The ultimate guide to Speciality & Fine Food Fair 2023

30 August 2023, 07:00 AM
  • From the must-visit attractions and stalls, to key speakers, awards short lists and more. We bring you the definitive guide to this year's Fair
The ultimate guide to Speciality & Fine Food Fair 2023

Speciality & Fine Food Fair returns to Olympia London on 11th-12th September, celebrating the latest new products, initiatives and trends in the world of food and drink. 

For more than 20 years the Fair has been a trusted product-sourcing resource for buyers across the UK, from independent retailers and delis, to supermarket multiples, from café owners to restaurant chains, and from global wholesalers to speciality distributors of artisan food and drink.

Buyers and industry professionals are eagerly awaiting this year’s event, with Steve Reice, CTO of Artisan Food Club, commenting, “For me to leave my desk to attend a trade show, it needs to be something special. When it comes to Speciality & Fine Food Fair, there is no decision to make. Hands down the best trade show in the UK. I achieve more in one day at SFFF than I do across all the other shows combined.”

Nicky Wildin, sourcing manager at Mudwalls Farm, adds, “I’ve been visiting Speciality & Fine Food Fair as a buyer for 14 years. As a buyer, it’s my duty to hunt and seek out the best possible food and drink products, and understand emerging trends. The Fair connects me with producers and industry experts. It’s a brilliant community, and I always leave feeling inspired and fuelled with knowledge.”

This year’s event welcomes back food development consultancy FDReviews for the Producer Advice Hub, a section of the show where visitors can book a 15-minute session with an industry expert to fast-track their food and drink product or idea. 

Nicky Woods, event manager at Speciality & Fine Food Fair comments, “We can’t wait to welcome the who’s who of the food and drink sector back to the fair for two inspiring days, discovering delicious new products, hearing from insightful industry leaders, and networking with peers.” 

The Start-Up Village

The Start-Up Village is a bustling hub at the heart of the Fair, packed with over 60 exciting, up-and-coming food and drink businesses. Visitors will have the opportunity to meet with passionate brand owners as they launch innovative new products, pushing the boundaries of taste, and pioneering in the field of sustainability. 

From artisanal chocolates to craft spirits and niche superfoods, the Start-Up Village also cultivates an atmosphere of collaboration, allowing like-minded entrepreneurs to connect, learn, and grow.

This year’s event will showcase the likes of CHO26, a business that takes pride in its crafted jelly cocktails made from natural ingredients. The jelly cocktails, which include flavours such as Negroni, Old-Fashioned, Roasted Apple Sangria, Passion Fruit Martini, and Wild Berry and Peanut Butter, are vegan, gluten-free and non-GMO. 

The section will also feature LIQUEURIOUS, a small-batch award-winning liqueur brand. The business has a unique range of tea and coffee liqueurs, and its mission is to share the excitement, adventure and theatrics a little tipple can convey.

Spanish brand Arna Falco will be at the Fair showcasing its plant-based milk chocolate-coated almonds, handmade in Valencia using tiger nut and sunflower seed milk. 

For fans of delightful Korean flavours, BOMBOM creator and chef Seji will be on hand at this year’s event to share the company’s range of products with buyers. BOMBOM began with a supper club in Wimbledon in 2018, which led to a range of exciting collaborations and pop-ups in East London restaurants. It was clear customers like Seji’s food and sauces, so she took flavours that people love and developed them into her very own line of Korean sauces. Visitors can expect traditional sauces with a twist, packed with umami flavour and naturally vegan.

Charcuterie buyers will be spoilt for choice as they meet with Bray Cured, an award-winning British charcuterie brand offering a range of artisan cured meats. 

As they explain, “We call it new British charcuterie, because alongside the other great artisan cured meat producers across the country, we’re making Britain’s mark on the traditional world of charcuterie. We use exceptional British rare breed meat, experiment with new techniques, put twists on old favourites, and create new flavour profiles from British food influences, especially the things that grow around us locally.”

Deukes is on a mission to change our relationship with honey. With a long history of beekeeping on their family farm in Moldova, the team know how incredible different varieties of honey can taste. Rich. Sweet. Earthy. Deep. Woody. And yet, all too often, the factory process of mixing varieties and adding sweeteners, makes every jar on the shelves taste the same.

Deukes’ collection of raw monofloral varieties, each with a distinct taste and harvested using sustainable practices, is here to make honey special again.

Crafted in Kansai on the island of Honshū since 1889, KIYOKO is an extraordinary Japanese aperitif infused with freshly squeezed yuzu, one of the world’s rarest fruits, handpicked on centuries-old farms of unparalleled serenity and beauty. Visitors won’t want to miss the opportunity to sample this unique and delicious drink.

