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Product innovation; new solutions; ethical; sustainability; meat substitutes; charitable initiatives and a smattering of special guests made the 20th Anniversary edition of Speciality & Fine Food Fair go with a bang when it returned to Olympia last week. A wealth of retailers, buyers, chefs, independent business owners and the BBC all headed to West London for the celebrations. The Fair proved to have a draw for those looking to discover the latest trends and innovations in the world of artisan food and drink.
Visitors enjoyed three days jammed packed with sampling, new launches, industry insights and the opportunity to meet face-to-face with over 700 passionate producers spanning a broad cross-section of categories and from all around the world. 59% of suppliers had chosen to exhibit at the Fair for the first time, reflecting the reputation it has built over the years for being an unrivalled, quality platform for new product launches. In turn, a new vetting process ensured that suppliers met with high calibre, targeted visitors, enabling them to build meaningful contacts and long-standing relationships.
Ethical to the Core
Demand for ethical food and drink has grown 16.3% in the past year, brands offering provenance and ethics to build consumer trust and loyalty had a strong presence on the show floor. In the Food For Thought session ‘Local Heroes – Your New Source of Revenue’, Claire Brumby, James Golding, Group Chef Director, The Pig Hotels, John Shepherd, Partridges, Rupert Ponsonby, R&R Teamwork and Co., and Thain Coventry, Milk & More discussed brand storytelling focused on sustainability and the key benefits of sourcing locally.
On the vibrant Savour The Flavour stage, Steve Walpole hosted ‘Decreasing Food Waste – How to ComplEAT’, by cooking with food that would have otherwise gone to waste, demonstrating to the audience that it can still taste spectacular.
Companies flying the flag for sustainably sourced produce included The Phished Fish and newcomer, British Herb Kitchen. Two Farmers also made a triumphant return to the show having launched there last year.
The Fair’s dedication to sustainability was reflected by its ongoing partnership with City Harvest, London’s leading food distribution charity. This year, 2.6 tonnes of surplus food was donated by exhibitors, the equivalent of 6179 meals which were passed on to more than 170 organisations such as homeless shelters and after school programmes.
Brands innovating vegan and plant-based products made up 17% of all exhibitors. Among those at the forefront of vegan product innovation were Grecious Ltd. with its premium Tahini and flavoured vegan Tahini spreads. Event Manager, Elena Attanasio, selected the brand as one of her top three artisan picks from the Fair.
While Naturinni launched a ‘Vegan Bacon’, made with a vegetable called eddoes. Kate Percy’s Go Bites showcased natural energy balls and promoted its 5 x 2025 mission that by 2025, every child should be able to cook 5 simple, nourishing recipes by the time they leave home.
Buzz Around the Bar
The Drinks Cabinet made a triumphant return with producers showcasing a host of beverage innovation, a trend seen across the Fair. The whole show came together for a celebratory daily Happy Hour featuring wines from Best of Hungary, Luscombe Drinks, Belgian beers from Sulzbacher and Brasserie Du Bocq and food from Delicioso – The Spanish Food Company.
Brands innovating in the drinks sector included Noveltea, one of Soraya Gadelrab, Portfolio Director, top artisan picks. The only alcoholic tea in the world blends the highest quality loose leaf teas with a range of expertly crafted spirits to be served as iced tea or as a hot toddie. Also innovating in the alcohol-free sector were Freestar with its premium alcohol-free beer.
Import and Export – Hot on the Agenda
The importance of international relations was proudly on display, as this year’s Fair served up a host of country pavilions dedicated to showcasing the best of Mexico; Greece; Spain; Italy; South Korea; Zimbabwe; South Africa; Serbia; Belgium; France; Netherlands and Portugal.
Specialist importers and distributors, Cibosano, offered visitors a taste of Italian flavours including Dolce & Gabbana branded pasta and panettone, including Sicilian Confectionery from Fiasconaro and the first Italian Deli in the UK, Fratelli Camisa.
While at the Mexico stand, hosted in partnership with MexGrocer, chefs cooked up a storm with live tortilla making sessions, as well as mixing up the ultimate Bloody Marys. The South Korean pavilion showcased traditional doenjang from Jangmaeul, a naturally fermented soybean paste, as well as luxury confectionery from Shinhwadang Confectionery Co.
While at Savour The Flavour, Steve Walpole went head to head with Hamila Ferreira in an international cook off using ingredients inspired by Moroccan flavours including chickpeas and blended herbs and spices.
Special guests who came to join the celebrations included:
Renowned Italian Chef Gennaro Contaldo
Channel 4’s Jasmine Harman, Brand Ambassador of The Brook Vegan Foods
Jamaican High Commissioner
Sri-Lankan High Commissioner
Canadian High Commissioner attended the Fair
Pitch Live! and Fresh Discovery Awards Revealed the Best
Each day the semi-finalists of the Pitch Live! Initiative were invited to pitch their product to an impressive line-up of expert judges with the award of a free stand at the 2020 edition up for grabs. In an interesting twist, the finalists from the three days were all drinks brands, including day one winner, Beeble, with their sensational honey whisky made with honey sourced from their 130 hives in Wiltshire.
Tapping into the growing ‘no and low’ market, day 2’s two’s winner was GIMBER with its new alcohol-free, organic drink made with the finest Peruvian ginger for a drink with bite. The overall champion, selected on the final day, had presented his pitch to the panel moments earlier. Dutch Tulip Vodka impressed the judges with their premium handcrafted vodka made with 350 tulip bulbs.
The final round of judging of the Fresh Discovery Awards took place live at the show where an expert panel including Stefano Cuomo, Managing Director of Macknade Fine Foods and Vhari Russell, Managing Director of the Food Marketing Experts, crowned African Snack brand, Sankofa Snacks, the winner for its innovative range of plantain chips.
As well as offering a free drop-in clinic delivering personalised advice on claiming R&D Tax Relief to producers, Signature Tax also introduced the Fair to 11-year-old vegan entrepreneur, Omari McQueen, the CEO of Diplicious Ltd and future star of the food world.
Event manager Elena Attanasio, said, “The 20th Anniversary edition of Speciality & Fine Food Fair was truly exceptional. Across three days we saw trends unfolding, products taking shape and an industry in exciting transition all brought together under one roof. From emerging to established brands, we were treated to a wealth of innovation and inspiration into the latest food & drink products on the market – it was nothing short of amazing.”
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