From 19 to 23 November, the 29th Horeca Expo in Ghent (Belgium) was the place to be for foodservice professionals. It might not be the biggest trade fair in Europe, but it’s certainly representative of the developments in the foodservice sector. After all, Belgium is at the heart of Europe – even when it comes to all things culinary. A mix of innovation, inspiration, knowledge and culinary discoveries attracted more than 650 exhibitors and 50,000 visitors. Guest blogger Marc Waelbers (Foodservice Community) tells us about some of the key trends.

Every year, Horeca Expo is a barometer for what’s going on in foodservice and catering. For professionals from all foodservice segments, it’s a great chance to learn something new, meet colleagues and catch up on the latest trends. In addition to a wide range of products and services for all aspects of the hospitality industry, the five-day event also offers an ambitious programme of activities. For example, the Michelin stars for Belgium and Luxembourg are announced at each edition. Culinary competitions, workshops and trend talks are interspersed with demonstrations and seminars. Start-ups even have their own dedicated area. Innovations receive awards. And a couple of trends really caught the eye.

‘Combining passion for food and drink with a good business policy is the main theme this year.’

Knowledge is hot

Appearance and experience are important ingredients for success in the foodservice industry.

Entrepreneurs spend a lot of time thinking about how to bring their offering to the market. They no longer present products but concepts, often accompanied by services.

Sharing knowledge is hot in the foodservice sector. Two examples of this during the trade fair were the Coffee & Tea Academy and the Gelato University. Trend talks and practical information and tasting sessions organised by The Foodservice Community gave participants a good idea of what’s currently going on in the world of foodservice.

Ecology & health

Innovations that focus on ecology or health to drive sales are a step ahead of the game. A good example of this trend is Salt of Hearts, which won an Innovation Award. Mill & Mortar got together with Danish chef Rasmus Bredal to enhance other basic flavours, meaning less salt is required. And the result? A natural flavour enhancer with only 15% salt. Ecology is the driving force behind Conserv 75S, which also won an Innovation Award. Reverse osmosis helps professionals recover half of the water used.

Focus on convenience

Another thing that stood out was that the foodservice and catering sector is quickly embracing convenience solutions. And we don’t have to look very far to find out why. Increasing staff costs, a lack of trained personnel and certain government measures have an impact on the results. Consequently, there is an ever-increasing market for products which make work easier, such as ready-to-use, high-quality meal components. For many years, Debic has been responding to this need by introducing products such as the basic desserts.

Focus: creativity on the plate

The next trend is directly related to the convenience trend. The role of the chef is changing. His job is mainly to bring together top-quality ingredients to create something unique. His attention in the kitchen is shifting from ‘mise en place’ (suppliers and brands are now partly responsible for this) to creativity on the plate. The result is that tasks are better organised and the returns are higher.

Digitisation at top speed

One of the things that really caught the visitors’ attention was the amount of digital and internet-based solutions. The foodservice sector is clearly on the brink of top-speed digitisation. An example? Online solutions for HR management are catching on. Digital ordering platforms and POS systems make it possible to make quick decisions based on key figures: sales, profit margins, etc.

Social media is also playing an increasingly important role when it comes to managing foodservice businesses. For example, take the tool ‘Are They Happy’. You can use this to monitor customer satisfaction on all social networks and review websites. This way, you know straight away what your customers think about your business. And if you let your customers order via Facebook Messenger, you can try the Ask Emma app. Just to name a few!

Business evolution

Digitisation is also having a very real impact on the commercial side of things. Producers are increasingly connecting with their users through online communication channels. Inspiration and information aren’t the only things to find their way to the foodservice industry via the web. Orders do, too. And that increases the pressure on wholesalers. This is just one of the many challenges facing the sector at the moment. It definitely produced an exciting debate during the Horeca Expo conference.

Home delivery

Home delivery is now completely normal. Today, we are seeing new players in the market who are using an out-of-the-box approach for the process of ordering and delivering food to the customer. Deliveroo is now a well-known name. But have you heard of UberEats?

The foodservice world is changing, that much is true. Convenience, knowledge sharing, inspiration and increasing digitisation are resulting in an ever-better combination of business & passion. And that’s what it’s all about, right?

An optimal combination of business and passion: Debic is playing its part. With high-quality dairy components that help all chefs and bakers give their all. With inspiring recipes and expert knowledge. And with an online platform for professionals who push their boundaries every single day. Unlike temporary trade fairs, professionals can access this platform 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Welcome to!


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