New products at Speciality & Fine Food Fair 2023

It’s not just the Start-Up Village which will be brimming with new products at this year’s event. The Fair will be awash with exciting new product launches from brands of all sizes. 

Visitors will have the chance to sample FHIRST Living Soda, the ‘fhirst’ of its kind, all-natural, zero sugar, gut lovin’ living soda that combines the benefits of both probiotic cultures and prebiotic plant fibre. A next-gen soda which not only tastes great but is good for you too.

Fourneo will be launching at the Fair with a revolutionary new bakery solution for retail and foodservice. The business has developed a cutting-edge process for the folding and stretching of sourdough across 72 hours, and produces delicious pinsa, focaccia and ciabatta. 

Ibis Rice is a conservation project started by the Wildlife Conservation Society to protect the last remaining area of a uniquely bio-diverse forest that once covered most of South East Asia. The project directly engages with farming communities, making them the stewards and guardians of the land that they farm.

The Cambodian farmers involved in the Ibis Rice project grow a regionally specific variety of long-grain jasmine, locally called Phka Rumdoul. Phka Rumdoul has been voted best rice in the world five times in a row, for the last five years, at the Rice Trader World Conference. At Speciality & Fine Food Fair, visitors can sample rice cakes and cereal manufactured through Ibis Rice and packed in Cambodia using locally-grown ingredients. 

In addition to showcasing its diverse range of bakery products, Arundel Bakery will be at Speciality & Fine Food Fair to launch its exciting new vegan range. Meanwhile, Mademoiselle Macaron will be at the Fair with new, large handmade French macarons, perfect for the foodservice sector.

The Truffle Guys will be showcasing their exciting new truffle hot sauce, shortlisted for a Speciality & Fine Food Fair award, and Hatari by Fiesty Foods will be bringing a wide range of brand-new sauces, jams and salts to the event, including Smoked Habanero Chilli Salt, Chunky Chilli Oil, Smoked Chilli Oil and Chilli Mash Pots. 

Experience international innovation

In addition to an amazing range of UK businesses, the Fair will also showcase products from over 30 countries around the world. 

Fiji Ginger, as the name might suggest, is a specialist in preserved ginger from Fiji Islands. The business imports and exports ginger as syrup, crystalised and pickled for sushi, packed in the company’s own facility in Holland for the retail and foodservice sector. 

H & A Nader - Lebanese Fine Foods & Wines, has delved into Lebanon’s rich and diverse cuisine to import top ambient brands, including seasonally preserved foods, distilled flower waters, olive oils, aromatic zaatar, zesty sumac and highly regarded Lebanese wines. 

Flanders producer, The Nutty Farmer, has developed a delicious range of Fairtrade cashew nuts, handmade on its farm in Belgium. Able to be enjoyed as a snack or a topping on a dish, they come in four adventurous flavours, including Burning Buffalo (smoked herbs and hot spices), and Happy Hippo (pomegranate and Oriental spices).

Food Export USA Northeast will be presenting a range of products including hot sauces, barbecue sauces, bitesize pretzels and delicious snacks from the Spritzal Cookie Company, while Daesang Corporation, Korea’s leading general food company specialising in fermentation, will be showcasing brands including Jongga and O’Food. 

Elsewhere at the Fair, visitors can discover Banhoek Chilli Oil, which is handcrafted in small batches in the beautiful Banhoek Valley near Stellenbosch, South Africa. Using only the highest quality rapeseed oil and Thai birdseye chillies, Banhoek Chilli Oil delivers the perfect combination of flavour versus heat. It contains no preservatives, and is 100% natural and GMO free.

The Trends Theatre

The Trends Theatre will be the go-to place for visitors to the Fair to get bang up to date with the very latest trends in food and drink and the speciality retail sector. 

Research and industry insights are at the heart of this year’s seminar programme. Waitrose & Partners innovations manager, Lizzie Haywood, will be offering five top tips for retail success, and Charles Banks of thefoodpeople, with Kelly Dowson of F!S Group, will be presenting a deep dive into the 2023 Future Food Trends Tracker. 

Banks comments, “It’s always a pleasure to speak at Speciality & Fine Food Fair. The team make participation so easy, and do a great job of raising awareness of the stages and presentations that sit as part of the event. It goes without saying that it’s an amazing opportunity to come together with the wider sector and share our trend foresight to support visitors and exhibitors in shifting the future of food and drink by harnessing the power of trends.”

Belle Lawrence, associate director at Immediate Future, Matthew Bond, creative director at Project D, and Olivia Vachon, marketing manager at Eataly London, will be taking to the stage to unveil their closely held social media secrets, and providing insight into how retailers and hospitality professionals can elevate their brand. 

