The biennial IFE trade show in London has over the years been the initial launch pad for many successful brands and heralded numerous mainstream trends in the soft drinks sector. Annette Farr visited the show for a glimpse into the future.

The international food & drink event IFE, being held this week at the ExCel exhibition centre in London, is the harbinger of new tastes and trends within the world of soft drinks.

The event is held every two years, and previous shows have heralded the introduction of mainstream product trends, such as heart-healthy pomegranate juice, the cranberry craze and functionality. So a glance around the IFE aisles is often a glimpse into the future.

Apart from the prominence of juice drinks and smoothies what was noticeable and new for the 2007 show was an emphasis on all-natural, ethical trading and the environment. Consumers are becoming more environmentally-aware. According to Britvic's recently published 'The Changing face of Soft Drinks Report 2007' purchases of ethical products in the UK now exceed those of cigarettes and alcohol.

One stand unashamedly promoting its environmental credentials was Brazilian Springs. This range of certified organic still and sparkling waters, sourced from the largest aquifer in the world situated in Ouro Fino, Brazil, is being launched into the UK to help preserve the Brazilian rainforest.

Working with the Brazilian Rainforest Foundation and the Society for Wildlife Research and Environmental Education, the company describes itself as "eco-social". Andrew Wright, director, explained: "Deforestation has led to rainforests becoming water-logged as there are no trees to soak up the moisture. At the same time young samplings are dieing in the water-logged grounds. Brazil urgently needs to get rid of its water." Apparently, every 300ml bottle of water sold saves 12 square metres of endangered rainforest.

Professor David Bellamy's endorsement of the fledgling Cracker company stems from its commitment to donate 10% of profits to help plant 12,000 fruit trees in Ghana each year. Founded by Wayne Miller and his Ukrainian wife Tatiana, to capitalise on the quality of the fruit produced in the Ukraine, Cracker's fruit juice drinks are produced by a crushing process that maintains the taste of the natural fruit.

The juices, launched at IFE, comprise a Thick and Smooth range (Peach, Plum, Apple Pear Strawberry and Peach, and Tomato Sweet Pepper and Carrot) and Light and Smooth (Apple and Raspberry, Apple Strawberry and Cranberry, Red and Blackcurrant). They are currently available in 1-litre cartons although new convenient 200ml wedges and 400ml PET bottles are being launched later in the year.

Coco Juice from Dr Antonio Martins, winner of an IFE Fresh Ideas Award for most innovative product, also comes with strong environmental credentials, as well as a host of healthy attributes.

Extracted from green coconuts there are three distinct products in the range which use all of the coconut apart from the husk. This is the drink which asked of its designers that the packaging be "David Attenborough on a carton".

As marketing director Ed Woodstock explained: "First is the water, the clear liquid found inside all green coconuts. The patented extraction method means that the juice can be packaged straight from the nut with minimal processing, never coming into contact with light or air, which eliminates the need for preservatives. Next is the milk, made from the milky gel found inside green coconuts. This variant can also be used for cooking. And then, finally, you have the coconut cream which is an indulgent desert-type drink sweetened with organic sugar."

Coco Juice is being marketed on three fronts: as an isotonic beverage aimed at the sports sector, an anti-ageing drink, because of the Kinetin naturally found in coconut water, and a low-fat option as one carton contains just 1g of fat.

Ethical fruit juices could be seen on Purity Drinks stand where this old-established family-owned company, founded in 1892 but definitely keeping abreast of modern times, was promoting its Juice Burst Fairtrade Apple and Orange juice drinks, alongside a new range of Thirst Burst flavoured water drinks developed to comply with new school regulations.

Fairtrade certification, prominent on its stand, has also been accorded to Herbert's iced coffee, the latest brand from Metro Drinks. This is an iced coffee drink which comes in two flavours, Latte and Mocha, in 270ml glass bottles. Metro also produces Juice Patrol, a healthy drink for children, and the Qu4ttro Stagioni range of fruit juice drinks.

Also on show was Juice Republic's new 100% pure pink grapefruit and lychee fruit juice. The company produces 100% pure fruit juices, blended fruit juices, smoothies and purées. The drinks currently only have limited distribution in the south of England, but with attractive packaging and wide selection of flavours, Juice Republic is aiming to widen distribution.

The 100% pure pomegranate juice from Dr Levant Naturals has a clean, refreshing taste. The juice is produced and bottled in Turkey, is all-natural and comes in 1-litre bottles.

The health and wellness section of the show also saw the launch of a kefir, a fermented milk drink from the Caucasus Mountains. Kefir is commonplace in Russia and Eastern Europe and has been launched at IFE by Deborah Carr under her Nourish Kefir label. She said she felt compelled to bring kefir to the UK after she discovered how it helped relieve the symptoms of Crohn's disease from which she suffers.

A special mention has to be made for the Juice Doctor for its efforts on the promotional front. Its eye-catching stand displayed a vehicle emblazoned with the brand's livery which is one of a fleet of seven to be used in major nationwide sampling programme. At the same time, a giant lemon roamed the exhibition area advertising the brand's presence. Gimmickry apart, the drinks actually deliver on the hydration front. Three new flavours were launched at IFE.

The drinks comprise fruit juices and spring water, provide 50% of the daily needs of vitamins and minerals, and use potassium instead of sodium salts along with a small amount of beet sugar, a combination which actively encourages water uptake. Above all, the drinks taste refreshing. The company was founded by four friends and Olympic gold medallist, Sir Steven Redgrave, with the shared concern that the UK was bored of drinking water.

Sound familiar? Not so long ago another young company, founded by four friends to launch a new drink called a smoothie to the UK, used IFE as a launch pad. It was good to see that Innocent hadn't deserted the venue and was out in force on its faux grass bedecked stand.