Lindsey Coleman, event director for Reed Exhibitions’ Imbibe Live, on celebrating the show’s 10th birthday.
Tell us a bit about the history of Imbibe Live
Launched in 2010 by the team behind Imbibe magazine, Imbibe Live is the annual exhibition for anyone who sources, buys or serves drinks in the licensed on-trade. The show attracts thousands of visitors, from sommeliers, buyers and managers to publicans and bartenders as they come together to discuss and shape the future of the UK’s hospitality sector. In 2016 the publication and exhibition were acquired by Reed Exhibitions.
Tell us about the launch of The Snack Show
We decided to launch the Snack Show as a new dedicated event for the snacking industry, co-located this year with Imbibe Live. Complementing the on-trade drinks environment extremely well, the show invited consumer-focused buyers from pubs, restaurants, bars and hotels to retailers, gyms and spas to discover brands that could help shape their offering.
With the snacking category currently valued at £18bn and growing, there was no better place to find the latest product development and to meet evolving consumer preferences. Changing consumer palates and snacking habits were in the spotlight, including the growing demand for specialist offerings such as gluten-free, vegan, sustainable and healthy snacks, helping to fuel the sector’s success.
How did you celebrate Imbibe’s 10th birthday?
Imbibe Live introduced a number of new feature areas for its 10th anniversary show, including Chef’s Table, a brand-new theatre focusing on the art of food and drinks pairing. The new theatre hosted a series of masterclasses where industry professionals revealed the most suitable pairings to elevate the consumer experience. A highlight from the theatre this year was the packed-out Vegan Food & Wine Pairing Masterclass, delivered by guest speaker David Havlik, Head Sommelier at the highly acclaimed Gauthier Soho who highlighted the importance of catering to a growing demographic of vegan consumers.
2019 also saw the introduction of the new Industry Matters stage, a theatre that addressed the most pertinent issues faced by the industry when dealing with recruitment, retention and staff development. This year’s line-up saw Miguel Lopez, the founder of Lab for Fitness, give attending bartenders and sommeliers insights on how to improve personal well-being by making simple diet and lifestyle adjustments. Jeremy Scorer from Hospitality Industry Training also put the spotlight on the skills shortage in the sector and revealed the secrets to attracting more skilled professionals.
For the first time in the event’s 10-year history, we also partnered with DrinkUp.London, the industry insiders’ guide to drinking in London, to offer attendees a whole host of after parties across London to toast the 10th anniversary including cider tours, bar takeovers and special guests.
Further to this, we also focused on being more sustainable as an event and asked all exhibitors to bring alternative options to plastic sampling cups. In the feature areas, plastic was removed, and bio-degradable cups and plates were used. The hospitality industry is incredibly committed and forward-thinking when it comes to reducing waste and we wanted to echo our industry’s efforts and held masterclasses to share knowledge and further ways to do this.
What content was available on the show floor?
Imbibe Live showcased the very best producers from around the world. From Japanese sake to Somerset cider, no stone was left unturned with our anniversary line-up of over 300 exhibitors. The show floor was packed with producers spanning across the wine, spirits, beer, cider, soft drinks and snacks categories.
A highlight from the beer category was Small Beer Brewing Co.’s Original Small Beer Lager, a refreshing 2.1 per cent lager with masses of flavour. Lyre’s Non-Alcoholic Spirits also caused a stir within the spirits category with its non-alcoholic homages to the greatest tipples of all time, including Absinthe, Dry London Spirit and American Malt & Coffee Liqueur. Berkshire-based start-up, Saicho, had a successful show at the wine bar with its range of sparkling cold brewed teas, including its Darjeeling sparkling cold brewed tea – a non-alcoholic wine substitute with notes of muscatel, nectarine and wood spice that pairs brilliantly with grilled meats.
With flavoured carbonates experiencing a growth of 5.6 per cent during the last 12-month period, mixers are high on the agenda for hospitality professionals looking for the best complementary sidekick. Fentiman’s had a successful show, providing visitors with a chance to try its latest and most popular mixers including Pink Grapefruit Tonic Water, Rose Lemonade and Ginger Beer & Muddled Lime.
Are there any particular challenges associated with running the event?
Imbibe Live is a business event so the audience is there to discover products to support them with sales in their establishment and to learn from our business-focused masterclasses. We introduced a £10 ticket fee in 2018 to reinforce that message and all exhibitors have free ticket codes to share with clients or their on-trade database.
There are certain restrictions placed on exhibitors throughout the event so only sample sizes are served, and we have a large Water Bar in the middle of the event where all exhibitors and visitors can access free water throughout the day. You’ll also find spittoons across the show in aisles, so attendees often use these.
It’s really important for us that our exhibitors get as much out of the show as possible, that’s why we encourage as many wine, beer, cider and spirits buyers as possible to come and explore the latest trends, product releases and new producers on show. It’s also key that we take into account proprietors, restaurant managers, bartenders, and sommeliers who are absolutely vital for our exhibitors to engage with.
What will the next 10 years hold?
The on-trade environment is a constantly shifting space, which is what makes it such an exciting place to be! Three categories which we highlighted as future hotspots from our successful 2019 show were the growth of no and low alcohol products, the continued strength of premium products and the abundance of high-quality mixers.
It’s hard to say what the next 10 years will hold for the industry but what we are sure of, is that Imbibe Live will be there to showcase the very best producers and give expert insight to those that work in our creative and forward-thinking industry.