The latest food and beverage trends for events

By Chair, Vanessa Green

Insights from attending events in Europe and the United States

I’m just back from attending events across Europe and the United States in April, both of which gave me the opportunity to speak with a broad cross-section of people in the meeting and events sector. It was fantastic to get some global insights from people working across event venues, commercial property, food and beverage, IT and AV, technology tools and AI. In both regions, it was great to see how busy everywhere was. There was a real buzz in the streets, airports and conference floors, with everyone talking about longer term planning and best practice.

A big focus of my trip was food and beverage, with my first stop attending Vinitaly, the largest wine show and beverage fair in the world. As part of this, I was on a judging panel to find the best wines of 2024 – a hardship, I know! It was a fantastic opportunity to discover new wines and be on top of the latest trends. I also attended Opera Wine, which showcases the top 100 Italian wines of the year, before travelling on to the United States, to attend the IACC conference, which included the global final of the Copper Skillet competition.

Here's some of the trends in food and beverage that I see influencing events.

Make it lighter: Health choices driving food and beverage options

When it comes to wine, something I really noticed is the growing consumer preference for lower alcohol wines (and non-alcoholic options), as well as vegan, low sulfate/additives, organic, sustainable and natural wines. There’s been huge improvements in the quality of these wines over the past few years, and I strongly recommend reviewing the drinks choices for your event with these trends in mind.

Both in the United States and Europe, I also noticed growing preferences for whole foods, with a focus on waste reduction, sustainability and health. Event attendees are showing preferences for smaller and lighter meals, with a wider variety of healthy options. For example, at IACC guests were noticeably preferring a range of snack options, like a self-serve selection of nuts and fruit, over the traditional bowl of mints and pastries at morning and afternoon tea. Providing guests with choice and the ability to personalise based on both preference and dietary requirements is a great way to create a better experience for event delegates.

Other trends in food that were being discussed were around offering smaller portions with greater variety, as well as offering all-day grazing so people can eat at times that suit them. People also appreciate the seamless integration of personalisation and choice for health and dietary options, with the trend moving towards incorporating this seamlessly on the regular dining menu, rather than just a few plates singled out with a sticker to nominate the dietary requirement.

Keep it sustainable: Local, fresh and seasonal food with less waste

There’s also a strong emphasis on sustainability, especially when it comes to food. Particularly in Italy, I noticed a real focus on sustainable food practices, with a lot of discussions on building menus around local, seasonal produce. I expect this to be a growing focus in Australia and urge event organisers to stay on top of this topic.

I also noted a big focus on reducing food waste. For example at IACC and the global final of the Copper Skillet competition, judging criteria included minimising waste and using seasonal produce to maximise sustainability. There was also a lot of discussion around providing smaller portions to address food waste. Other food waste minimisation strategies include swapping plates out more regularly, to ensure fresher and more appealing-looking food.

Stay tuned for broader business trends

As well as food and beverage trends, I also picked up valuable insights on other broader business trends that are impacting the meeting and events sector, including AI, workforce trends, and diversity and inclusion. Stay tuned for a future update, and remember to keep an eye on MEA training and networking events to help you keep ahead.