Sock Club Review: Treat your Feet!

In this digital, omniscient, incessant age of retail you can get almost anything delivered straight through your letterbox these days. You can order anything from a cheese toastie to a fully iced and decorated cake and it’ll slide through your letterbox just as easily as some dubious character could slide into your DMs on the social. It’s a sign of our evolving shopper behaviour and it’s being fuelled by rapidly advancing technology. One-hour deliveries are not fantastical but now seen as a consumer rite. What a time to be alive eh?

So, what’s so great about subscription boxes and why are they so attractive to the modern entrepreneur?

Let’s be clear: mail order and subscriptions are not new things. However, it’s clear that we’re experiencing a bit of a golden age; but why is that? Well subscription boxes have enjoyed surfing the wave of the ‘hypertechnology’ and exploded into our homes tapping into our increasingly busy diaries and the need for convenience over cost. We need subscription boxes because we forget to buy shaving cream, or we need someone to curate our fine food collections. It’s not viewed as luxurious but savvy.  The other key macro trend that subscription boxes feed off is our penchant for the personalised shopping experience. When we’re signed up to a subscription that we believe in we feel empowered, looked after and like we have our finger on the pulse. Subscription boxes are able to react quickly to trends and deliver with gousto (pun not intended…well maybe a little) which is a dream for any early adopter.

As for the entrepreneurial populous, they seem to have fallen head over heels for subscription boxes for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, it’s the attraction of disintermediation. We want a personal relationship with brands and the brands have been desperate for us to accept their friend request for years! Secondly, it’s quite easy to get started. You only really need an idea, some boxes, minimal stock and a website and you’re away. Finally, and most importantly, subscription boxes give a platform for the most coveted of marketing territories: loyalty. Brands crave shopper loyalty like a dog in the park craves its shiny red ball. We’ve been pretending to throw it for years and watching brands chase off into the distance only releasing it for an exclusive, salivating minority. Subscription boxes are the equivalent those fancy plastic throwing arms – catapulting our loyalty across the sunny park for brands to eagerly chase and retrieve.

Trends wax and wane in subscription boxes, as with all industries, but one that has caught my attention as being resistant to change is the male fashion trend; in particular: socks! So, when the opportunity presented itself to review a sock subscription box I jumped at it! Thanks to Sock Club Co for thinking of me…

Review: Sock Club UK

Rating: 9/10

Appeals to: trend hunters, business bods, those-needing-a-bit-of-colour-without-a-clue (me!)

Price: £9 per pair or £49 annual subscription

Delivery

Fantastic! I’ve been trying to find a simile that does these socks justice without sounding over the top and, dare I say it for a blogger, disingenuous; so here goes: putting on these socks feels like you’re dipping your legs up to the shin in a soothing warm jacuzzi. The design on the two pairs that I received were spot on and, if I’m honest, not something I’d pick for myself which is exactly what I’d be looking for in a curated box. In my opinion a good pair of socks shouldn’t steal the show but just add flashes of brilliance – these socks definitely deliver against that.

Verdict – in a word, socksessful! Sorry, but I do love a pun! Most sock subscription boxes are pretty outlandish on price whereas Sock Club comes in at the right level yet still delivering the quality you’d expect. I can’t wait for my next parcel to drop through the letterbox.

If you like what you’ve read or even if you didn’t please leave me a cheeky comment below.

Northern Munkee.

How to Avoid Badvice

This post is written for foodpreneurs but is really for anyone with a dream, a vision, an ambition or just an idea. It’s a post that will resonate with anyone working towards a goal or an end point. On the surface this is all about advice and support but it’s a really specialist area of advice and support that I want to talk about. It’s the area of advice and support that nobody asked for, that nobody really wants and that usually comes from a position of ignorance, arrogance and an over-inflated sense of self. The advice I want to talk about is advice that’s imposed upon you and is usually bad, oh so bad; so bad that it definitely falls under the category of Badvice. All is not lost though, I think I’ve found a way to deal with Badvice, or certainly one that is working for me so hopefully you can take it into your life and never have to politely nod and smile ever again!

