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BBC Food Show Celebrates Gourmet Start-Ups and Wine Entrepreneurs

A spin-off from the television show of the same name, The BBC Good Food Show has rapidly become a showcase for both artisan products and the more outré offerings of many British and wider-European food and beverage companies.

Photo: The spices of a life more affluent: The Good Food Show’s Producers’ Village.
The spices of a life more affluent: The Good Food Show's Producers' Village.
Photo: The spices of a life more affluent: The Good Food Show’s Producers’ Village.
The spices of a life more affluent: The Good Food Show's Producers' Village.

The BBC Good Food Show is now well-established as one of the UK's foremost shop windows of all that's new, notable and nibblable in the world of food and drinks. A spin-off from the TV show of the same name, it sets out to recreate – in real time – the programme's blend of gourmet treats, celebrity chefs and innovative tweaks to cooking techniques.

The exhibitors at the show tend to be mixture of new companies keen to get their products in front of the public and potential buyers for the very first time, and those who tend to solely peddle their wares at such events. Flint & Flame, a Sussex-based high-end cutlery manufacturer, is very much in the latter category.

This year, the company had co-opted its Sales Manager, Simon Marshall, into demonstrating one of its razor-sharp eight-inch Santoku knives (£130) on its stand. Fortunately, Marshall proved something of a dab hand, ably sculpting a tomato into something of a table feature.

Explaining why this particular knife has proved quite so popular with chefs, Marshall said: "It has three distinct features. Firstly, a razor-sharp, forged steel German blade, that keeps its edge. Secondly, it has built in air pockets to prevent food sticking to the blade. Finally, it comes with an ergonomic handle that is perfectly balanced".

Among the start-ups at the Show was Punjaban, a Staffordshire-based manufacturer of curry bases. This company provides a range of such bases, all created using authentic Punjabi recipes and natural ingredients. According to Charanjit Sapal, the company's Founder, Punjaban is determined to keep its range whole-food based and free of additives, wheat/gluten content and dairy produce. At present, the company's portfolio extends to eight curry bases, as well as a variety of pickles, breads and rice products. It sells both online and through a number of UK-based specialist outlets.

Another new company – again targetting the gluten-free market – was Mrs Crimble. According to Clare Ramsey, Director of Marketing for the Hampshire-based company, around a quarter of people who avoid gluten have concerns as to whether supposedly 'gluten free' foods are actually healthy and nutritious. She said: "It was this that inspired us to create our new low-fat Gluten Free…and Good For Me range".

Also on display on the company's stand was its new range of dried gluten-free pasta meals, three classic flavours retailing at £1.99 per 95gm sachet. It was also not short of a steady stream of potential customers, all apparently keen to sample the Mrs Crimble range of cereal bars (£0.89).

Maintaining the healthy theme, Glasgow-based Freedom Brands had on offer its Coconut health-drink, with its primary ingredient harvested 8,500 miles away in Thailand. The company is promoting its Go Coco Coconut Water as a completely natural drink, one wholly derived from young, green Thai coconuts.

According to Tracey Hogarth and Ross Currie, the team behind the brand, Go Coco is isotonic, the kind of drink said to hydrate the body faster than water. It also comes with the added benefit of containing natural vitamins, minerals and potassium.

Explaining its appeal, Hogarth said: "Go Coco is a genuine alternative to big brand carbonated drinks. It is already being used by many leading sportspeople".

Retail distribution is currently via few leading supermarkets and specialist health stores, with prices starting from £2.9 per 100ml across its different-sized servings. The coconut fruit (drupe) doesn't go to waste either, with the company piloting a new range of Nudie Snacks Coconut Chips on its stand.

Turning to drinks of a more alcoholic nature and these were out in force, particularly in the case of wines, Scotch whiskies and gins. The Vins de Bordeaux stand, for instance, was notably awash with tasters, allowing visitors to sample a vast array of wines from around the region.

While there were several other wine producers with tasting glasses prominently displayed, it was the esoteric bottles from CooperWhite Wines that really stood out. In fact, there was possibly greater interest in the design of the bottles than there was in their contents.

Photo: Brewed and tattooed: Christian Audigier Wines.
Brewed and tattooed: Christian Audigier Wines.
Photo: Brewed and tattooed: Christian Audigier Wines.
Brewed and tattooed: Christian Audigier Wines.
Photo: Soul preserves from Chazwinkle.
Soul preserves from Chazwinkle.
Photo: Soul preserves from Chazwinkle.
Soul preserves from Chazwinkle.

