Food and Drink Expo

“Food & Drink Expo proved to be a fantastic venue for new food launches, as Nellie Nichols discovered.”

I am a massive fan of food exhibitions and this is one of the best for showcasing new innovation.

My show rules are these: overtake the aisledawdlers, circumnavigate absolutely anyone dressed up as something ridiculous (giant animals, carrots and so on) and ignore all the people who you bump into who whinge that they can’t find anything new. My route is vital. I stick to it even if I do meet someone I haven’t seen for years since we worked together or launched a product, or met at another food show. Up and down every aisle without losing speed unless absolutely required.

This formula means I can see all stands in a reasonable space of time and dedicate enough time to the rest of the world area, where you never know what you’ll find. I am well impressed by how many new and innovative suppliers there are, many with the slickest of marketing, design and delicious products.

Too many to mention, at least within my allotted space within these pages, so for the purposes of good order here are some of my favourite ones and hopefully some you may be interested in. Pies are now very much in vogue and if you are thinking of adding them to your portfolio there are two companies here worth investigating.

Pieminister is a major award winner and their hand made pies are available across the UK in Borough Market, London, some delis and food halls such as Harvey Nichols. In just 18 months they have notched up several awards, served H.M. the Queen and opened a shop in Bristol as well as selling their pies on the very muddy British Festival Circuit.

All the pies have wonderful ridiculous names; Chicken of Aragon (Free range British chicken, smoked bacon, roast garlic, vermouth and fresh tarragon), Mr Porky Pie (West country pork, smoked bacon, shallots, apples, leeks, Somerset Cider and sage) and the best named of all Heidi Pie (Goats cheese, sweet potatoes, spinach red onion and roasted garlic)

There are loads more. Edward Moon Proper Pies are a little longer in the tooth with twenty years behind them specialising in the food service market. Run by Martyn Thomas, Kevin Morel and Mark Evans, they describe themselves as chefs turned manufacturers. Here is a huge range of beautifully hand crafted often bespoke tarts and pies of every shape and size.

The beauty of their product is each and every one has ingredients brimming up and pushing through the surface. Roasted Red Pepper, Goats Cheese and Pancetta Tart made with a Red Pesto and Rosemary short crust pastry is a tart made with love. Shows are not complete without a visit to the Charcuterie Continental stand – with such an amazing portfolio of different meats I’m fairly sure if you are looking for something specific they supply it.

I’ve yet to find another manufacturer who can come close to the quality of their Rare Roast Beef and they have now launched an Organic version. Their extensive range of flavoured sausages is worth a visit too, particularly Pork and Haggis and the Italian with Fennel and Chilli. There are times when flashes of brilliance and ‘why didn’t I think of that moments’ happen and The Big Prawn Company has so definitely had one.

Their range of ‘Breakers’ are the cutest little individual seafood snack pots filled on one side with either Tiger Prawns, Mussels, Crayfish or Cold Water Prawns and in a separate compartment for dipping either Sweet Chilli, Tomato and Basil, Chilli and Lime or Seafood Sauce respectively.

This is food on the move Mark Two, convenient, healthy and very versatile. They can be eaten on their own, put in a sandwich or on a salad or thrown over some pasta or a baked potato. Hats off to them for spotting a real opportunity in the food to go market. There are too many depressingly average soup companies making cost driven and totally disappointing soup.

With flowery names these watery products don’t deliver and the supermarkets are unfortunately full of them. The exception to the rule is without doubt the multi award-winning Yorkshire Soup Company, who supplies Waitrose, Selfridges, and Harvey Nichols. Handmade in a modern facility in Yorkshire from local ingredients this is as home-made as you’ll ever get to taste. Run by the Williams family, all with good farming backgrounds, they support local farmers and seasonal produce.

Their Gold Award winners are Tomato and Red Pepper with Wensleydale Cheese and Carrot and Celeriac with Caraway and Cumin. The one I love the most is one of their many Silver Award winners: Beetroot, Parsnip, Ginger and Horseradish. A natural fuchsia pink, it has a wonderful nubbly texture.

I’ve always loved L’Aquila products and this exhibition is no exception. Majoring on wild, exotic and Mediterranean vegetable ingredients, two products shine out for me as being well worth a look. Their newly launched Sorriso semi dried smoked tomatoes are fantastic and a well needed lateral move forward from the overused standard dried tomato products on the market. Their Taggiasca crushed olives are beyond words.

A spoonful of this will magically transform a simple Goats Cheese product into sheer heaven. Burnt Sugar is another young and growing like topsy company which is now supplying Waitrose, Villandry and Borough Market amongst others. There isn’t too much they don’t know about cooking sugar and their fudges and caramels are the crumbliest, most buttery and smooth I have tasted for a long while.

If you never eat another piece of fudge again try their Christmas range now: Figgy Puddings, Persian Nougat or best of all and never to be forgotten is their Christmas Pudding Fudge. I don’t do sugar except for every now and then but one bite and I’m morphed straight from March to December 25th – I feel like Lucy after she’s pushed her way through all the fur coats in the wardrobe and got into Narnia and sampled one of the magic pieces of Turkish delight.

As I write I can only wish I had a bowl of it sitting right here on my desk. If I did then next to it would be a huge bowl of the most wonderful popcorn I have ever encountered from Ear to Ear. Great name, remarkable product. Here we have true 21st century popcorn from America’s Midwest. Interestingly the UK popcorn market is forecast to have a value of £152.6 million by 2007, an increase of 33.7% since 2002.

Figures that reflect that consumers are moving away from crisps in droves to a product with a lower salt and fat content far more in keeping with a healthier lifestyle. Flavours such as Salt & Vinegar, Bombay Masala, Caramel Drizzled Chocolate, and more, and my two favourites: Sour Cream & Chive and White Cheddar.

At the present time this is the only Organic corn being air popped in the UK, cooked to order without the use of any oil. This is healthy, fresh and streets ahead of all that overpriced hideous and stale long life UK cinema popcorn. So there you have it, standing in the icy wind waiting for the funny little car park shuttle bus I am very enthused. Away from the ritzy corporate


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