Food & Drink Expo 2006 has been heralded an early success by exhibitors and organisers with more than 5,000 people visiting the show on its first day.

The show, which kicked off yesterday at Birmingham's NEC, brought together the largest ever gathering of UK speciality and regional producers, with pavilions hosted by North West Fine Foods, Heart of England Fine Foods, South West Food & Drink, Yorkshire & Humber Regional Food Group and Wales the True Taste. International pavilions included new additions from Thailand, Japan and Southern United States.

New to this year's show was the Bar Talk area where leading experts served up top tips on the latest drink trends as well as demonstrating the latest cocktails doing the rounds.

At the neighbouring Convenience Retailing Show, James Lowman, public affairs manager at the Association of Convenience Stores, told visitors that the OFT's referral of the grocery market to the Competition Commission would not be a "magic bullet" for the sector.

He added that the industry needed to keep up political pressure for the duration of the investigation, which could last for up to two years.

The International Forecourt & Fuel Equipment show was held for the first time alongside Food & Drink Expo and CRS. More than 7,000 visitors attended the three shows.