EN takes a look back at summer shows Imbibe and Taste of London

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After waiting seven years for a decent summer, the UK was finally treated to a stretch of glorious weather. And what better way to enjoy the sunshine with some al fresco dining, glass in hand? With this task in mind, EN ventured to Regent’s Park in London on the longest day of the year for a show that has become a byword for luxurious outdoor dining.Food for thought Consumer show Taste of London held its tenth edition this year, and according to new owner IMG Arts & Entertainment, had its best ever visitor numbers, with more than 50,000 people attending. The sport, entertainment and media company bought the show and its associated global events from Brand Events at the turn of the year for a rumoured £5m. Highlights from the four-day outdoor foodie extravaganza in June included the return of Taste of London’s ‘Founding Fathers’, Michel Roux Jr, Gary Rhodes and Alfred Prasad. The three Michelin star chefs helped launch the first Taste of London festival back in 2004. As a guide to the luxury cuisine available, the winner of the Best in Taste Award 2013, was L’Autre Pied with a ceviche of hand-dived scallops with black quinoa, creme fraiche, radishes, fennel and dill. High-class nosh indeed. “We look to mix tradition with edgy upcoming chefs, restaurants and brands,” said Allison Yamoyany, finance director of Taste Festivals, for IMG Arts & Entertainment. In all, there were 200 exhibitors at the event but due to its sheer scope across 58,000sqm, there seemed to be a lot more. “London is the mothership of Taste festivals worldwide,” said Yamoyany. “It takes nearly 10 days to build Taste of London and then five days for show breakdown. Over 1,000 vehicles enter the site for the event, with over 200 on breakdown evening alone.” The show aims for an AB demographic, predominantly households with a high annual income. According to Yamoyany, the 30-35 age range enjoys the culinary treats the most. The show won the highly sought after ‘Best Consumer Show’ prize at the 2012 Exhibition News Awards. It was nominated for Best Consumer Show in this year’s awards.  The new Taste Festivals owner revealed its global ambitions to EN in March. In all, there are 18 shows worldwide, including Stockholm, Cape Town, Sydney and Moscow, but the company is looking to further target the Americas and Asia. The shows are unashamedly the high end of the consumer market, with champagne tents and premier brands taking centre stage in the event. But in a challenging outdoor venue, which this year didn’t fall foul of the British weather – though Wellington boots may have been more useful than smart shoes in certain stretches – the show is a class act and for a market with cities like New York in its sights, the show could easily digest a huge global audience. Plenty of fizz In July, EN ate a hearty breakfast before venturing to trade show Imbibe Live at Olympia. The show, organised by Imbibe Media, sister company to Square Meal Publications, targets drinks professionals from premium licensed establishments. It had 194 exhibitors, and reported a record attendance of more than 9,200 (ABC audit pending) at its fourth annual exhibition. Last year’s show had an ABC audited total attendance of 7,793. The show, held on 2-3 July, had a new Sommelier Hub, featuring VIP tastings and palate training from master sommeliers Ronan Sayburn and Gearoid Devaney. Other feature zones included the Training Zone, Wine World, Shake It! Water Bar, Centre Stage, Taste Zone and Liquid Profits, featuring 68 tastings, masterclasses and seminars. The choice on offer was eye-popping for the causal pub-goer. Whiskeys, flavoured vodkas, wines, spirits made from fortified beer, ciders and absinthe were just some of the drinking delights available. “The show is aimed at drinks professionals in premium establishments including wine, beer and spirits buyers, soft drinks buyers, owners, proprietors, general managers, landlords, restaurant managers, bar managers, bartenders, mixologists, wine waiters and sommeliers,” said Rachel Harty, head of marketing for the event. A major challenge was getting the right kind of visitor to the show. Naturally the show centres around free booze (EN did find an olive stand to line the stomach), but the organiser was keen to make sure it doesn’t get visitors simply out for a jolly. Though of course the temptation was there, with 85ml the maximum sample tipple size. “We are continually cleaning our database so we have the right kind of professionals visiting the show,” said Harty. “I personally went through the pre-registration list and had to tell people that they could not attend.” The show also made sure visitors were well hydrated, with 2,362 litres of water given away at the show’s Water Bar. Currently the show takes up most of the Grand Hall. Much of the show’s floorplan was a simple shell structure with a handful of feature stands. The vibe was electric – perhaps understandable given the products on offer – but the show certainly seemed to have room for growth from its rather cramped aisles, a point Harty readily acknowledges for the next edition. “A lot of the brands are small, almost one-man bands, so they can’t afford large spaces. But yes the aisles were packed and that’s something we can look at for next year.” So with EN now fully recovered from its gastronomic excesses from two shows at opposite sides of the exhibition spectrum it goes to show the old adage still rings true, there is still no such thing as a free lunch. This was first published in the August issue of EN. Any comments? Email exhibitionnews@mashmedia.net
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