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Start-ups and Big Brands Battle for Table Space at BBC Food Show

From re-discovered London gins, to surprisingly good Greek wines and premium North African spices, tasty luxury treats were the starts of the BBC Good Food Show, with an astonishing number of sampling opportunities also on offer.

Photo: The Good Food Show: The live incarnation of the BBC’s eating and drinking flagship.
The Good Food Show: The live incarnation of the BBC's eating and drinking flagship.
Photo: The Good Food Show: The live incarnation of the BBC’s eating and drinking flagship.
The Good Food Show: The live incarnation of the BBC's eating and drinking flagship.

The BBC Good Food Show at Olympia featured the usual line up of celebrity chiefs, tempting visitors with fabulous recipes, all made to look easy courtesy of their extraordinary haute cuisine skills. Also on show this year were a number of big food and drink brands, all hoping to win over the amateur chefs and shift their products across the three days of the event. As well as established brands, the show featured numerous start-ups, launching new products, looking for distribution or just hoping to make a name for themselves.

The drinks' market is always well represented at the BBC Good Food Shows and London did not disappoint. Artisan gin has been a growing sector in recent years with a number of new brands emerging and several all-but forgotten labels re-emerging. The City of London Distillery, for instance, has recently brought its gin back to the market after a 200-year absence. Another copper pot-distilled gin on show was Conker Spirit from Dorset, as was Poetic License, a small batch distiller.

In the whisky category there was news of an exciting new distillery being born – Raasay and Borders (R&B), which takes its name from a tiny island in the Scottish Hebrides. Company Director, Alasdair Day, was letting the public taste and buy a "wee dram" of his stand-in scotch – Raasay While We Wait. He said: "It will be another five years until the whisky from Rassay is ready. In the meantime we have crafted a highland malt with a similar light peaty note. It's a taster of what's to come.

"We are also using my father's blending experience to make Borders, a single grain whisky. The result is small batch scotch whisky, priced at £56.95 per 70cl online".

Ciaran Mulgrew, a seasoned distiller, named his newly launched Irish whiskey after his apparently taciturn Northern Irish bartender father – The Quiet Man. Mulgrew says that the quality of his whiskey, besides the ingredients and craft distilling, is the result of eight years maturing in bourbon barrels. Recommended retail price for the malt is £36.95 per 70cl. This new whiskey is part of the Niche Drinks portfolio, which now has a global distribution network.

Coole Swan Irish Cream Liqueur has already proved a success story for the husband and wife team at their family dairy farm in rural Ireland. Their combination of Irish whiskey blended with Belgian white chocolate and fresh Irish dairy cream has emerged as an award-winning cream liqueur. It retails at around £25 per 70cl bottle and is available worldwide from depots in Ireland, the US and Australia.

A refreshing change and somewhat new to the market was Pedrino from Melius Drinks in London. Its booth had a constant queue of visitors 'testing' samples, which was testament to both the quality of its alcoholic tonic and the company's generosity.

Sam Showering, together with business partner Joseph Knopfler, created Pedrino, an unlikely combination of sherry and tonic water, blended with a variety of botanicals. Presenting the product's credentials Showering said: "Having grown-up in the family drinks dynasty of Babycham and Harvey's, I was keen to do my own thing and both Joe and I felt that there was a niche in the market for a sherry derivative. We are really excited with the product. It's very different from anything else on the market".

Pedrino is currently stocked by a number of premium retailers and retails at £2.45 per 20cl.

Overall, wine was very much in abundance, with tastings on offer at some 25 stands, as well as at three more formal sessions per day. One such session, hosted by Jane Parkinson, the BBC's wine critic, featured only Greek wines, all distributed by Southern Wine Roads. Perhaps wisely, this fact was held back from tasters until they were sitting down.

Photo: Raasay: An upstart new malt.
Raasay: An upstart new malt.
Photo: Raasay: An upstart new malt.
Raasay: An upstart new malt.
Photo: Award-winning: Coole Swan.
Award-winning: Coole Swan.
Photo: Award-winning: Coole Swan.
Award-winning: Coole Swan.

