If there is one show worth visiting in the UK, then it ought to be the Farm Shop & Deli Show. Not only that but there are three other shows bolted on which offer opportunities to meet some high-end food producers. We also had the Ingredients Show, The National Convenience Show and The Forecourt Show which covered slightly different aspects of the retail experience in food and drink. The four shows in one dovetail to a certain extent although they cover different sectors of the food trade. The venue is the National Exhibition Centre, on the outskirts of Birmingham.
From an overall perspective there are plenty of small producers out there creating bespoke artisan food products and they come from all sectors and categories. Suitable for Vegans seems to be the keyword for any product and has knocked the equivalent vegetarian label off the perch. A number of products were out there which focussed not only on this accreditation but also having gluten-free as a key claim.
Amongst some of the award winners was a relative newcomer, Forest Deli where many of the products on offer can be found. I find the cheeses and a to-die-for pate is one of their specialities. Worth visiting as they are only down the road from FoodWrite Ltd in Coleford.
It is the leading show for many farm shops, for restaurants, butcheries, kitchens and even garden centres. I reckon there were 400 exhibitors representing nearly all the main sectors of the food industry.
Condiments and Salt
Salt is very much a connoisseur product even though it is essentially sodium chloride. The key is really where it is mined and sourced from and naturally what impurities might come with it. As a flavour, it is on of the basic five tastes (assuming we don’t include fat as a 6th). An important ingredient it is conspicuous by its absence as much by its presence in food. A couple of suppliers were on show including Churchfield Saltworks (www.droitwichsalt.com) from one of the UK’s salt mining hotspots in Droitwich Spa. An ingredient which is still sourced from pure brine springs. The salt has a Great Taste Award for 2018.
One of the finest healthy juices out there is cherry juice. It’s a seasonal product – in fact harvesting can only last three weeks in some parts of the country. Entirely unique in flavour it makes for a very healthy juice and one that could rival blackcurrant and orange juices. Kentish Cherry Juice (www.rentacherrytree.co.uk/farm-shop/cherry-juice) offer the straight no nonsense unsweetened juice. It has a fine flavour which is typical of sweet cherry and would rival those juices sourced from places like Oregon with their Chandler and Uncle Bing varieties. There is plenty of interest in the nutritional properties of cherry juice because of its associations with reducing muscle tiredness amongst other health benefits.
Gin was everywhere. It is still one of the fastest developing alcoholic beverages out there. Tequila and Rum might come next according to one wag but gin still dominates the shelves. So many types, so many flavours. Having said that, vodka also sits neatly on the shelf. Given that it can accommodate a range of flavours and has greater versatility than gin for that purpose, it’s good to see a few suppliers out there from the UK trying their hand at producing it.
Bars are a mainstay of the snack market and many UK suppliers have now become quite mainstream having developed in the last five years. The Trek and Kind brands have become well established and are now slowly fusing together.
Chocolate is always a delicious way to tempt the taste buds. Mondelez Int. in the Nat. Convenience Show showed us what is possible with a variety of chocolate temptations.
A deli shop isn’t truly one unless it has a counter with some cheese in it. A number of suppliers were present all showing different types and we were all spoilt for choice. Not only did we come across UK types but some of the fine food counters were offering cooking cheeses from Europe. Italian Parmesan is a great flavour for pastas, salads and carpaccio dishes of all sorts. It’s a cheese which comes from cows feeding on pasture in the Apennines of the Emilia Romagna region. One UK supplier offers a grated parmesan from Bertozzi which is available in a non-resealable bag. Ideal for catering and a convenient, lightweight package for any retailer. This product is organically sourced.
Sadly I missed the name of the UK vendor who had a chill cabinet containing all these wonderful cheeses.
The National Convenience show also showed us what was possible with breakfast. Carrs Foods Int. have the St. Pierre brand of baked goods which is stated to be Europe’s largest brand in this food category. Quite an extraordinary range too.
Wholesums is a brand from Mackie’s at Taypack Ltd in Errol, Perthshire. This Scottish product also offers vegetable chips which are made from a mixture of vegetables including carrots, peas and potatoes. That’s quite a combination but with only 85 calories in a bag backed up by the fact that the product is a source of fibre and is low in saturated fats. The barbeque flavour is sweet but not overpowering and there is a nice balance with the underlying vegetable taste so that it doesn’t overpower the product. Texture is clean and crunchy too ! The more conventional crisp might something rather unique like ‘Taste Of Game’ which is based in Rossett, Wrexham. This Welsh brand gives us various game flavoured crisps including ‘Wild Boar & Apple’. All their crisps are made from British potatoes sourced from Wade Lane Farm in Staffordshire. They are sliced with their skin on and then batch cooked in cold pressed rapeseed oil. The packaging makes the point that rapeseed oil contains 35 per cent lass saturated fat than sunflower oil. The crisps are suitable for vegans and vegetarians too.
Meaty Foods Pork pies featured heavily at this show. I rather like what Jones Pies were producing with their nine varieties of pork pie. The flavours on offer were original, Bury black pudding, chorizo, caramelized onion, cheese & pickle, stilton, jerk, apple with stuffing and sweet chilli. It seems a range of sizes are available for all those with a tiny to rather large appetite.
Wales – Regional Development On the Rise Wales always has a fair shout at this show and again there was a great and varied representation. Most of the producers were there under the auspices of Cywain – a Menter a Busnes. This is about supporting new ventures so that they grow and develop the food and drink sector in the principality of Wales. Of course their audience is much wider and there is plenty to offer the discerning customer of what a welsh food offering might do for their business. In the grouping are 15 businesses which form part of the Fine Food Cluster programme. This is a business led development programme that is supported by the Welsh Government and managed and facilitated by Cywain.
Packaging is a key factor for selling any kind of product. Crown Labels Ltd not only offered Herefordshire sourced bottled water demonstrating their neat labelling for the dehydrated visitor but could also produce bespoke transparent labels with your name to grace rather fine water bottles. All delivered within a few minutes too assuming the spelling was correct ! A nice gesture and one welcomed by various members of the family when these were thrown into the sitting room.