Posted on: 09 December 2016
Kathryn B. Creedy finds gold at this year’s IFSA in Chicago.
By any standards the 50th Inflight Service Association (IFSA) convention is a one of a kind event. It is, at once, a foodie’s paradise with a chance to sample some interesting delicacies that will appear on airline trays around the world. It is also a chocoholic’s or snack guru’s dream and at the same time a great place to test out the first and business class amenities that make 12 flight hours almost worth it.
If there were one phrase describing the intent of the airline catering industry it is as Airline Emporium CEO Julia Stamberger put it. Airlines are looking for high end, high taste, high quality, innovative solutions that will elevate airline food to a whole new level. “It is the Whole Foods mentality that has come to the airlines and applies as much to the buy-on-board box as it does to the first class meal,” she said.
Also on display were any number of cool galley hardware such as Zodiac Aerospace’s light weight trolleys that don’t have to be manhandled but can be pushed with just a couple of fingers. The trollies prevent unauthorised access and tracks inventory with its Smart Lock Intelligent Lock and Seal Solution. Its Cool Trolley extends cooling time at 8°C or 45°F up to 14 hours.
Gate Group’s innovative beverage trolleys include disappearing Keurig brewers, beer on tap and on-board soda fountains that make carrying hundreds of heavy aluminium cans a thing of the past. The company calls it democratising service by empowering the crew with innovative tools that reduce the chance of over-catering an aircraft. Trends also indicate that passengers don’t want heavy food so caterers are focusing on lighter healthier food.
Then there was Avid, Linstol and Formia offering the amenity kits that have become such a posh deal as airlines and body care specialists such as Cowshed team up.
The conference highlighted the emergence of tech-enabled in-flight service that is going to fundamentally change and empower a wide variety of airline business models in the area of service delivery. Just as in-flight entertainment has become more data driven, so too have other areas of the in-flight experience that has come to be known as “informed service delivery” that enables the personalised flight experience to be taken to the next level.
In addition to the major caterers focusing on healthy offerings, one of the big trends at the show was illustrated by Harry’s. Last year, there were no takers for soups on board but this year attendees were lining up for its comfort food including Loaded Baked Potato, Cheddar Broccoli and Chicken Tortilla.
Gategroup stole the show with its huge chalet, which include its Incognito Line that overcomes little picky eaters by making food tasty and fun. What this line does is disguise the healthy offering as kids favourites such as veggie pizza and pancake lollipops.
If a picture is worth a thousand words then why not show you by highlighting some of the things I wish I could be served.
Main: Presentation was everything during the show as some vendors set up bistros and others just tempted you with mouth watering food displays.
Side: In addition to freshly brewed coffee, Gate Group also hasan innovative beverage solution that is sure to be popular with passengers and airlines alike, eliminating heavy cans.
Top L-R: Think cinema concession stand on steroids. Airline Emporium aggregates small suppliers for airlines who want chips, dips, ice cream, cookies, snack boxes, boxed lunches, candy, popcorn and even breakfasts. I especially liked Nancy’s fresh cultured dairy and soy products out of Springfield Creamery; Fine chocolate was so prolific there came a point when, uncharacteristically, I wanted to make it stop until you turned a corner and saw this.
Bottom L-R: One of the best products at the show was On the Rocks luxury cocktails that need only ice. In addition to standard cocktail it offers Jalapeno Pineapple Margarita, The Aviation and the Li Ming Lychee, which can only be had at the Four Seasons Ko Olina in Oahu. They are all a velvety piece of heaven; Formia offered a wide variety of posh amenity kits for both adults and children.