Food Trends – Should Event Managers Care?

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Spring 2018

From ice cream tacos to Goth foods, it feels like a new food trend emerges every week, filling our Instagram feeds with the weird and wonderful (who knew avocados were so photogenic?). Food can be an integral part of our events, so should we care about all the latest food fads?

Food trends of the past

Marbled wedding cakes became a popular favourite in 2015, Prosecco made a splash on our events in 2016 and unicorn-inspired food turned our parties into pastel coloured dreams in 2017.

food picture

Source: Stejskal (2017), Max Pixel (2016)

According to Eventbrite, 84% of food festival attendees are likely to post pictures of food while at an event, meaning keeping up with the latest food trends may not only keep your audience happy, it’s also free advertising (yay!).

2018 – The year of the Vegan

120,000 people pledged to give up meat, fish, dairy, eggs and honey for 31 days as part of the ‘Veganuary’ phenomenon, making 2018 the year of the Vegan! According to the Vegan Society, Veganism is one of the UK’s fastest growing lifestyle choices with at least 542,000 people now following the plant-based diet.

graph about veganary

Schuler (2017)


This years trend is already taking the events industry by storm, most recently the BAFTA’s served their first ever vegan starter in 71 years, with no meat alternative. So should we be following in BAFTA’s footsteps?

The UK population are becoming more and more aware of what they are eating (£187million was spent on avocados in 2016!). Factors such as sustainability and clean living being some of the most talked about topics when it comes to veganism. Although the national average of those who follow a vegan lifestyle is below 1%, research by 30 Euston Square shows the number of vegans attending events is around 6.8%. Can we afford to miss them out and leave them hungry?

So what should we do?

Associating yourself with up and coming caterers that are leading the way with exciting food options can keep your events current. Nobody wants to be stuck with Bob’s Boring Burgers! Should food trends be top of your priority list? Supply and demand isn’t a myth, people want what’s relevant and if your event isn’t providing it, you could be left in the dust.

One event with food trends at the top of their priority list is Shambala festival. They have made the choice to go completely meat and fish free, embracing the trend for clean and sustainable living. They pride themselves on their history of pioneering new initiatives, giving the festival a unique edge. You may think this is a lot of effort, but by embracing food trends you can cover many bases. For example, vegan options can often cater for those with dairy and egg allergies, vegetarians, pescatarians and those with health, religious or cultural dietary requirements. Making food trends a statement rather than an afterthought may put your event on the map.

no bacon picture

Source: Shambala Festival. Photographer: Carolina Faruolo

But does it really matter?

With so many factors requiring our attention to make events happen, is there any point in putting time, money and effort into the latest craze when most don’t last? When was the last time you saw a bubble tea van at an event? Some things just don’t stick around. Finding creative caterers to provide the latest food trends at your event can be costly, multiple specialist ingredients, plus additional time and expertise, could make your budget that little bit tighter. Not to mention the extra hours involved in tracking them down and brainstorming new ideas.

Also, the UK festival industry creates 23,500 tonnes of waste a year and catering to the new vegan trend could add to this ever-increasing problem. Catering to multiple dietary requirements can create more food waste, adding to the already ridiculous 7.3 million tonnes of food we throw away every year.
So if following current food trends can cost more money, create more food waste and take up more of our time, should Event Managers really care? For example, vegans do only make up less than 1% of our population, so is there really a demand?

  • What impact do food trends have on your events?
  • Do you think this should be a priority?
  • What are your expectations of food when you’re attending an event?
  • Does it have an impact on your enjoyment?
  • Are you even aware of food trends being replicated at events?

We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below, whether you’re an event professional or an event attendee!


Paige says:

This is a really interesting topic. Personally i don’t think about food as a priority when attending an event. I go for a reason i.e. because i like the exhibitions/music. It definitely doesn’t have an impact on my enjoyment of the festival. Being a picky eater i know to not have high expectations and will try to take what i can get.

For people that care and take food stalls seriously, it might be interesting to maybe have some online involvement before the festival. Maybe advertise a menu to try and create and buzz. Just some food for thought.

That is an interesting point Paige (and an excellent pun)! Advertising a menu is a great idea, and will allow caterers and food stalls to show off their creative menus, and online involvement is always a great way to create a buzz. As a ‘picky eater’ are there any food trends mentioned that spark an interest?

jlannon2014 says:

This is interesting. From a caterer’s perspective it is difficult to please all of the people all of the time! However from an event manager’s perspective, it depends upon your audience and if the demographics suggest that a trend is going to be appreciated, then that is worth investigating.

