Meetings

Chew on This: Tasty Conference Food Trends

By / Apr 17, 2015

The International Association of Conference Centres released its list of the top-10 conference food trends for 2015. Learn how you can add one or all into your next event.

When I travel somewhere new, there are two things that are always on my must-do list. The first is to check out live music at a local venue, and the second is to try out some local food and drink. I mean, how could I not eat hot chicken at Hattie B’s when I was in Nashville or barbecue at Pappy’s Smokehouse in St. Louis?

Planners are always looking for new and interesting ways to nourish and invigorate their conference attendees—food has become so much more than just fuel.

Lucky for meeting attendees who may not always have as much time as they’d like to explore a city’s famous fare, convention centers are catching on to my second must-do. According to a survey of 400 members of the International Association of Conference Centres, locally sourced food and beverage is the top trend on IACC’s recently released Top 10 Conference Food Trends for 2015.

“Planners are always looking for new and interesting ways to nourish and invigorate their conference attendees—food has become so much more than just fuel.  Recently there has been an enormous shift towards health and the impact that food can have on concentration and productivity,” said IACC CEO Mark Cooper. “The trends identified in our research will help meeting planners deliver a productive experience to healthy dining for conferences across the globe.”

Here are four more trends from the list that I think meeting planners may want to ask conference centers to include when choosing menus for upcoming association events:

Smaller is better. Number three on IACC’s list is the move away from jumbo-sized desserts to bite-sized ones. The organization credits this trend to attendees watching their waistlines and cholesterol levels, which is probably true. Plus, for me, the guilt factor is not only a lot smaller if I have one mini donut or cake pop, but it also satisfies my sweet tooth.

Healthy doesn’t mean bland. Next on the list is convention center chefs who are using new ingredients that are becoming increasingly popular with attendees in their home kitchens. These include protein alternatives like quinoa and tofu, whole grains, leafy green vegetables (e.g., spinach and kale), low-fat selections, and low-sugar substitutions. “Healthy choices don’t need to resemble rabbit food,” IACC writes.

Teamwork is a tasty option. Cooking together is a good team-building activity, and an option that IACC predicts will be on the rise in convention centers. “Having the opportunity to cook alongside colleagues can create a whole new appreciation for the hidden talents within an office environment or at a company outing,” IACC says. For example, the Turnaround Management Association’s Western Regional Conference, taking place in July in California, will feature an afternoon Culinary Creations networking activity.

And the chef says … . Attendees no longer want the mastermind of the menu to stay behind the kitchen door. Instead, they want to interact with the chef by asking her questions about ingredients or hearing his inspiration for the dish. “Adding a chef interactive station accompanied with a highly personable chef can highlight the menu [and] underscore locally-sourced and freshly-prepared ingredients,” writes IACC.

While I thought these five were most relevant to associations, be sure to check out the other trends too. Have you already incorporated one of these food trends into a conference or meeting? Or what other food trends do you think planners should be adding into their F&B menu? Share in the comments.

Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now. More »

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