Later, Vhari Russell, managing director of The Food Marketing Experts, Louis Bedwell, managing director of Mission Ventures, and Alexander Mair, founder and managing director of All In A Box, will be joining forces to discuss the current state of NPD, and whether recent product launches are prioritising novelty over the genuine needs of the consumer. 

Bedwell comments, “Speciality & Fine Food Fair is the leading event in the industry for the discovery of the top brands of tomorrow. The best new brands meet an important consumer need. 

“As issues of sustainability and health become more important, it’s great to see the benefits of great new product development and how it can solve challenges for both industry and consumer. I’m looking forward to taking part in the discussion.”

In a panellists session entitled ‘Exploring the Power of Insights for NPD’, food industry coach Amy Wilkinson, food industry consultant Lucy Wager, Food Industry,  Differential Insight founder Mark Whalley, and Mintel associate director Ayisha Koyenikan, will be discussing how food and drink professionals can spice up with NPD strategy with actionable insights and thought-provoking talking points. 

Wager comments, “It’s such an honour to be speaking at Speciality & Fine Food Fair. For years I attended as a brand owner gaining so much from the event. To now be able to come back and speak at the fair, sharing my knowledge, and hopefully helping other producers is a full circle I am so proud of.”

Wilkinson adds, “I am excited to be chairing the panel on the power of insights for NPD. As someone who has worked in both functions in the food industry, I can see how insights may often be misunderstood as a term by those working on new product development and I know this discussion will help to debunk the myths about the term and be really helpful for the audience.”

Sarah Horssnell, head of buying at Appetite Me, will also be presenting a valuable session on optimising the customer experience though visual identity. 

She says, “The importance of visual merchandising in a retail environment can often be underestimated. Join us to discuss the impact that great visual merchandising can have in transforming a space, improving commerciality and setting your business apart. We will discuss the thought process behind great display and how to use visual merchandising as a powerful tool to improve the customer journey.”

Also in the Trends Theatre, culinary consultant and chef Steve Walpole will be welcoming a host of industry experts to explore the latest trends, flavours and opportunities in global cuisine and using a range of products from the Fair to cook up some delicious dishes. 

Walpole will be covering topics including how to celebrate sustainability in the kitchen, going back to basics with natural products, showcasing the best of British, and demystifying Japanese ingredients. 

“I can’t wait to be back at Speciality & Fine Food Fair, cooking up a storm with some amazing guest speakers,” says Walpole. “Join us to discover some of the most exciting trends in food and drink, and to sample some of the best products on offer at this year’s Fair.”

Another exciting addition to this year’s content programme is the launch of the Power Breakfast, in partnership with Flanders Investment & Trade. This year’s edition will see retail and business expert Kate Hardcastle MBE taking to the stage to discuss the very latest trends in food and drink retail, and the state of the UK high street. This exclusive event is open to senior industry leaders across retail, hospitality and foodservice, and takes place before the Fair opens on Tuesday, 12th September. 

The Drinks Cabinet

At the centre of the Drinks Cabinet, the heart of all things drinks at the Fair, the Inspiration Bar will see in-depth sessions across the two days from Mixology School, providing advice and guidance for visitors looking to make the most of the drinks products they stock. 

The team will be taking deep dives into topics such as low and no, the Bloody Mary, the Daiquiri and the Spritz. 

Zoe Cunliffe, director at Mixology School, says, “We can’t wait to head back to Speciality & Fine Food Fair this September to provide key insights into the latest drinks trends, highlight some fantastic new products and pairings, and advise specialty retailers on how to upsell and elevate their drinks offerings.”

Visitors to the Drinks Cabinet will also be able to meet with brand owners for a wide range of quality drinks brands such as Bemuse, a company that has reimagined the world’s oldest brewed drink – mead – to create a refreshing, non-alcoholic, sparkling, low-calorie drink for modern tastes.

Other businesses taking up residence in the Drinks Cabinet include colourful gin liqueur brand Reverand Hubert, quality RTD cocktail brand Whitebox Cocktails, and organic tea brand Tea Bird Tea.

Squeezed will be launching a new RTD fresh orange and vodka can, plus Jamaican rum punch brand Punch Daadie will be showcasing a new ‘rum punch in a pouch’. 

The Speciality & Fine Food Fair Awards

Each year the Speciality & Fine Food Fair Awards are a highlight of the two-day event, celebrating innovative independent retailers and quality brands. This year’s awards include recognition of the best small and large independent retailers, in partnership with BIRA (the British Independent Retailers Assocation) and a brand-new category for the very latest NPD from producers at the Fair. 

The ‘Not Yet on the Shelf’ category is open to products that are not yet listed in any retailers: truly new products representing an exciting future for the food and drink market. 