It also depends upon the event and the venue. If you are catering for 10,000 people, or 100,000 people then it would be reasonable to ensure that the food offering is diverse enough to accommodate a wide range of tastes. If the event is for a couple of hundred people, there may be a better way around it.

Very good points, especially that it is difficult for caterers to please everyone! If an event is only for a few hundred people, how would you suggest event managers and caterers can accommodate everyones tastes?

Zoe Smith says:

Food/drink is definitely a priority in an event! If the food is rubbish that’s what you remember.
I personally like a recent trend at weddings the “pimp my prosecco” table where you can add sparkles and such like to your drink.
If the food isn’t great it would prevent you from going again especially when it comes to Christmas dos.
It’s so difficult to consider different food allergies but surely people with allergies appreciate it’s difficult at large events?

Thank you for your comment Zoe! “Pimp my prosecco” sounds fun! A great point also, maybe this vegan trend can cater to different food allergies? Have you noticed any previous trends at any events?

Zoe Smith says:

I personally wouldn’t be interested in an event that was only vegan food. Food to me is a key point!
A common trend is the sweet tables most people have with old fashioned sweets on especially at weddings.

Interesting that you would not attend an event with only vegan food, perhaps this means events need more open to everyone’s tastes? Restricting themselves to one trend could discourage potential attendees.

Jodie says:

I loved reading this blog! I’ve had 6 years experience in conference and events, and been part of hundreds of weddings and big events. Food definitely plays a huge part in them! If the food is good, people will comment on it and remember it! If the food is bad, it can potentially ruin the entire day/evening. I also think the Vegan trend is great! I’m not Vegan, and don’t plan on becoming Vegan, but I’d be up for trying a Vegan meal, and like stated in the blog, it will definitely help to cover dietary requirements!

Thanks for your comment, Jodie! We agree, food definitely plays a big part in events. Great that you’re on board with the vegan trend, do you think this could become a bigger part of conference and events in the future?

Clare says:

I definitely think that food is a top priority when it comes to events! You see endless queues of people by food stalls at festivals and it’s here where trends will catch on really quickly, even if they’re still in the baby stage.
In other events such as weddings or corporate functions, food still plays a bit part and can make or break it.
I am a big foodie and love to see variety at festivals…you never know what you’re going to be in the mood for!

Thanks for your comment Clare! We totally agree with you, variety is key. As a foodie, what food trends have stood out for you at events?

As a vegan it’s refreshing to read that various event companies are researching to move with the times, it only takes one look down the free from isle in Tesco to realise things are changing. A constant struggle of mine is attending events and constantly worrying about what food is going to be available. Stuffing my bag full of vegan goodies was the only way to be sure that I wouldn’t go hungry all day. However, this can occasionally be an issue when food isn’t allowed to be brought into the venue. Alas, this is slowly changing, a lot more restaurants are supplying vegan options in addition to vegetarian options and companies such as flora, Ben and Jerries and even Pizza Express now offer an alternative.

The rise of the vegan has become very apparent due to social media. The number of vegans in the uk has rose by 350% in the last decade. Information about the vegan benefits are plastered all over social media platforms sparking interest into millions of people that view these posts. Social media influencers, bloggers and celebrities all sharing pictures of their plant based diet, açai bowls and healthy lifestyles has sparked the interest of thousands of impressionable girls and guys. I think that in the day and age of social media it’s important to role with the times and cater to an individuals dietary need.

I myself, was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. When doing some research I found out that eating a plant based diet could deter my side effects and in some cases cure the syndrome. That is why became Vegan, I can now say that my side effects are minimal compared to what they were when I was eating meat. Some people aren’t doing it for the fad, some people just want to live a healthier lifestyle and for this reason I think it’s important to cater to that.

Thank you for your comment! It is interesting to hear views on the topic from a vegans point of view, and it is important to make sure your guests are catered for, rather than having to bring their own food. Have you attended any events recently that have encouraged the vegan lifestyle and catered to you well?

