The HRC Show (a.k.a Hotel, Restaurant & Catering) is a hospitality show of colossal proportions: this year, there were over 100+ talks by industry professionals and 1.5K+ suppliers promoting their latest food innovations. As contract caterers, we thought we could learn a thing or two – so we decided to pop along and check it out. Here are some of our highlights:
Regretfully, we did not have the chance to sample every single food freebie. However, from the ones we did get to try, there were three that we found particularly striking:
– Howdah Snacks
With such a charming and distinctive product brand, it was impossible to walk by Howdah’s stall without taking a closer look. Laid out was their range of five snack products, our favourites were the tandoori chilli flavoured ancient grain crisps and the bakarwadi (a sweet and spicy disc-shaped snack that’s deep-fried). A fabulous detail about Howdah’s snacks is that for every pack bought, a free school meal is provided to a child in India.
– BettaF!sh TU-NA
Plant-based ‘meats’ are a hot topic within the Fooditude team. That’s why we were curious to come across BettaF!sh from Berlin, who offered us a sample of their vegan tuna. We were a little hesitant at first, but guess what? It tasted pretty darn good. Made from seaweed, you could pick up a natural taste of the sea within the flavour.
– The ‘Cheebab’
One stall was showcasing food innovations from Switzerland. We couldn’t help but notice a block of cheese on a vertical rotisserie, doner kebab style. The ‘cheebab’ uses a specifically developed cheese that doesn’t melt, but crisps up instead. We loved this food innovation for providing a delicious veggie alternative to kebab meat.
Thoughts of the day
Admittedly we only heard a fraction of the talks that were happening across six stages throughout the day. Undoubtedly, we must have missed some stellar ideas from top experts. But from what we got a chance to hear, these are our main take-aways:
– ‘Become a Social Media Pro’ by Alison Battisby, Founder of Avocado Social
Food and social media content go together like bread and butter. People want to see foodie content, but knowing how to properly engage with followers can be a challenge. We loved the tips Alison shared, emphasising the need for authenticity in what you post and how you engage. During the talk, she pointed out how ‘behind the scenes’ content from inside your company can inspire loyalty from your followers. For example, Bubble Citea handed the reins of their social media accounts to their employees at their Birmingham outlet and achieved 19.4K followers on Tiktok.
– Mastering low and no alcohol in the retail space
Low and no alcohol is a lively area of innovation and we couldn’t help but pop-by the ‘IFE – Future Food Stage’ to hear Laura Willoughby MBE, co-founder of Club Soda host a conversation with Josh Kelly, Shop Manager at Alcohol Free Off Licence and Rachel Hewlet from Shelf Now. It was an eye-opener to learn how alcohol free brands provide people within religious groups new avenues to enjoy their drinks. Josh Kelly explained how alcohol free drinks done well didn’t imitate, but echoed the flavours of their boozy equivalents. For example, a good whisky alternative might provide a strong ‘kick’ and a smoky aftertaste that’s pleasing to the drinker, without trying to be an exact imitation of a whiskey.
– Where next for sustainable packaging?
When not serving buffets, we offer individually packaged meals to clients. So when we saw that David Harding Brown from The Packaging Collective was hosting a conversion about the future of packaging with a panel of industry experts, we just had to attend. We loved hearing from Hugh Lewis from Gousto talking about his company’s stock cube wrapper, which was designed in collaboration with Cambridge University to be edible. We were made all the wiser when the entire panel encouraged caution with new sustainability packaging products that verge on ‘greenwashing’, such as cardboard bottles with hidden plastic linings. Yikes!
It’s a wrap
Taking a day out to be immersed in the world’s latest innovations is always a winning idea. The HRC Show in 2022 was a real eye-opener as to how vast and diverse the hotel, restaurant & catering industry is. After the last few rocky years for our industry, it was a real joy to see that despite the tough ride, the industry continues to innovate, improve and become more sustainable. See you all there in 2023!