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lunch! reports ExCeL-lent turnout for 2017

10 October 2017

UK’s biggest food-to-go trade show welcomes 6,304 attendees to its new ExCeL London venue.

lunch! celebrated its tenth anniversary in style last week – with its biggest ever edition enjoying a record turnout for another successive year.  Over 6,300 food-to-go operators, retailers and caterers packed the aisles at ExCeL London, over 21-22 September, to see and sample the next-wave of NPD from 335 leading exhibitors.

The 7% increase in total attendance included a significant 17% rise in the number of big spenders (buyers with over £5m of purchasing power) at the show.

Among them were key decision makers from well-known brands including Aramark, BaxterStorey, Bidfood, Booker, BP, Brakes, Caffѐ Nero, Center Parcs, Coffee Republic, Compass Group, Co-op, Costa, EasyJet, EAT., Elior, Gate Gourmet, Greggs, Harrods, Holland & Barrett, itsu, LEON, Lidl, M&S, McDonald's, Merlin Entertainments, Morrisons, National Trust, Nisa, Ocado, P&O Ferries, Pod, Pret, Sainsbury's, Sodexo, SPAR, SSP, Starbucks, Subway, Tesco, Virgin Trains, Waitrose, and WHSmith.

The visitor list also included over 1,800 independent cafés, coffee houses, sandwich shops, bakeries and delis, who travelled from across the UK and Ireland for their ‘best lunch! yet’.

The industry’s favourite show
It’s a testament to lunch!’s continuing success, that it’s known throughout the food-to-go sector as the ‘go to’ show for discovering innovative new ideas and concepts that you won’t see anywhere else.  It’s a strong USP backed by a bank of glowing testimonials, which get better with each passing year.

“lunch! certainly celebrated its 10th birthday in style, it was the biggest and best yet!  So many amazing exhibitors, exciting product innovations and passionate people, it’s definitely a must in the diary,” says independent consultant Hannah Hughes, who has worked with Harris + Hoole and SSP.

“lunch! 2017 was the best yet.  It’s a really valuable opportunity for our buying, technical and development teams to catch up with existing suppliers but also to check out up and coming brands and products,” says Victoria Green, buying manager at Waitrose.

“lunch! is a key date in the diary for the food-to-go and the coffee shop sector.  It is great to see so much innovation from such passionate people under one roof and to celebrate the industry we work in,” says Hannah McKay, head of food & beverage at Caffè Nero.

"This was my first trip to lunch! and it was brilliant.  It was really great to see so many young entrepreneurs driving their brands and businesses forward with true passion and energy for all things food.  It was a great opportunity to network with aspiring businesses, as well as well-developed brands.  I would highly recommend anyone within the food-to-go sector to visit lunch!" says Joe Langfield, category buying manager at EAT.

“After visiting lunch! for ten years, I still find it the most inspiring event in our industry.  It has become the must visit show for me every year,” says Adrian Liddiment, head of UK and international operations at Coffee Republic.

It is thanks to this ‘incredible’ industry support, says the organiser, that lunch! 2017 was a record-breaker in every respect.  From its record headline attendance figures, to a record number of exhibitors rebooking onsite, to the record amount of stand space already reserved for 2018.

“We’re delighted to have just had our biggest, busiest and best lunch! yet,” says group event director Chris Brazier.

“The comments we’ve received about the incredible atmosphere at our new venue have been overwhelmingly positive – there was such a fantastic ‘buzz’ across the show floor throughout the two days.  We’d like to say a big thank you to all the exhibitors, visitors and partners that supported us this year, and over the last ten years.  Here’s to an even bigger and better lunch! in 2018, and the next ten years!” he says.

“The new home of ExCeL is the perfect space for this on trend, innovative and brilliant event,” agrees Sandy Anderson, senior buyer at Elior.  “lunch! is deservedly successful and definitely not one to miss.”

A regular show visitor (since 2008), Anderson is one of many thousands of attendees already planning to make a date with lunch! 2018.  Many of this year’s lunch! exhibitors will also be back at the show in 2018, with a record 66% having already rebooked their stands.  They include UCC Coffee UK & Ireland, URBAN eat, Bord Bia, Magrini, Vantastic, Kavis, The Handmade Cake Company, Planday, The Collective, The Exploding Bakery, Hippeas, Jake and Nayns, Little Moons, Born Tasty, Mallow & Marsh, and Overhang Drinks.

“lunch! is by far the best exhibition that we have attended. The professionalism and organisation are unequaled on every level.  If we were only ever going to attend one show again, it would be lunch!” says Stephen Wilkinson, MD of Overhang Drinks.

Keynote highlights
Alongside the show’s bustling exhibition, the two Keynote Theatres were a hive of activity throughout.  Highlights included standing-room only sessions by leading industry operators – Rachel Chatterton (Starbucks), Josh Brown (Harris + Hoole), Neil Littler (Tim Hortons), Louise Pilkington (Compass Group), Will Cole (Pret A Manger), and Kirsty Saddler (LEON).

There were exclusive interview sessions featuring Roger Whiteside (Greggs), Andrew Walker (EAT.), Paul Ettinger (Caffè Nero), and celebrity chef Theo Randall.

Plus, Simon Stenning (MCA), Cyril Lavenant (The NPD Group), Jamie Campbell (CGA), Emma Read (Lucid Perspectives), and Gavin Rothwell (IGD) delivered essential food-to-go market updates and overviews of the latest trends to watch.

Innovation Challenge Awards - results
Designed to promote and celebrate new ideas in the market place, the prestigious Innovation Challenge Awards, attracted nearly 70 entries this year.  Fifteen finalists (chosen by popular visitor vote on opening day) took turns to impress the judges in the live pitching session on Friday 22 September.

Those judges included Paul Ettinger (Caffè Nero), Guy Meakin (Pret A Manger), Martin Hambleton (En Route International), Louise Direito (Krispy Crème), Angelina Harrisson (Tossed), Sandy Anderson (Elior), Neville Moon (The NPD Kitchen), freelance innovation and development specialist Hannah Hughes, independent NPD consultant Jane Treasure, chef and restaurant consultant Jay Morjaria, and Alan Tomlins (Small Batch Coffee Roasters); who commented that lunch! was “a unique chance to meet trendsetters and innovators in food-to-go”.

They selected four exhibiting companies for prestigious gold awards, six were awarded silver, and five took home the bronze.


  • The Collective: The Collective Pro-yo Berries
  • Jake and Nayns: Jake and Nayns Naanster
  • Little Moons Mochi: Black Espresso mochi ice-cream
  • Tuk Tuk Chai: Tuk Tuk Chai


  • Born Tasty: Snackamolé
  • Frill the Frozen Smoothie: Refreshing Green Frill
  • MiiRO: MiiRO
  • Mr Lee’s Noodles: Mr Lee’s Noodles
  • POPS: Premium Popsicles: PIMM’S POPS
  • Tri-Star Packaging: Gourmet 24.7™


  • Big Al’s Foodservice: The Prime Burger
  • Karma Cola UK: Sugar Free Karma Cola
  • The Little Treats Bakery: Little Chums Shortcake Biscuits
  • Nibble Protein Bites: Nibble Protein Bites: SOUR CHERRY with a hint of orange
  • Ugly Drinks: Ugly Triple Berry Flavoured Sparkling Water

Save the date for 2018
lunch! will return to ExCeL London on 20-21 September 2018.  For further information, please visit

Booking for new exhibitors opens at 10am on 17 October.  Please contact lunch! sales manager Chrissie Smedley on 01273 645137 or

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