Rose says:

A good read but then again one cannot please everyone At a function such as a big birthday/wedding the people choosing the menu has the opportunity to choose the menu so they should know who has dietary problems. Most times the menu is sent to guests so they choose At a festival I personally love to try new things. As a non vegan I find that most of the vegan dishes is delicious therefore would not have a problem with a vegan starter etc at a function After all its what the host chooses. Though if one is at a festival or any other event it is your choice what you eat. At food stalls it should be advertised that one should ask if they have dietary requirements

Thank you for your thoughts, Rose. Very true, it is impossible to please every guest/attendee at an event, especially when there are so many dietary requirements. However, like you say it is nice to try something new, so maybe we should be embracing these trends in order to extend our taste pallets?

Claire says:

I do think there should be a vegan alternative. It makes it extremely difficult for vegans often to eat out or at an event. Especially at an event, such as weddings where it’s normally meat based.

From experience it can be frustrating to find restaurants to cater to vegan options. My daughter is a vegan and was often eating side dishes and vegetables when the rest of the family ate out. This has recently improved but is still not fantastic. She can now order an alternative that meets her dietary needs and I’ve noticed that supermarkets have got a wider range to cater to her within the last 6 months which is nice to see.

It’d be nice to see events following suite with more vegan alternatives.

Thank you for your comment, Claire! We hope that more variety for vegans can be provided at events too. Are there any specific events you and your daughter attend that you hope to follow suit?

Gary says:

Just to play devils advocate, With the national average of those who follow a vegan lifestyle is below 1%, and vegans attending events is around 6.8%. Can you afford to tailor the catering to the minority when the majority probably enjoy Bob’s Boring Burgers.

Catering purely for vegans and vegetarians only pushes the prices up for the customer, leaving them feeling they have had to pay a lot more and receive a lot less.

I myself enjoy a big heart stopping fat filled Burger and think I would be put off going to an event if I knew the event organiser only catered for the minority’s just to look to be following the latest fad.

Thank you for your comment, Gary! An interesting view on the subject, and that you would be put off by an event catering towards the latest trends. Have you been put off going to an event before because of this?

Rachel Bott says:

Okay firstly, I love the statistic about how much was spent on avocados. That’s amazing. All of that £187 million worth of avocado is probably on Instagram too!

Marbled wedding cakes are still a thing (pretty much every. Single. Wedding), cupcake towers and donut towers are also rather popular now though. And it is worth knowing, because if one of my brides or grooms don’t want a traditional cake or they’re not sure what they want, I have the trends to refer to.

I personally think food, at any event, is important and can really affect someone’s mood. At Reading Festival, I had a mix of experiences. I had dry stir fry that tasted of nothing and I hated it so I threw it. I hate wasting food and I hate spending £8 on a little box of awful stir-fry. I was hangry.

Dietary wise, I really don’t mind vegan or vegetarian food. I enjoy it. If I knew before hand that the event was meat free then I would expect it and embrace it. I have various weddings now where they go for the vegan or vegetarian option for all of their guests. I guess it’s easier catering wise.

However, if an event is going to go vegan or vegetarian, they need to look at the ingredients and think about possible allergies or other requirements. For instance nuts and chickpeas are common in vegan food, but if someone is allergic to these, you will need a few alternatives for them. So if you’re going to decide to go vegan at your event, you need a trusting caterer who will be able to create more than salads, falafels and nut roasts.

Do you not think it depends on the type of event too? For instance, weddings are planned in advance (ideally, although we do love an ‘oh I’m a vegetarian’ on the day) so caterers can plan for all dietary requirements and have time to beautifully display the food too. But at a festival when you have a 10 person queue, they have less time and more pressure to get the food out.

Perhaps each event is different and should actively try to accommodate to these trends but also act logistically?

Thank you for your comment Rachel, we found that statistic interesting too, and you’re probably correct, there are so many avocados on Instagram! We appreciate your opinions and experiences, thank you for sharing them with us. We agree that each event is different, and it’s important to take your attendees likes, dislikes and lifestyle into consideration when creating your menus or food stalls. How would you suggest how these trends can be accommodated?

Nana says:

This is an interesting topic!
I personally don’t think about food as priority in an event, but the food trends can impact my attraction in the event which is nice to take pictures and try new things. It also makes me enjoy the event more.
I’m not a vegetarian but I think providing vegetarian food is important to consider to have for healthiness as some people might be on diet!

Thank you for your comment Nana! It’s interesting that food is not your priority at an event, but we agree that it can be fun to try new things and take instagram-able photos of good looking foods. Are there any events that have taken these trends on that you have attended?