“The introduction of the ‘Not Yet on the Shelf’ award is a fantastic idea for both the brand and the retailer,” comments Adrian Boswell, food buyer at Selfridges and awards judge. “In an industry where it’s becoming increasingly difficult to have a point of difference, a focus on this area plays an important part of giving retailers the opportunity to be first to market and provide a launch pad for exciting new brands.”

The shortlist for this category is:
Cherry and Almond Jam by Winnie’s Original
Truffle Hot Sauce by Truffle Guys Ltd
Chestnut Gnocchi by Cornwall Pasta Co
Spherika Date Pearls by Pescaviar S.L.

The New Product of the Year – International category celebrates products from international businesses taking part in the Fair, with entries from all around the world sampled by the panel of industry judges. 

The shortlist for this category is: 
Truffle Chocolate by chocoMe kft. 
16 Chocolate Tasting Box by Culinaris UK Ltd
Dark Chocolate with Jerk Seasoning by Pure Chocolate Jamaica
Marshmallow Crunchies by Turtle

New Product of the Year – UK showcases exciting new products being launched at this year’s event by producers at the Fair.

The shortlist for this category is:
Goldstone Rum by Goldstone Rum
Tiny Tee’s Dirty Martini by Whitebox Cocktails
Non-Alcoholic Ginger Wine by Jackson Roze

Sustainability Pioneer of the Year is a category which can be entered by businesses, individuals or initiatives demonstrating a pioneering, industry-leading approach to ESG and environmental concerns. 

The shortlist for this category is:
Date Sultan
Bay Coffee Roasters
Golden Hooves
Two Farmers

The Small Independent Retailer of the Year award, in partnership with BIRA, is presented to a pioneering smaller retailer at the heart of their community.  The winner will be a forward-thinking independent retailer with less than £500k annual turnover and/or 10 or fewer employees. 

The shortlist for this category is:
Date Sultan
Willow Tree Delicatessen
Refill Therapy Ltd  
Drapers Lane Delicatessen

The Large Independent Retailer of the Year award, in partnership with BIRA, is presented to a pioneering retailer with over £500k annual turnover and/or more than 11 employees. The winner is a forward-thinking retailer, a real advocate for independent businesses, and leads by example to push for change and development for the industry on key agendas. 

The shortlist for this category is:
Flourish at Glenavon Farm
Cobbs Farm Co Ltd
Grasmere Gingerbread® 
The De Beauvoir Deli

Outstanding Industry Champion, nominated by leading professionals in the sector, will be announced alongside the award winners on day one of the Fair on 11th September at Olympia London. 

The judges for this year’s event were Selfridges food buyer Adrian Boswell, Minall co-founder Stephen Minall, Food Marketing Experts managing director Vhari Russell, Tara Mei, founder of Mahalo Supplies, culinary consultant Steve Walpole, and Laura Roberts, owner of Laura’s Larder.

Roberts comments, “It was a wonderful experience being a judge for the Speciality & Fine Food Fair Awards, the session was emotional and opinionated - as it should be! We were challenged and excited in equal parts by an array of interesting, fun, and purposeful products. I’m looking forward to the year ahead!”

Championing sustainability at the fair

An exciting new addition to Speciality & Fine Food Fair this year is the launch of the B Corp Guide, in partnership with Cotswold Fayre. 

Sustainability has sky-rocketed up the agenda for many buyers, and B Corp has emerged as one of the leading certifications for businesses demonstrating a high level of verified performance, accountability and transparency across their ESG efforts. 

The process to achieve B Corp certification is a rigorous one, requiring engagement from teams, departments, partners and suppliers throughout a business, which is why these suppliers are being particularly highlighted at this year’s event. 

Itself a B Corp, Cotswold Fayre has been leading the way when it comes to sustainability in food and drink wholesale, and has been a source of inspiration for many in the sector. 

Among the producers set to be showcased in the guide is Tracklements, offering more than 50 handmade pickles, chutneys and more, including Strong Horseradish Cream, Sweet Mustard Ketchup and Fresh Chilli Jam. The business sources UK ingredients wherever possible, supports British farmers, generates its own electricity, and reduces food waste by embracing wonky fruit and vegetables. 

The guide will also feature English Tea Shop, a global business with sustainability at its core, using 100% organic ingredients and pre-dominantly sourcing from small-scale organic farmers in Sri Lanka.

Another proud B Corp, Golden Hooves, produces delicious, award-winning cheese made from 100% regeneratively farmed milk. The business is on a mission to preserve land for future generations by reversing diversity loss and sequestering carbon. 

Join the who’s who of the retail and hospitality sector at Speciality & Fine Food Fair 2023, taking place on 11th-12th September at Olympia London. Learn more about everything happening at this year’s event, and register for your complimentary trade ticket here.

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