I think we’ve all been in this situation before but imagine the scene: you’re meeting an old friend that you haven’t seen for years. The conversation is flowing and you’re reminiscing about old times. All is good. Then comes the precursor to the Badvice stream as they ask, ‘so tell me what’s new, what are you working on?’ Now, at this point you’re really excited to share your new project with your old friend. You’ve just started your own food business and you think you’ve found the next big thing. You’ve built your brand and sales are going really well at local shows and online. Your next step is to scale up to take the business to the next level. As you’re answering the question you can see that your old friend isn’t really listening and just looks like an opportunity to talk; and then they hit you with it:

‘What you want to be doing is…’

Boom. The Badvice Bombshell.

They go off into a monologue of how you should be proud of what you’ve done but if you could do these three things differently it would really make a difference. They also suggest trying a load of things that you probably looked at doing in your first week but realised very quickly that they wouldn’t work. They will talk at you with such confidence that it will leave you wondering why you never realised that the person you’d known for over half your life was a reclusive Richard Branson. Who knew that a Teaching Assistant would be so knowledgeable about running a food business?! Arrrghh!

That’s not the only form that Badvice can take though; the other type comes in the form of feedback and usually opens with something like: ‘can I just give you some feedback..’ Well you’re clearly going to anyway so don’t let me stop you! In my experience, this statement-disguised-as-a-question most commonly occurs after someone has tried a FREE sample of your product and tends to go a little something like this:

THEM: ‘Can I just give you some feedback?’

ME (outwardly): ‘Yeh, sure it’s a gift!’

ME (inwardly): ‘Go on…’

THEM: ‘I mean it’s not for me but if you could swap the cherries for raisins I think it would do really well.’

ME (outwardly): ‘Oh, nice one. I’ll give that a go. Thanks!’

ME (inwardly): ‘Cheers dickhead! Not already thought of that one. I’ll look forward to seeing whatever it is your business does and offering my expert advice on that!’

Unfortunately, I’ve found myself in these situations more times than I care to count (I cringe to think about it but I’m sure I’ve been the Badvisor at some point too), and I get that most people think they’re being helpful; however, more often than not it just acts as a little seed of doubt or annoyance that can grow and flourish. So, it needs dealing with, right?

Here’s a method that I’ve started using and it seems to be tackling the Badvisors before they can get into their full swing. It’s quite simple so maybe you could also get some success from this too. It goes a little something like this:

THEM: ‘What you want to be doing is…’

ME: ‘Can I just stop you there for a second?’

*walkaway and never come back*

Job done! Give it a try!

Now, on a more serious note, I’m not advocating rubbishing all advice out there. Entrepreneurship can feel like a very lonely world and I am a big ambassador for gathering opinions and success stories to build into your own world. Books, podcasts, consultants, family and friends are all fantastic sources of advice and support. I think it’s a good thing to surround yourself with people and resources that you trust. They’re great as a sounding board or to help coach direction or just to bounce ideas around because saying them out loud sometimes gives them arms and legs. However, if you are to take just one piece of advice from me, let it be this:

You don’t need anyone’s advice. It might help to substantiate what you were already thinking or to provide a different perspective but have the confidence in your own thoughts and convictions. You’re probably much much better at what you do than you give yourself credit for. Take a run at it.

Northern Munkee.

How to Eat Cake and Drink Coffee (properly!)

northernmunkeebites.coffeepairingboxesAlthough I now reside on the dark side of the Pennines but I am a very proud Yorkshireman and I’m very proud of the fantastic food and drink that comes from God’s County. This post is a celebration of the coming together of two fine Yorkshire based brands: Grumpy Muleand The Yummy Yank.

