IFE’s return after three years further kick-starts live event sector return

Despite notably reduced attendance figures for this year’s ISM and ProSweets, the global sector showcase appears to have heralded the way forward for other key trade shows in the coming months, which is an especially welcome development.

This month, it’s the turn of the International Food and Drink Event (IFE) in London, between 21-23 March at the Excel centre, which should offer some intriguing insights as to how industry is looking to press the reset button after being largely in hibernation over the past two years as far as live shows is concerned.

Among those making an appearance this year will be Whitakers Chocolates, Dina Foods, Keats Chocolatier and Fudge Kitchen amid the wider mix of industry businesses. Having last been staged in 2019 in a pre-pandemic period, the return of the event will be something of a celebratory occasion indeed.

As its organisers noted, for 40 years the event has been trusted by industry buyers to showcase the latest trends, innovations and new products in the sector, with an unrivalled seminar programme and over 1,500 suppliers on show.

While the chance to connect online has been particularly valuable during the pandemic, as it was with our own World Confectionery Conference that made it’s debut last year, getting back to real world trade shows is something that there’s no real substitute for, as many industry observers have asserted.

This is all the more the case for businesses operating in the food and drink sectors – you really do have to taste, smell and engage with these products directly to get a proper appreciation of them. Equally, it’s just as much about the people behind the brands that make you want to support them and get to know a little more about what they are about, which is much harder (though not impossible), just simply doing this online.

It’s worth noting that while the pandemic appears to be waning in many areas of Europe, that’s not necessarily the case in some areas around the world which have sadly had less access to vaccines, so the return to some kind of normality with upcoming events should rightly be treated with caution. We’re clearly heading in the right direction, but there’s still a long way to go on the journey.

Neill Barston, editor, Confectionery Production

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