In September, TUCO Category Manager Kim Ashley attended Lunch!, a unique trade show dedicated to the food-to-go sector. Here, she reports back from an eventful couple of days at ExCeL London...

Why did you attend?

The Lunch! Exhibition has gone from strength to strength over the years. I find it one of the best shows to find out about new product launches in the snacking and food to go market. This year’s show didn’t disappoint. Though I attend each year to keep abreast of Food to Go trends, I was there this year specifically to research new suppliers for the new retail tender which is due to be advertised to invite supplier bids soon.

What was the most exciting product you sampled/saw? Anything particularly suitable for the university sector?

keynoteI always enjoy looking at the innovation wall. Here all the new products are listed so that delegates can vote on their favourite new products.  All the products listed on the innovation wall are available to sample at the show.  One of the more intriguing items listed was a 'PIEwich', a product which (as you would have guessed) is a cross between an gourmet Pie and an artisan Sandwich.  You serve it hot as a pie and cold as a sandwich.  I had to try it and I wasn't disappointed!  In terms of the University sector, I’d say 70+% of the products at the show would have been suitable, as long as the price point is right.  Though with the wide range of outlets operated within the TUCO membership, there’s definitely products at the show to suit all requirements!  I saw an interesting Gelato concept, which would be good for events 'Joe Deluccis' Gelato; the product range included gelato and sorbets that are Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Fat Free and Suitable for Vegans and some great new savoury snacks including Popped Lotus Seeds, Activated Nuts and Seeds and plant based puffs offering not only a snack to meet many dietary requirements, but also a billion gut friendly cultures!

What trends did you pick up on?

The trends coming though were the balance of health and indulgence.  A wide variety of products that are low calorie and can meet the needs of a wide range of dietary requirements; gluten free, dairy free, vegan, vegetarian.  Not only that, but each of the products on show seemed to offer some kind of functionality; whether high in protein, high in fibre, or including a ‘super food’ or good bacteria meaning a potential consumer could choose a snack based on something their body required, food as medicine is some respects.  Some confectionery lines have also been given a wave of the ‘healthy’ wand, a good example being Miiro Chocolates offering a low sugar, gluten and dairy free alternative to crispy chocolate spheres and peanut treats. On the flip side, the more traditionally indulgent products were being sold with strong ethical messages; a great example of this is Tony’s Chocolonely whereby their mission (cleverly demonstrated though the shape of their chocolate bar) is to make a 100% slave free chocolate.  In addition to ingredients, the packaging of many products has been given a sustainable face lift; ensuring that the packaging can be re-used and recycled and from a sustainable source, or in some cases moving away from plastic altogether such as TUCO nominated sandwich suppliers The Soho Sandwich Co and Impress Sandwiches who were both exhibiting their new packs at the show.

Were vegan options very much in evidence?

Yes very much so, both in new product launches, traditional range extensions and clearly highlighted on pack on those products that have always been vegan but may not have shouted about it in the past.

gails bakery presentation

Did you go to any of the speaker sessions? Any inspiration?

Yes, I attended three of the sessions; The Future of Food to Go 2030, Food to Go: The Global Perspective and an Interview with Marta Pogroszewska, Managing Director of GAIL’s Bakery.  Yes, there were some common themes coming though the first two talks in particular; key drivers of change for the food to go market being working hours, commuting longer distances, an aged population and technology/automation.  Current and future trends being; breakfast, plant based and flexitarian.  Global trends that are being seen and adopted within the UK are; 1. the rise of the food hall where groups of diners can choose from a variety of specialisms to meet a variety of missions and needs, 2. Merging together of food halls and supermarkets, where traditional supplier markets now offer a dedicated ‘Food to Go’ section, 3. Health being a key driver meeting the consumer needs to address their individual requirements (as detailed earlier seeing food as medicine).

If you haven’t visited Lunch! before, I would recommend popping out for the day or even a couple of hours if you can afford the time – it’s always worthwhile.