Matters Live also introduced a hack-a-thon, partnering with Nielsen Brandbank and Foodmaestro, where Oracle, Sainsbury’s, Rabbit & Pork and Daemon Solutions were invited to participate in discussions about how to create consumer experiences that are driven by health. Titled Health-e-Hack, the session included personalized recipes, in-store augmented reality experiences and voice assistants.
Rabbit & Pork, a voice experience agency that creates voice apps, won the hack-a-thon for its Vegan Scout app, which helps create product recommendations for the vegan lifestyle.
"The concept of developing a voice app using big data to enable conscious purchasing and lifestyle decisions, was an incredibly rewarding one," said John Campbell, managing director of Rabbit & Pork. "We believe it not only makes the vegan lifestyle more accessible but also provides a mechanic for smaller, independent retailers to be discovered and marketed."
As a warmup to the Food Matters Live 2019 program, the organizers will introduce The Food Matters Summit 2019, to be held from 19-20 November. The two-day summit will include 50 sessions, posited to cover four main themes with interconnected concepts designed to inspire and propagate thought leadership amongst a highly curated group.
The gathering will consist of 150 international speakers that will discuss pressing issues facing the food and beverage industries.