This has become my favourite of the food fairs… taking place in September which is ‘Organic September’ a time to tap into the growing organic market for food and drink. I love the Discovery Zone and probably spent most of my day here with ‘some of the newest start-ups in the industry – truly representing the forefront of food and drink innovation’. Learning about the food and drink trends and how these are measured. Meeting food producers from around the world, understanding their stories and inspiration for their business has always been something I am very passionate about sharing…
I started my visit attending a food workshop in the ‘Savour the Flavour’ area hosted by Chef, Steve Walpole, and ‘Explore the Exotic’ with Jorge Baumhauer da Silva, Brazilian Flavors. As a presenter myself I always enjoy recipes being rustled up using the best products and the latest trends. I learnt about cassava a Brazilian arrowroot which was fermented in one of the recipes. This was a three course Brazilian culinary experience (scallops with a guava paste and fermented veg, sliced marinated beef with a tomato salsa and a corn rusk and to finish a coconut cream flan with a passion fruit coulee) and I went away set up for the day!
Walking the ‘Discovery Zone’ part of the fair this year I was amazed at the incredible number of healthy, vegan bars, balls and snacks in general. My favourite and just three months old was nu+cao – Good for you. Good for the Planet. ‘Nucao is designed to give you a nutrient-dense and filling snack on the go whilst satisfying those chocolate cravings that we’ve all had. The combined force of hemp seeds and raw cacao gets you through the day – without having a sugar crash or a guilty conscience.’ An area I hadn’t come across before was ‘Food for thought’ which was an area for debates, workshops covering current possibly controversial subjects in the food and drink industry. I joined the session on ‘The Growth of Plant-Based Eating’ with Bethany Eaton, COYO, Chantelle Adkins, The Vegan Society and Al Overton, Planet Organic very interesting. I liked that it was agreed that vegan menus in restaurants is forcing creativity and change. The big point was create the product/dish then work backwards. Create a dish that stands on its own, not trying to replicate a meat dish in a vegan way, and biggest question – does it taste great? Later that same afternoon I attended the ‘Seed Fund Presents: Start Up Spotlight’ which was a new ‘Dragons Den’ style competition which had been running throughout the Fair. Very much of interest as the three entrepreneurs pitched live to the panel of experts and audience. The prize included a free stand at next years show. The companies I watched were Made for Drink, Norty Puds, and Sea Chips. I thought excellent pitches from all…
Made for Drink – bar snacks. The business owner set the scene with a shared moment, including eye contact, conversation, laughter, and then said that he bet at the heart of that moment is good food and drink. This is why he runs his business and his purpose to set out to make the worlds greatest bar snacks. I thought a great opening! Their USP – authentic products sourced from origin. Made for Drink is already stocked by the Fat duck group and Fortnum and Masons. They are consumed quite quickly like crisps and once the bag is open would last the same time. The current range covers: Duck Fritons, Chorizo Thins, Mangalitza Salami and Patacones Plantain Chips.
Norty Puds – This pudding company concentrates on whole ingredients, gluten, dairy free and no refined sugars. Based in Bristol and currently suppling local farm shops, whole food shops, Delis etc.. This pudding tasted good which of course if the most important. It is the only dessert company in the UK using a glass and lid for reuse and it is a chilled product with a shelf life of 10 days. The message we liked was its like porridge in a pudding!
Sea Chips – handcrafted salmon skin delicious crisps made from Scottish farmed salmon. Currently they are available in high end boutiques such as Cavier House. I found the future plans of this Sea Brand interesting with new products like salmon jerky and sea dips.
Simply Good Food TV, – launches “Drivetime Dishes”, hosted by food and drink broadcaster Nigel Barden, on Amazon Prime Video on Sunday 2nd September with a total of six weekly shows, showcasing food and drink from artisan producers and recipes from some favourite chefs… something I need to watch and when you need a future presenter, my perfect job…
I followed the Plant Based Product Trail as ‘people are spending more money on plant-based products, and vegan diets are trending online with more than 65 million posts. Always interested in Chocolate I followed the Speciality Chocolate Trail. ‘Consumers are now looking to artisan chocolate producers who can guarantee good quality, functional, free-from ingredients and ethical harvesting methods versus the mass produced and sugar laden items that have no clear provenance.’ I found some of the UK’s hottest talents in chocolate making with bean-to-bar producers that use interesting fruit flavours like Japanese yuzu, or combinations like orange and thyme! I have bought OCTO Chocolate many times before and it was a favourite last Christmas. Octo Chocolate latest product is a whole chocolate fig, I know a few people who would love this fruit combination.
The companies that I would like to mention after my day were:
Mak Tok – loved the story and enjoyed tasting their chilli sauces. Always keen to share recipe ideas so I have a recipe to try for Nyonya Laksa and Sate Malaysia lets see what my hot food lover (husband) thinks!
Dadima’s energy snack: panjiri – it was the story that stopped me. Dadima’s is a new heritage food brand inspired by her grandmother (dadima). Their mission is to create legacies for grandmothers who wish to share their culinary and life wisdom. I met founder, Anneeka Ludhra and she has already got her cookery book in print, need to get myself a copy! As mentioned I had sampled and seen so many bars and energy balls this was a different type of snack as its a loose snack, ‘where every mouthful is cherished. Panjiri was originally cooked in India for new mothers, to help post-pregnancy recovery, as well as being a nutritional snack for all the family. It has fourteen different ingredients! ‘ There is currently a ‘with sugar’ and ‘no added sugar version. Panjiri can be eaten by itself (by the spoonful) and would also be delicious on porridge, yoghurt, fruit etc.. I have been using my sample most mornings on my citrus salad it makes a really tasty and healthy crunchy topping.
Fravocado – a creamy, smooth sweet avocado ice cream. It is dairy free, gluten free, nut free, and soya free and the big news it is launching in Waitrose at the end of October (you read it here first!).
Pinkster Gin – made to go with food, always the story that stops me rushing by, and of course I love the Boozy Berries Cookbook. Producing their core spirit with five botanicals and then macerating with a further three botanicals, including fresh, plump raspberries grown locally to their rural base just outside Cambridge. They recycle the raspberries, albeit slightly intoxicated, and sell them in farm shops and food halls as Boozy Berries and Gin Jam.
Heavenly Bakes – I have sampled plenty of chocolate and flapjack bars over the years and these were vegan so I did stop and try another as I was passing. I must say they were more superior to other bars and my favourite was the Salted Caramel Sensations, which tasted as naughty as it should! The Oaty Flapjack has no refined sugar which tasted great and would have been perfect as a mid morning energy snack with a cup of coffee. There current range: the Salted Caramel Sensations, Honeycomb Tiffin Temptations, Chocolate Mallow Marvels (rocky road) and Oaty Flapjack Fascinations. I hadn’t heard of Heavenly Bakes before but they currently sell to Starbucks and are hoping to get these new vegan bars in to the chain as soon as possible. There USP is the vegan biscuit and I can definitely see and taste why, I have tasted nothing like it!
Awesome Chocolate – these handheld chocolate coated combinations caught my eye. I liked the taste, loved the combinations such as Macadamia Milk or Hazelnut Raspberry Blond but mostly loved the packaging, look and feel, could see these being great on the airlines.
Another fair or festival I need to read up on is ‘Bread and Jam 2018’ this show concentrates on new start up food businesses and is promised to be the largest festival for food and drink entrepreneurs… better book my tickets!