Rachel says:

I believe that food is an important part of any event and as mentioned in other comments, it is what people remember. The last thing you want is people left hangry because of the lack of choice and certain needs not being met. However as stated less than 1% follow a vegan diet making it very difficult for caterers to judge the amount of food they need. This leads to other problems such as sustainability and wastage. As a result it would be cheaper to cater for the majority and the majority of the people I know would be more attracted to ‘Bobs burgers’ than a vegan alternative. I on the other hand am open to trying different foods, but it all varies on my mood. Therefore for me, offering a selection of different foods makes the event more appealing.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Rachel! You say people you know would be more attracted to ‘Bob’s burgers’, so perhaps by event managers trying to be more inclusive & having vegan only menus they could end up excluding a wider range of attendees?

Rachel says:

Yes I believe that by attempting to be inclusive and catering for vegans would have the opposite impact and exclude the majority.

That’s interesting. Perhaps larger events should provide a wider range of catering options to ensure they meet more people’s needs

Tanja says:

This is a good and interesting read. Before I read this, I didn’t know food can be such a complicated thing!!
I love food, and for me, the biggest part of eating, is the social experience. So, I agree, everyone has different tastes, but you can’t please all. Offering too many different styles off food in one event, can look a bit off putting and messy Having one theme and sticking with it is what I would go for. Just cater according the event and target the specific visitors. A yoga function and a country Festival— don’t need the same range of food.

Thank you for your comments Tanja! We agree food is very social, so we don’t want to exclude everyone. Perhaps event managers can consider that different events need different things when it comes to food, rather than focusing on what’s ‘on trend’. There are many more things to consider such as the size of the event, the attendees and their needs.

Scarlett says:

This is a very interesting blog.
From the point of view as someone that works in hospitality I have noticed many food trends and that now many individuals expect a wider variety of food options as a pose to your traditional buffet.

Food trends are influencing the everyday meal, noticing the pretentious upgrade from a house salad to a ‘super green’ salad. What even is quinoa?!

Thanks for sharing Scarlett! From your experiences, do you think people are just more interested in the quality and health aspects of their food, rather than if it’s on trend?

Scarlett says:

Maybe so, but along with the health and wellbeing market perhaps this is one of the biggest trends for 2018.

That’s a very good point! Health and wellbeing is popular at the moment, perhaps event managers should encourage this trend at their events? Do they have a responsibility to provide healthy and nutritional food to attendees?

Michael says:

For the Sustainability team at the University the biggest consideration for our events is to demonstrate that sustainability has been considered when planning the refreshments. It’s important that we practice what we preach – and providing food from sustainable sources is a good way of engaging a real range of people to show that healthy, responsibly sourced food is a great option. The Catering Policy commits the University to promoting a sustainable menu for events which include healthy, Fairtrade, seasonal and locally sourced food – this is definitely a priority for us when planning our events.
When attending an event I’d expect to see a varied sustainable food offer for vegetarians, vegans and meat eaters and that food produced locally is also promoted. For me, food has a big effect on how much I enjoy the event – and if the food offer is bad – such as only offering poor quality burgers – then the event becomes really memorable for all the wrong reasons.
Over the last few years I’ve noticed that sustainability or environment related events are increasingly walking the talk on sustainability – especially as well being is a key part of sustainability bringing considerations around being active and eating healthily.

Thank you for your comments Michael. It’s great that the university have adopted the use of sustainable sources as a priority for events, it’s definitely a good way to engage people. Do you think all event managers should adopt sustainable policies when it comes to the food they provide at events? And how easy do you think this would be?

Rebecca Scotland says:

I expect there to be a varied menu and to have meat and fish dishes for the majority, but also options for vegetarians and vegans. Keeping the menu friendly for those who suffer from food allergies should always be high priority too.

A lot of the time, I choose vegetarian dishes even though
I’m not vegetarian, but I like to have the option. It’s all about pleasing the customer, so you want to cater for as many people as possible.

I think it is a good idea to follow food trends because it works as a marketing tool as people will probably post photos of it on social media! It does tend to work as free advertising. I think you should still make sure the variety is there to suit as many people as possible.

