Largest UK food-to-go trade event celebrates record-breaking attendance

Nearly 7,000 attendees – including all the UK’s major coffee shop and food-to-go operators and retailers – were out in force at lunch! last week (20-21 September).

The UK’s biggest food-to-go showcase of the year – and an essential diary date for the sector it serves – lunch! enjoyed another successive record turnout, with total attendance up 9% on 2017’s figures and a significant 16% up since it moved to London ExCeL.

As in previous years, queues of enthusiastic visitors marked the start of the show. While the packed aisles, vibrant and buzzing atmosphere, topical and engaging (and standing-room only) Keynotes, 1000s of world-class innovations, and exceptional quality of buyers in attendance, prompted many to call lunch! 2018 the ‘best yet’.

Tesco, McDonald’s, Subway, Sainsbury’s, Greggs, M&S Food, KFC, Boots, Costa and Waitrose – the top ten food-to-go brands in the UK (according to MCA) were there doing business.

As were key decision makers from firms including Aramark, Bartlett Mitchell, BaxterStorey, Bidfood, Booker Retail, Bourne Leisure Group, BP, Budgens, Caffè Nero, Center Parcs, Chartwells, CH&Co Group, Compass, Co-op, Dobbie Garden Centres, EAT, Elior UK, Eurostar, Fortnum & Mason, GAIL's Bakery, Gather & Gather, Harris + Hoole, ISS Facility Services, itsu, LEON, Krispy Kreme, McColl’s, Merlin Entertainments, Morrison’s, Nisa, Ocado, Picturehouse Cinemas, POD, Pret A Manger, Rail Gourmet, Roadchef, Sainsbury's, Selfridges, Serco, Shell, Sodexo, SPAR, SSP, Starbucks, Tortilla, Virgin Atlantic, Whole Foods Market, WH Smith, Wild Bean Café, Wyevale Garden Centres, and more.

The visitor list also included over 1,820 independent cafés, coffee shops, sandwich shops, tea rooms, bakeries and delis, plus hundreds of contract and travel caterers, distributors, wholesalers, venues, attractions, and universities.

“It’s great to meet with new and old suppliers at lunch!. I visit every year and always get to see new and different innovations – it has a brilliant vibe at ExCeL too!” stated Cathy Port, head of category – sweet & impulse at Costa Coffee.

“lunch! 2018 exceeded all expectations! It’s such an important industry event that combines new trends with great suppliers. It's one you definitely need to attend!” said Shereen Ritchie, operations director at LEON.

“lunch! 2018 is the best trade show I’ve been to in years! It has a brilliant atmosphere and it’s amazing to see all of the new trends,” said Philip Brown, founder of Philpotts.

“Another brilliant year at lunch! – it’s an absolute must attend for anyone in the industry,” commented Aggie Morrell, head of food at Pod.

Food-to-go just got bigger
lunch! 2018 was a record-breaker in every respect. From its record headline attendance figures of 6,882, to a record number of exhibitors rebooking onsite, to the record amount of stand space already reserved for 2019.

“lunch! 2018 was simply our best yet. We really couldn’t be happier,” exclaimed Chris Brazier, lunch!’s group event director. “There was a fantastic buzz across the show floor from the moment doors opened, and it was a very busy, valuable and productive two days for everyone involved.

“lunch! is the only UK event that annually attracts so many leading innovators, influencers, trailblazers and decision makers from across the food-to-go sector together in one place at one time. And it just keeps getting bigger and better every year.

“We’d like to say a big thank you to all our exhibitors, visitors, speakers, associations, media partners and supporters. We look forward to seeing you all next year.'

Summing up their exhibitor experience, Amanda Grove, marketing manager at Magrini, noted, “Having exhibited at lunch! for many years across different venues, we can honestly say that this year’s show was the best yet. The quality of visitors was extremely high and we met a large number of senior buyers. Re-booking was an easy decision and we already have some exciting plans for lunch! 2019.”

Hundreds of this year’s exhibitors will be back at the show when it returns to ExCeL on 19-20 September 2019. Many have already opted for bigger stands to maximise their brand presence – among them are Bounce Foods, Primal Food, Propercorn, Radnor Hills Mineral Water Company, Kestrel Foods, Danora, KFF, Dalston’s, Volys Star, and Cakesmiths.

Plus, given the waiting list of new exhibitors ready to book their stands, lunch! 2019 is already on track to sell out months in advance.

“lunch! 2018 was the best show I’ve done for ten years! Everybody came to our stand,” said David McLagen, founder of Ecoffee Cup.

“There was a great breadth of attendees at lunch! 2018 – from leisure centres, cafes, educational establishments, airlines and more. lunch! is the show for food-to-go,” commented Lee Cannon, category development manager at Lucozade Ribena Suntory.

“Hands down lunch! 2018 is the best trade show we’ve ever done,” added Will Cabedo from BRAVE Foods.

Keynote highlights
Alongside the show’s bustling exhibition, the two Keynote theatres were a hive of activity throughout. Highlights included standing-room only Keynotes, interviews and panel debates featuring chief executives and senior managers from itsu, Caffè Nero, Costa Coffee, Pret A Manger, Greggs, KFC, LEON, EAT, Pod, Tossed, Tortilla, Taylor St Baristas, Krispy Kreme, GAIL’s Bakery, The Gentlemen Baristas, Daisy Green Collection, Boston Tea Party, and Small Batch Coffee Roasters.

“lunch! combines both the future, and the practicalities of winning today, into one great tasty mouthful. The show’s total focus on food-to-go reinforces its place as the place to go for our sector,” said speaker John Upton, chairman of The Naked Deli and Mother Clucker (and former MD of LEON).

Fun, inspiring, informative, innovative, invaluable, exciting, busy, diverse, fantastic, and unmissable are just some of the words this year’s speakers have used to describe the show. For 2019, visitors will have even more expert content to choose from with the addition of a third theatre; designed exclusively to host Keynotes from leading coffee shop operators.

Innovation Challenge Awards – results
New innovations by Flower & White, generationJuice, KALEIDO, Pocket Enterprises and Sandows were awarded Gold in the show’s prestigious Innovation Challenge Awards, which attracted 99 product entries this year.

The live final at the show saw 14 exhibitors (chosen by popular visitor vote on opening day) pitch their innovations to an expert panel of judges, including top food-to-go buyers from Caffè Nero, KFC UK&I, Pret A Manger, EAT, Krispy Krème, Pod, Tortilla, Pure, The Gentlemen Baristas, Crussh, Small Batch Coffee Roasters and En Route International.

The results were announced before show close.

Flower & White’s Raspberry Meringue Bar, the T300 juice dispenser from generationJuice, KALEIDO’s Kaleidoscope Salad Rolls, Pocket Enterprises’s pokito pop up cup, and Sandows’ Citrus Cold Brew Soda were the winners of Gold awards.

ButterflyCup by ButterflyCup, Magrini’s Life Coffee Machine and Olly’s Olives Lemon & Thyme variant took home Silver.

While Bronze awards went to Born Tasty (Snackamolé™ Avocado Dip), Burts Potato Chips (Burts Jim Beam Original BBQ Chips), Deli Lites Gourmet Sandwiches (DELI LITES Asian Bespoke Bowl), The One Brand (One Less Bottle), Point Blank Cold Brew (Point Blank Cold Brew), and Simplee Aloe (Aloe Vera Water With Pulp).

“lunch! has served up another hugely successful show, showcasing innovation and bringing together the best in industry to create a not-to-be missed date in any buyer’s calendar,” said Martin Hambleton, head of procurement at En Route International and a founding Innovation Challenge Awards judge.