lunch! – one of the UK exhibition industry’s most innovative trade shows – confirmed its position as the leading event for the out-of-home food and drink market last month following a successful 5th anniversary edition. Aimed at professional buyers looking to see the latest launches from the food-to-go sector’s most cutting-edge food, drink, packaging, equipment and technology suppliers, lunch! featured 236 exhibitors and attracted 4,314 total attendees at its new venue of the Business Design Centre in Islington, London.

This year’s show, which took place on 20-21 September, has been hailed a huge success, with 94% of visitors rating the show as Excellent/Good. Visitor numbers aside, which were slightly up on last year’s 4,310 (which was up 41% from 3115 in 2010), it was the much commented upon quality of the attendees that – once again – impressed countless exhibitors. Renowned for attracting top buyers from across the food-to-go retailing and contract catering industry, the 2012 show’s aisles were packed with a “who’s who” of the sector – with 27% of buyers in attendance reporting a spending power of over £1million (15% of which reported over £5million). As a result, 90% of exhibitors have rated their quality of sales leads as Excellent/Good. Whilst the waiting list for non-exhibitors looking to participate in lunch! 2013 – when the show returns to Business Design Centre, on 26-27 September – already stands at over 130 companies.

Chris Brazier, event manager of lunch!, is delighted with the results: “We have just had our best lunch! ever.  The overwhelming feedback we’ve received so far from many of our exhibitors and an amazing 98% of visitors is that they loved the look and location of lunch!’s new venue and they enjoyed a very productive show. The aisles were packed with a who’s who of the food industry doing genuine business with delighted exhibitors, who were showcasing the best in quality and innovation that this industry has to offer.”

Renowned for its exceptional show content, it wasn’t just the show floor that was buzzing at lunch!. The show’s highly anticipated Keynotes were all well attended, with many – including sessions hosted by Pret A manger’s Director of Food Caroline Cromer and British Street Food Award founder Richard Johnson – enjoying standing room only crowds.

Also popular were lunch!’s two highly-anticipated market trend seminars. The first, hosted by Emma Read, director of marketing and business development with foodservice analyst Horizons, predicted that the UK lunch market, already “worth £14.9bn”, was set to expand over the next 12 months to occupy a growing share of overall foodservice sales.

Competition also remained at the fore of this year’s lunch! Innovation Challenge Live!. Designed to promote and celebrate genuinely new ideas in the market place, including brand innovations and new twists on established concepts, the Innovation Challenge attracted over 50 entrants this year. The 17 short-listed finalists were invited to pitch their innovative ideas to a panel of industry judges (which included Jodi Steer – food technologist for food-to-go, Marks and Spencer; John Harrison – chairman of The Good Eating Company; and Simon Ambrose – editor of Sandwich & Snack News).

This year’s lunch! Innovation Challenge Gold award winners included Eltoni Pasta’s quick-serve pasta concept called Good Pots, which uses a new patented system to take pasta from frozen to hot and perfectly al-dente in only 10 seconds; enabling retailers to produce up to 200 high-quality meals an hour.

Delice de France was another worthy Innovation Challenge winner, with its new Chocolation White Croissant. A straight butter croissant with delicious white chocolate inside, it is the industry’s first-ever white chocolate croissant.

Dawson Foodservice Equipment also picked up a gold award for innovation for the second year running for its new Lainox Heart Green Eco Combination Oven. Features include EcoSpeed and EcoVapour (enabling increased efficiency through a reduction in water and energy consumption) and Green Fine Tuning (GFT) – a new modulating burner system and (patented) high efficiency heat exchanger, which ensures power wastage and emissions are considerably reduced.

Fatima Fazal, creator and founder of American company IHEART THIS, was also celebrating winning Gold for her unique ‘Heart Part’ – a small, brandable heart-shaped cutlery kit that snaps open into two forks, two knifes, and two scoops. The 100% biodegradable product, which was devised to provide a considerate alternative to the 100 billion plastic utensils users threw into landfills last year, uses 66% less plastic than regular cutlery kits. With all three utensils on each side of the Heart Part, it is also ideal for eating with one hand on the go.

First time exhibitor Grasshopper also won Gold for their unique Hopper Pot – a new pop-up plastic pot that is fully compressible and biodegradable, which springs to life once the lid is removed (available in early 2013).

“Winning a Gold Award for Innovation is really special for Grasshopper, and shows that even a small company can come up with great ideas that consumers and the trade understand, respect and desire. The response has been tremendous so far,” says Grasshopper’s managing director Helen Cooper.

It wasn’t just the lunch! Innovation Challenge award winners that were celebrating after the show however, with 91% of 2012 exhibitors rating their potential for sales from the show as excellent/good in the post-event survey.

Visitor feedback had been equally enthusiastic – a testament to how well respected and essential the lunch! show has become to the industry it serves. Summing up her lunch! experience, regular attendee Yseult Caroff-Richeux, buying manager – food to go for leading UK supermarket Waitrose, concludes: “Great for trends, product and packaging innovations. lunch! is the one show not to miss for anyone involved in the lunchtime trade.”

lunch! returns to Business Design Centre in Islington, London, next year on 26-27 September 2013.

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