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The Covid-19 pandemic has increased consumer interest in gut-friendly fermented foods, given their potential benefits to the immune system. Probiotic foods include kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut and kefir, all of which are the perfect sell for fine food retailers.
Paul Gurnell, general manager of Purearth explained: “It is now widely accepted globally that your gut is the foundation of everything. It aids in the digestion of the foods you eat, absorbs nutrients, and uses it to fuel and maintain your body.
“Fermented foods have long been seen by those in the East as a way of maintaining that healthy balance, but with the exception of Dairy Kefirs, the beverage offerings in the retail channels were mainly mass-produced Kombucha’s which were either pasteurised (killing bacteria and the live cultures) or filtered to a point where no live cultures were left present, in order to enhance shelf life. This left a gap in the market a genuinely “live”, non-dairy drink which people could integrate into their daily lifestyle, which we have looked to exploit with our range of water kefirs.”
Sharky Yoon, founder of MR. KIMCHI mirrored this idea of real probiotics being unsuitable for major supermarkets: “Creating a product that is natural, healthy with no additives is really difficult to put inside the main supermarket. Retailers often prefer products that have a long shelf life, but as a Kimchi producer, we can definitely see demand on customers who are really looking for natural, healthier products.”
Fine food retailers can capitalise on the fact that large supermarkets can’t logistically sell natural and pure fermented food and drink products and make gut health their domain. Pure kombucha and natural kimchi require a significant amount of care and attention, which is perfect for small independent retailers whose customers value quality over quantity.
Moreover, as the low/no alcohol trend grows, gut-healthy products like kombucha are becoming a high-end alternative that all fine food businesses can sell. This is because kombucha is not just a health drink. According to Louise Avery, founder of LA Brewery, “Kombucha is known primarily as a health tonic but it has stretched effectively into soft drink alternatives. Aside from the gut-health benefits that it can offer, I believe kombucha will now grow extensively in the no and low alcoholic drinks area as an exciting alcohol alternative.”
“For me, kombucha is one of those very unique drinks that can trigger all of the taste receptors on your tongue – sweet, sour, salty, bitter & umami – something quite rare outside of food, and a very satisfying experience.
The pandemic has also increased stress levels across the nation, which coupled with the impending energy crisis could lead to a heightened increase in relaxation products such as CBD. These types of products have not yet taken off in major supermarkets, as they tend to be specialised with higher price points. In this sense, CBD offers a potential new revenue stream for fine food retailers as well as health food stores.
According to Paul, “Almost three-quarters of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point over the last year they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope. There have been many contributors to both physical and mental health changes, leaving our bodies at times in need of additional support.
“For us, our ethos has always been very clear, take functional ingredients from the world around us and combine them in the purest way possible to provide the highest levels of benefit in an accessible and enjoyable way.”
Georgie Abbott, founder of Drops of Heal added: “Efficacy is one of the most important factors in the CBD industry. When I first tried CBD, the products I was taking were impractical and unenjoyable. They either had no effect or they tasted horrible, therefore we created CBD olive oils that are effective but also taste delicious.
”In the CBD industry, we could see fewer ‘gimmicky’ products and, rather than buying into the trend, consumers will focus on functional products that will benefit their day-to-day life.
The move away from gimmicky CBD products that don’t really have functional benefits means that the CBD industry is ripe for a fine food takeover, as consumers seek out higher quality products that are tailored to indie retail.
In fact, Georgie has already found success in fine food for her CBD products: “We have found that independent retailers, delis and restaurants have been keen to work with us due to the new opportunities we can offer to the market by making it so simple for them to capitalize on the CBD market.”
And it’s not just the health benefits that make these products the perfect sell for fine food businesses, brands such as Purearth, Mr Kimchi and Drops of Heal also have a combined function with quality food. This means even delis and farm shops can capitalise on these products to ensure their customers’ needs are met and to make a claim on the growing market.