Despite Greek wines having something of a poor reputation in the UK market, the testers pleasantly surprised many, as all of the wines tasted exceptionally well. The full-bodied red on taste was the Monopati 2012, an Agiorghitiko grape from the Nemea Appelation. The wine scored 100% from tasters and retails at around £18.50 per 70cl bottle.

Many show goers' food journey actually began at the Caviar Perle Noir stand, with the irresistible opportunity to sample the little black eggs of the sturgeon. In this particular case, the delicacy had been sourced from the clearly gastronomic region of Black Perigord in France. Claire Hautefeuille, the company's Export Director, said: "Fresh water sturgeon were introduced in Perigord 30 years ago. We now farm them to produce the ultimate canapé". The 500gm vacuum tins retail from €55-115, with distribution opportunities available.

Perhaps the healthiest food at a show packed with luxury indulgences was the CRU8 range of gourmet raw and paleo food, with the products the result of Alexi von Eldik's university psychology thesis, rather than of any more conventional food marketing plan. Her range of snacks and energy boosters is built upon the principals of eating raw whole foods, free of wheat, gluten, dairy, and refined sugar, but with a low GI (glycaemic index). These are supposedly-nutrient dense and slow energy releasing, while also tasting great.

The range is currently available online and in specialist stores, although Andrew Richardson, the company's representative, believes that the growing interest in nutrition should present further opportunities for retail growth.

Steve Baxter, Director of Tring-based Foodie Flavours, meanwhile, was showing off his company's range of novel food flavourings. He said: "We have created 53 flavourings, 49 of which are completely natural – no gluten, no dairy and taste 'wow'. They are all high strength and aimed at the professional cook or serious foodie."

The range is available online and in bulk for food production, prices vary according to flavouring and start at £3.99 for a 15ml bottle.

Spicy foods were being sampled throughout the event, many from recent start-up companies. One such business was Kent-based Ragini's, a producer of Mauritian curry powder based on traditional family recipes and available for distribution right now.

Another spicy treat, this time an accompaniment for curry, was on offer from London's Cheeky Food Co. Company Founder, Swati Biwal, quit corporate life to recreate her family's recipes from back in India, but in a cheeky way. Her range of Cheeky Pickles, Chutney and Spreads have already made it on to the shelves of a prestige retailer – Selfridges – all with a cheeky label, but an authentic taste.

One of the smallest and most startling product ranges came courtesy of London's Saveur du Maroc, whose five products have already won seven Great Taste 2015 Awards. The quality of the product's ingredients and package design is impeccable, which is presumably why it has quickly graced the shelves of a number of high-end UK retailers, including Harrods and Selfridges.

Argan Oil, Amlou, Harissa, Rose Water and Orange Blossom Water make up this authentic Moroccan fine food range. Amina Dahbi Skali, the Co-founder of the company, was very excited by the reception at the show, saying: "My sister and I are very proud of our heritage. We use only the freshest ingredients with centuries-old techniques to create the best taste and nutrition.

"We started the Moorish Trading Company as a Fairtrade family business and we source all of our products through the women's co-operatives based in UNESCO-protected parks in Morocco".

The typical online price for the Argan Oil is £25 for a 240ml bottle, making it very much a premium product.

Photo: Connoisseur canapé: Perle Noire Caviar.
Connoisseur canapé: Perle Noire Caviar.
Photo: Connoisseur canapé: Perle Noire Caviar.
Connoisseur canapé: Perle Noire Caviar.
Photo: CRU8: Gourmet-style nutrition.
CRU8: Gourmet-style nutrition.
Photo: CRU8: Gourmet-style nutrition.
CRU8: Gourmet-style nutrition.

Larger than life at the Show was celebrity TV chef, Cyrus Todiwala. Chef Cyrus was spreading himself thinly between cooking demonstrations, showing up at Café Spice Namaste, on location at the event, as well as at his own stand with its splendidly spicy pickle and chutney range. There are 12 chutneys and pickles in the range, currently made in his London restaurant's kitchens and sold online. Given Todiwala's popularity as a TV personality, his brand is certain to attract considerable interest from retailers.

The BBC Good Food Show was held at London's Olympia.

David Wilkinson, Special Correspondent, London

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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