The Rise of Food Festivals – Experiences over things.

We’re facing our first ‘normal’ summer in three years and the appetite for it is nothing short of ravenous. Whether we’re blessed with the weather or not, you can bet that festivals, or should we say ‘feastivals’ are back with a vengeance. 

While festival programmes are hot property no matter what the focus, we’re not talking about music, we’re talking about the rise and rise of food festivals. Be they a niche event, such as a dumpling fest, or by cuisine such as Italian, there’s no limit to the amount of ways we’re willing to celebrate food it seems. There’s even a chicken nugget festival touting ‘Nothing but Nuggs’ in Melbourne Australia- so there really are endless possibilities for people of all tastes and budgets. 

Historically, food was the afterthought of a larger event, such as a music festival at which you’d be lucky to get a sad burger or falafel wrap, but (mostly) gone are those days. Now, we see food events as equally, if not more experiential, because unlike a music festival where we might not like every act, a Pho festival for example, will attract you for a predetermined love of Pho and provide you with a multitude of opportunities to enjoy it! But, why have these events taken off so spectacularly?

Why do we love food festivals so much? 

Well, we all love food, that’s pretty much universal and many of us see food and mealtimes as important moments in our close relationships, cultures and more. One reason we might therefore continue to see this boom in food appreciation is because we’ve been restricted in travel, some still are; we’ve been restricted in experiences and that zest for ‘getting back to it’ is certainly going to help propel demand for such events. However, food festivals are not new and their prominence became a hot topic some years before we were bound to our homes and countries by the pandemic. 

Food festivals are likely to be considered by most as part of the ‘Experience Economy’. Valued in 2020 as being worth over 12 billion dollars, the Experience Economy refers to the sale of memorable experiences and millennials are the generation to really start to push that demand and respond to experiences over ‘things’. 

These events perfectly fit that bill as you can spend (usually) as much or as little as you like, go for one thing, all the things and they can be a great way to try very varied cuisines easily in one place – can’t afford a holiday, but can afford to try foods from around the world in a field in the UK! 

What can we expect in this area in 2022 and beyond? 

We’ve talked recently about sharing plates and small plates becoming popular, this also lends itself to the rise of food festivals; small plates all day, each of a different cuisine! 

We don’t think this is likely to slow. We’ve established in many cases that food IS the event and it doesn’t seem like the population is looking to turn back. It’s more likely that these events will become even more diverse, with international cuisines sitting alongside new and ingenious ways to serve favourites such as pies, fancy fish and chips and more. 

Desserts are also climbing in popularity, with sweet treats like donuts, huge milkshakes and next-level traybakes and brownies soaring in popularity and taking up plenty of space at foodie events up and down the country. 

Some of the team from Billington Foods recently visited the annual Taste of London festival, discovering the latest foodie trends on the market. They found that nostalgic comfort foods were in abundance this year, with lemon meringue pies, donuts, burgers, and nuggets all on show. 

The team also highlighted the abundance of sauces at the festival, with chipotle mayo taking the top spot as the number one listed sauce, followed by tamarind and buffalo. This highlights that adding a sauce has the potential to change a dish completely, elevating the flavour profile to suit the latest trends – the influence of spicy sauces remains and so does an Asian influence with sticky soy and Korean BBQ sauce also proving popular.

For more on our ranges, new products for summer and trend reports, check out our news and press pages.