One of the world's most important trade events, IFE 2007, kicks off on 18 March at ExCel inLondon. Showcasing the world's best food and drink, the four-day event boasts five new sections to reflect industry developments since the previous show two years ago, when more than 26,000 people from 98 countries visited. Already this year 1,359 exhibitors have signed up with more confirmations expected before the event begins.

From Health & Wellbeing to Food on the Move, the new areas are previewed in the panel right, while traditional key areas such as Frozen Food, Meat & Poultry, Cheese & Dairy, Bakery & Confectionery and Drinks will showcase all the latest ideas.

"IFE is the largest and most international food and drink event in the UK and as a venue for international b­usiness, London is the perfect location," says event director Paul MacDonald. "A number of high-profile ­partnerships, initiatives and visitor attractions will enhance our offering and reinforce IFE as one of the world's most important trade events."

Organisers have been helped in making this blockbuster event as impressive as possible by roping in the most expert advice.

The IFE team has since 2005 put together a dedicated advisory board, which consists of 17 key industry members advising on making the show as good as possible.

"Our new board includes ­hugely influential individuals representing all aspects of the industry," says MacDonald. "Their input has been invaluable in assisting us to develop and update our successful formula, ensuring the show maintains its relevance and reflects the needs of the industry."

In addition to the advisory board's strong line-up of key industry representatives, the chair of the Food Standards Agency, Dame Deirdre Hutton, will give a VIP address at 12pm on Tuesday 20 March. Her address is entitled Food and drink: global risks, responsibilities and regulation. Visitors will get a chance to question Hutton in the form of a Q&A.

"We are delighted to have such a high profile speaker at IFE07," says MacDonald.

Exhibitors at IFE will be separated into 15 colour-coded areas (see the floorplan on p52). The largest section is Walk the World, which reflects the importance of the event as a global showplace with products from 25 different countries, while IFE as a whole will feature 43 nations.

Britain is again providing a strong turnout in the Regional and Speciality Food From Britain area, with British National Groups sitting alongside.

A host of seminars - under the banner of future@IFE - will take place in association with Mintel and Leatherhead Food ­International. These will provide invaluable insights into the consumer and product trends influencing the worlds of retail and foodservice, and several will be repeated on each day of the show.

On the opening day, Sunday 18 March, the seminars start at 11am. First up is The Organic Debate, hosted by Clive Beddall OBE, former editor of The Grocer.

The programme then includes Fit for Kids - global trends in children's foods; Emerging Flavour Trends; Multi-Cultural Menus for Cost Sector Catering with Ethnic Focus Research & Intelligence; and Health, Wealth & Young People's Girth - opportunities & threats.

Monday includes Health & Wellbeing - free-from food; Consumer Taste Trends - sensory, research analysis & implications for retailers; Eat Smarter - foods for enhanced mental function; and Consumer Trends Focus on Halal, again.

Events on the Tuesday include Consumer Trends Focus on Kosher, with Ethnic Focus Research & Intelligence, and also Functional Food Market - developments for retail lines & own-label product development.

The future of organic food is evidently high on the agenda at IFE, reflecting its continued importance to the grocery industry. The organisers have included a dedicated section of the show to organic and natural products, and the seminar timetable also has a strong focus on this subject.

On the final day of the show, the seminars include the Future For Organic and Natural Products with the Soil Association and Consumer Taste Trends.

Various hands-on events will run alongside future@IFE. These include the UK Barista Championships, where baristas will ­display their skill and expertise to compete for the top award of UK National Champion. The winner will be put forward to represent the UK at the World Championships in Japan. This year's UK final will be held at IFE on 18 March.

The IFE Drinks Academy will also be returning to the show this year, with a range of seminars including ones on cocktail-making, English wines and beers.

There is a raft of other exciting events being held during the course of the show.

One of the most inspiring is Dine@IFE, tastings in Greek cuisine run by the Hellenic Foreign Trade Board (HEPO) at the Greek pavilion in Walk the World. It would be advisable to book for this in advance at the IFE web site (

Chefs and deli owners can go to the Chef@IFE event, in association with The Craft Guild of Chefs, sponsored by Silver Hill Foods. ­Cooking demonstrations will include diverse themes such as: Fit For Kids, British Organic Menu Ideas, Eastern European Cuisine, ­International BBQ Secrets and The Art of Sugar.

And the focus won't just be on exotic cuisine. With Sandwich Innovation@IFE, there will be a series of demonstrations and seminars in association with The British Sandwich Association to provide convenience, snacking and food-on-the-move ideas.

Events ­dedicated to the sandwich include Healthy Sandwich Options and a presentation by Innocent Drinks on How Meal Deals Can Increase Your Profits. There will also be mayonnaise sandwich ideas at an event called Hellmann's Makes It; a presentation of sandwich recipe ideas using ­Cantadou and The Laughing Cow cheeses; and Adding Value to your Sandwich Range with Duck, hosted by Cherry Valley.

The highlight of the sandwich events will be the London heat in which sandwich designers compete for a place in the May finals for The British Sandwich Designer of the Year Award.

Visitors looking for innovative ideas should head over to the Fresh Ideas@IFE section at the Food from Britain stand. Products will be entered and judged, with true innovation being the main focus, by a panel of independent industry leaders. Only the most inventive and original make it through two intense rounds of strict judging. You can find Fresh Ideas in the General Food South area.

As well as all the activity at IFE event, it's worth remembering that alongside IFE there will also be a sister exhibition called Pro2Pac, which is a new processing and packaging exhibition. Located at ExCel, it is designed to showcase the latest ­packaging developments and innovations.

Organised by Fresh RM, the exhibition should ­offer ideas for equipment, technology and materials to help businesses grasp the potential opportunities in the food and drink marketplace.n