In terms of my awareness of food trends at events, I have noticed that there seem to be more dishes with avocado, and more places are offering vegan and gluten free options. Apart from that, I don’t really notice. I think a lot of it is about presentation as well; a lot of restaurants seem to be putting food on slates and I’ve even been served dessert with a flower on it. This all makes it look pretty and Instagram-worthy.

Thank you for you comment Rebecca! It’s interesting that you’ve seen a rise in avocado being used in dishes, clearly this is a trend that has stuck around! Also like you said sticking to trends is a free marketing tool. Would you be more inclined to attend an event if you’d seen the food they serve on Instagram?

Rebecca Scotland says:

If the food looks appealing, it’d certainly get my attention and I think the chances of me attending would be quite high. A couple of local cafes have appeared on my feed and I’ve thought “mmm, I’d like to try that” and I usually end up going there.

With that in mind perhaps event managers should be aware of trends so they are able to use this as pre-event marketing rather than just satisfying attendees on the day.

Livvy Drake says:

A well written piece on the topic of food looking at a range of events. For reference to make it quick and easy to find food vendors is the NCASS website- you put a call out and then get applications from traders in your area (

In reference to the comment about waste, at Shambala Festival, we found that going meat and fish free meant that food waste was actually reduced by 2/3rds.

Thank you for your thoughts, Livvy! An interesting comment regarding waste, do you think Shambala will be moving towards being completely vegan? If so do you think this will reduce food waste further?

Cody says:

Really interesting topic, and one I’ve not given much thought until recently.

I’ve got one leg on the 2018 vegan band wagon, gradually eliminating one non-vegan food source at a time. What I’ve found most difficult however is the lack of vegan options whilst I’m in a pinch for something quick to eat, and I’ve certainly noticed it more at events recently. Personally I feel this is what ultimately makes making a complete transition to veganism more difficult than it needs to be.

As a graduate Sports Strength and Conditioning Coach, Sports Therapist and amateur athlete I’m very aware of nutrition. In fact healthy eating and nutrition tips are the most asked about topic for my clients, many of whom are also vegan, pescatarian or vegetarian. More often than not we discuss how to adhere to these dietary habits in places of social pressure (i.e. events, dinners, etc.).

It’s definitely something I feel, more so now, needs to be considered for us in the minority. I’d be confident in saying both myself and my clients would be more obliged to attend an event where we knew vegan options were available.

Thank you for your comment Cody! It’s interesting that you have chosen to go to vegan due to health benefits. Other than the vegan trend, are there any other trends at events you’ve attended?

Lyndsey Barnes says:

Very interesting piece that covers the highlights of the good and short lived fads of food trends, some are good, some are just the flavour of the moment.

I don’t think people will attend an event because vegan food is present unless you are a vegan and even then depending on the event you could still possibly go.

In my opinion eating vegan is very much the bubble tea, green juice, bone broth, and cupcake of 2018.

Some stay around because people like them in terms of taste such as Almond milk, quinoa and sweet potato fries.

I think eating vegan is very much like being vegetarian or pescatarian it’s a case of choice and personal preference.

Unlike the rise soya milk which is a dietary requirement for some .

But this is very much my opinion which is the reason for the rise for all things food fads.

Really interesting and thought provoking article.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Lyndsey! It will be interesting to see if the vegan trend continues to be so popular beyond 2018

Erin Oakley says:

Sorry it’s taken me so long to post. As an events planner myself this is very interesting and very well written. You’ve raised an excellent point. I’ll always have food as a priority at any event, If you go somewhere where a) there isn’t any food b) the food is terrible c) you’re left hungry – it really ruins the whole event, it is absolutely essential – I think that honing in on food fads and trends really make a unique event and creates a talking point, it’s not something to fill you up but it’s something different, creative and a talking point which at times can create entertainment and provide free advertisements. I think it’s massively important and shouldn’t be considered as a trend, it should just be moving forward with the times.

Thanks for your comments, Erin! It’s interesting to hear from an event managers perspective how food is such a priority when planning events.

Jasmine Mclennan says:

This is an interesting blog as it makes you think about what truly does bring attendees to an event. Although I think it’s important to cater to different dietary requirements and be aware of trends to entice people it’s really important that delegates are not left hungry as this leaves a sour taste. In terms of sustainability its very important to try and reduce waste where we can as an industry and think about how we can become more environmentally friendly.

Thank you for your comment Jasmine! Have you seen any of the recent trends at events you’ve attended?

Comments are closed.