5 Key Take Aways from UMAMI Arena 2023

By Daniel Chaibi
Published Feb 27, 2023

In 1976, Apple launched their legendary Apple I, made in the garage of Steve Jobs’ family home in Los Altos, California. In 2014, we here at Foodback had our equivalent moment, the launch of our first product, the digital bill folder. It may not have been created in a garage, but it was not far from it. The Foodback bill folder enabled restaurants to truly focus on customer experience by collecting honest and fresh feedback from their guests in an easy way.

It all happened at SMAK (now UMAMI Arena), a HORECA exhibition in Lillestrøm, Norway that attracts around 25 000 people every three years. The exhibition confirmed that the industry needed and wanted Foodback, and our journey started for real.

Fast Forward 9 Years

In February 2023, a few of the oldest and newest members of the Foodback team were back where it all began. The difference was that this time we had a proven product in use at over 1200 venues, with rapid growth, 70% of which in North America.

We are also part of two very exciting research projects, Foodback Launch and Food (R)evolution. The latter had its stand at UMAMI Arena 2023. The goal of this project is to increase the consumption of sustainable food; good for society, the environment, and your health. Win, win, win. The project uses canteens and staff restaurants as an innovation testing arena for food producers, inspiring you and I with great new sustainable alternatives served for lunch. We aim to change people’s habits. Big thanks to The Norwegian Research Counsil for supporting these and many other promising innovation projects.

    The UN's Sustainable Development Goals

    Together with our partners Coor, Orkla, Hoff, Nofima and Æra Strategic Innovation, we rigged the Food (R)evolution stand to showcase how this can work, with samples of Naturli’ Foods (Orkla)’s upcoming Falafel and Hoff’s newly released Thai inspired stew. People came, tasted the samples, and of course left feedback via Foodback, the results of which were displayed live on a dashboard on site.

    Prior to this, we had already performed two successful test rounds of Food (R)evolution across 18 canteens, 10 000 guests and 2500 foodbacks. You can read more about the results here.

      Our 5 Key Take Aways from UMAMI Arena

      During our 4 days at UMAMI, we got to see, experience and talk a lot. We could write several blog posts about it, but to summarize it was a great event filled with impressions and we have picked 5 main take aways:

      Number 1: Food producers need our help to make a real change 💚

      70% of us struggle to choose sustainable alternatives in the grocery store, but 90% of new product releases don’t survive in the market. Most of the food producers we talked to confirmed this challenge, and almost 20 of them want to explore how they can partake in Food (R)evolution moving forward.

      Number 2: Canteens want to join the party 🍽️

      Chefs at today’s canteens/staff restaurants often lack competence on sustainable food. This is in direct conflict with what many of their customers are asking for, namely more and better sustainable and healthy meals on the menu. Several big chains want to look at how they can enable food producers to widen their test coverage and at the same time educate their own staff to better satisfy their guests.

      Number 3: The industry is more digital than ever before 🧑‍💻

      Technology is redefining the hospitality experience, from self-service and robotic waiters to more streamlined digital toolboxes. The pandemic was tough, and it pushed many outside their comfort zone on technology which moved digitalization of the industry forward. At UMAMI Arena we talked to restaurant owners, technology vendors and industry experts about adoptation of technology, and they confirmed that they are ready!

      Number 4: It is nice to meet people again 🤝

      After enduring three years of a pandemic, it was a pleasure to finally reconnect with people in the industry. Throughout all our conversations, it was apparent that it had been some time since people had been able to connect in person. People were enthusiastic to engage in meaningful discussions and expressed genuine interest in learning more about what’s currently happening in the industry.

      Number 5: Soooo much good food 😋

      People often ask us if we get a lot of good food working at Foodback, and the answer is unfortunately no, not as often as we would like. But at UMAMI… Oh my, there was so much good food there! The taste buds were taken on a real journey through everything this magnificent industry has to offer. For more images, check out this article at Horecanytt.

      What’s Next?

      We are committed to participating in and exhibiting at more events, both in the Nordics and internationally. Our primary goal is to continue supporting the HORECA business in making data-driven decisions that improve customer experiences. Specifically, we are excited to participate in the third and final test round of the Food (R)evolution project in Q2 2023, and we remain dedicated to making this service available to all canteens, staff restaurants and food producers. Stay tuned for updates!

        About the author


        Daniel Chaibi

        CTO and Co-Founder

        Daniel is the Chief Product & Technology Officer and Co-Founder at Foodback, running a small but productive development team of eight people. He is passionate about creating great user experiences that truly make a difference for customers. Outside the office, Daniel enjoys most of his time with his wife and 3 kids, where he is the Head Chef. His latest toy is an Italian pizza oven from Ooni. Whatever time is left over he spends watching Liverpool, trying to stay in shape, and socializing.

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