Food & Drink Expo crowd photo.

The Best Bits from Food & Drink Expo 2024

It’s trade show season and we’ve been pounding the floors of the NEC in Birmingham seeking out some of the latest innovations, the freshest flavours, and the movers and shakers all vying for their place on the shelves of the UK’s Farm Shops, delis, convenience stores and supermarkets.

Almost 12,000 steps, 38 free samples, 44 brilliant conversations and 2 panel sessions later… and we felt like we had conquered the beast that is Food & Drink Expo, Farm Shop and Deli, and The Convenience Show.

We’ve put together a snackable round-up of the insights and trends we spotted and included a few important snippets from the industry this month.

Photo of food from Food & Drink Expo.

Inside Food & Drink Expo

From the umami crunch of seaweed crisps to sampling the latest cucumber and mint offering from that CBD drink that everyone seems to be talking about, Food & Drink Expo was a feast for the senses and did not disappoint. 

We snacked on seaweed, washed it down with cactus water and CBD drinks, and wanted to bathe in the liquid gold of cold-pressed rapeseed oil – a product that seemed to be in abundance. Here are our top three product trends:

1. Snacks featuring seaweed

Clearspring’s organic, gluten-free, high in fibre Seaveg Crispies  are a toasted Nori snack from Korea, which are ticking all the health and nutrition boxes. AND they taste good too. These moreish umami, sea flavoured seaweed thins could be our new ‘good for you’ tasty treat in the office so we bagged a few samples from the Clearspring team so we could do a team tasting.  While we loved the taste and crispy texture, they were slightly sticky on the lips so maybe one to avoid on a first date!

Next, from the shores of Korea to Scotland, we spotted more seaweed in Stag’s Great Taste accredited crackers and shortbreads. These guys just need to team up with NotPla to package their seaweed snacks in edible seaweed outers. It certainly feels as though seaweed is a sustainable superfood ingredient that’s here to stay.  

2. Functional Drinks

We loved meeting the Spanish team from Pure Kaktai, who are winning with today’s consumer when it comes to their clean label ingredients and refreshing, simple flavours. We particularly rated their ginger variety, but if you like it hot – then their Jalapeno flavour packs a punch.

Trip, named the fastest growing brand in the Alantra Fast 50 Report continue to tantalise our tastebuds with their latest cucumber and mint CBD take on a virgin mojito. We LOVED this – it’s our new favourite for an alcohol-free mid-week me-time. 

GoodRays are also doing a top job in this space, and we particularly enjoyed their Blood Orange and Grapefruit flavour. Safe to say, we’re putting CBD drinks top of our home bar menu.

3. Best of British cold-pressed rapeseed oils

We were drawn to the liquid gold glow of Farrington Oils Mellow Yellow cold-pressed rapeseed oil. The subtle nutty, buttery flavour was great too and we loved their range of dressings – we tasted the Balsamic and the Honey & Mustard.

We also loved learning more about the health benefits – cold-pressed rapeseed oil has around half the saturated fat of olive oil, it’s a rich source of anti-oxidant Vitamin E, has a healthy balance of Omega 3, 6, and 9 Oils and has a high smoke point so it’s brilliant for roasting and cooking in general. Best of all it’s grown in abundance in the UK so it’s super sustainable with its low food miles.

Top free samples included Albert Bartlett’s super crunchy chips with the perfect soft fluffy inside; Forest Feast’s divine cherries dipped in dark chocolate; and Rare & Pasture’s meaty pork frankfurters. 

Stand-out branding:  Shortbread House was showcasing high-end colourful and vibrant packaging for gifting; Godminster Cheese is a brilliant example of a regional artisan producer telling local stories and playing on their provenance in their brand design. Go check them out.

Farm shop & Deli panel at Food & Drink Expo.

Sustainability Matters Panel Discussion 

An insightful and thoughtful discussion from panellists Matt Whelan, Field Fare MD; Julia Kirby Smith, Better Food Traders CEO; Paul Hargreaves from Cotswold Fayre & Flourish MD; Leona McDonald from Golden Hooves, was chaired by the brilliant Nigel Barden.

Here are our top takeaways:

Julia stated that four out of five consumers consider sustainability when making their food choices. But it is often a co-benefit to things like taste and provenance. Taste is always going to come first otherwise why would you come back and buy again?

From a retailer perspective, Paul talked about how B Corps is now a helpful marker for food brands going the extra mile. Investment in sustainability is now seen as an important investment to increase revenue and is no longer a cost burden.

Julia and Leona made some brilliant points about messaging segmentation and knowing your customer. By knowing what is important to your customer, this then enables you to pick your messaging e.g. organic over regenerative or removing plastic packaging. 

The panel agreed that there is still some education to be done around organic – consumers don’t fully understand what goes into an organic product – to many it’s just a signpost that something is more expensive.

Paul felt that the top three considerations for brands looking to be stocked by retailers should be: great taste; packaging; and sustainability.

Matt pointed out that having a frozen food offer has the double benefit of both no food waste with extended shelf life and also of nutrition being locked in. He also championed portion sizes and having the correct offer for 2-person families to avoid food waste.

In Other News

Photo of Trip Drinks cans.

What a Trip. The UK’s best-selling CBD drinks.

The Fast and Furious of the Food World

Alantra’s Fast 50 brands report was released last month, and CBD drinks brand Trip are leading the way topping the chart as the fastest-growing food brand. Check out Ed Devlin’s analysis in The Grocer. 

Yuka app logo.

Yuka. Making the right choices for your health.

Yuka App to shake up food industry? 

While the move against Ultra Processed Foods continues to grow, could the new Yuka App be the thing that will force the food industry giants to wake up?

If you haven’t heard about it yet, check out this article from Food Dive and get the lowdown on Yuka, the tech tool that gives consumer’s ingredient transparency on food and beauty products and rates all of the products in your kitchen cupboards. 


Subscribe to our Newsletter

Get bite-sized news updates from the food, drink, travel and hospitality industries.

Newsletter Signup Form