Scotland-based CooperWhite acts a distributor for Christian Audigier Wines, with the range being distinguished by the unique tattoo styling of its bottles. This look was created by Christian Audigier, the man behind the brand and a celebrated rock and roll designer in his own right. According to the distributors, these wine are often consumed at the most fashionable events, while also being a big hit with collectors and the gift market. The wines retail from £14.99 and are available through specialist distributors and online stores.

Moving more into the spirits market and Ginmeisters, a Hertfordshire-based start-up, attracted a steady flow of visitors, all intend on sampling its pink gin. Unusually, this was flavoured by raspberries rather than bitters. The gin for its Pinksters brand is provided by G&J Distillers – one of the UK's largest producers of spirits – before the Ginmeisters' team steep it with raspberries to create a premium priced product (around £33 per 70cl bottle). This is currently only available online and through selected specialist retail outlets.

Another specialist gin on show came courtesy of Martin Miller, a London-based distiller. The company prides itself on its singular approach to making gin. This sees it using the finest botanical ingredients, as well as traditional single pot distillation, before it is cut and blended some 1,500 miles away in Iceland. This combination of premium distilling and blending with Icelandic volcanic mountain spring water has resulted in an award-winning gin that is now available in 34 countries around the world. The gin currently retails at around £24 per 70cl bottle.

Staying with spirits and there was also an abundance of single malt whiskies on show. Notable among these was Glencadam, with the northeast Scotland-based distiller particularly promoting its 1982 Single Cask. Presented in an unusual square decanter, this would prove a rare treasure for the connoisseur or collector. Each bottle is numbered, with its 30 years in the cask certainly meriting the price tag of £300 per 70cl bottle.

Another company with a large presence at the event was Speyside distiller Tomintoul. On hand to talk uninitiates through the intricacies of single malt whiskey was Doug Scott, the company's International Sales Director. He said: "Our taste range is as you might expect from a Speyside Malt, except for our Peaty Tang, which is more like an Islay Malt".

The company's Tomintoul 33 recently took the World Whiskies Award, seeing off competition from elsewhere in Scotland, America and Japan to take the top slot. The Tomintoul range is now available around the world, with prices running from £27.95 to £50 per bottle.

Among these old favourites and inspired variants, there was also a number of genuinely new products to be had. Northamptonshire-based Chazwinkles, for instance, claims to offer a culinary collection of preserves designed to liven-up any meal.

Explaining the thinking behind the brand, Founder Charlie Elphinstone said: "I set about finding hunter-gatherer British seasonal fruits and vegetables that could be preserved and used, at will, in, on and with everyday cooking." Her collection of savoury preserves is currently stocked by UK independents and sold online.

With all the wine that was so widely available at the show, it was perhaps inevitable that cheese would also be clearly in evidence. On particularly ummissable example was the Castello brand, a subsidiary of Arla, the Danish foods giant. Based in Aarhus in Central Denmark, Castello had brought an extensive range of cheeses along on its 1,800 mile round trip to Birmingham. While these included its classic Danish Blue, it was a British blue cheese on a neighbouring stand that really stood out.

Cornish Blue is an artisan cheese created by Philip Stansfield, a former dairy farmer. A novice in the world of cheesemaking, he came up with the recipe for this rich, mild, creamy blue cheese in 2002. It has since gone on to win a number of honours, including sweeping the board at the World Cheese Awards in 2010.

Produced by the Cornish Cheese Company, Stansfield's own business, Cornish Blue is distributed as far afield as the US, although it primarily sells online and through specialist outlets in the UK.

Photo: The BBC Good Food Show: Beverage-filled booths and foodstuff-stacked stalls.
The BBC Good Food Show: Beverage-filled booths and foodstuff-stacked stalls.
Photo: The BBC Good Food Show: Beverage-filled booths and foodstuff-stacked stalls.
The BBC Good Food Show: Beverage-filled booths and foodstuff-stacked stalls.

Overall, though, one of the tastiest offerings came from Artisan Charcutier Granier, a family business from the South West of France with a speciality in pigs and charcutier cooking. Situated at 2,700 feet above sea level, the company naturally dries a range of meats – including filet mignon. These are then vacuum-sealed prior to distribution. Sales are currently limited to France and the UK.

The BBC Good Food Show takes place eight times a year at a number of venues across the UK.

David Wilkinson, Special Correspondent, Birmingham

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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