The Afternoon Tea trend is now through adolescence and well onnorthernmunkeebites.grumpymulerange2 its way to being considered mature with post-modern, deconstructions and proliferations being the norm. Do you ever stop and wonder if we’re doing it right? Are we just gorging ourselves on towers of cakes and flagons of hot brown liquids without a thought or care to the taste? Are we just racing to finish the pile laid out in front of us? Surely there’s more to it right? Well that’s what I intend to prove with these two awesome Yorkshire businesses.

northernmunkeebites.theyummyyankrange2Now, I don’t profess to be an expert in flavour pairing but anything I have learned in the art I have gleaned from DGH Chocolatier.  Flavour pairing is clearly subjective so thankfully there isn’t a right or wrong answer; if you’re like me and you love Wensleydale cheese with Christmas cake then don’t let anyone tell you that’s wrong! Coffee is a fantastic medium for pairing as it is made up of more than 1000 chemical compounds; these compounds contribute to everything from flavour to aroma. The key to good coffee pairing is just a bit of forethought and experimentation.

So, one blustery afternoon in St Helens Mrs Munkee and I decided to sit down and harmonise two fantastic food and drink brands we’d been sent (it’s a hard life eh?); the results were incredible! I’m going to blow your coffee and cake consuming minds!

Now this is where the magic happens…

First thing’s first, and apologies if this is a little obvious, for the full flavour experience the order is CAKE then COFFEE not COFFEE then CAKE. All the flavours I’m about to walk you through work delightfully together but the power and potency of the coffee has the inclination to overpower some of the subtleties of the sweet treats ; therefore if you want to fully appreciate the journey then this order is a rule not a choice!

Just to be clear, this is not an appraisal of the coffee and cake brands – they’re phenomenal and don’t require further exploration. This post is about pairing two outstanding products to deliver a full flavour adventure so let’s take our lead from the Spice Girls and focus on when two become one…

Carrot Cake with Rwandan Musasa Co-Operative Coffee

Who doesn’t love a good carrot cake, right? This one is exceptional! Initially you getnorthernmunkeebites.coffeepairrwanda drawn into the ride by a light, fluffy and moist sponge and then the sweetly creamy topping and finally the texture is turned with the crunch of the walnuts. This coffee boosts the trip with a bright, citrus-fuelled brew that is deep and powerful. The cream from the cake lingers and is eventually swept away by the bold red fruits in the coffee.

 Butterscotch Caramel Bar with Organic Colombian Equidad Coffee

northernmunkeebites.coffeepaircolombia2Here is masterclass in texture variation to induce excitement and intrigue in each bite. The butterscotch bar is smooth, sweet and almost naughty! So it needs a stiff shot in the arm from a powerful, nutty coffee with just a nod to the smooth caramel.

Raspberry Brownie with Organic Ethiopian Shakisso Coffee

Dark fruits and chocolate play together so nicely and this gooey brownie is the perfectnorthernmunkeebites.ethiopia2 platform for the combination. Pair this with a light, zesty coffee and you’ve got the recipe for a brilliant afternoon!

Cherry and White Chocolate Brownie with Organic Colombian Equidad Coffee

northernmunkeebites.coffeepaircolombiaThe flavour depth here is complimented by the texture variances. This brownie delivers a beautiful blend of creamy, sweet and tart whilst delicately balancing soft, smooth and hard textures. The Colombian coffee extracts the cherry flavours and attaches it to the deep hazelnut notes for a smooth finish.

 Pecan Pie Bar with Organic Seasonal Decaf Coffee

Now for me you can keep your apple pie because there’s nothing more American thannorthernmunkeebites.coffeepairdecaf Pecan Pie – I love it! Here you begin with cheeky apple notes that are juxtaposed by full nutty flavours and held together by a sticky sweetness. The coffee rushes through with a smooth chocolate burst and a curiously acidic finish to bring us back to the fructose acidity of the apple notes.

Peanut Butter Brownie with Brasilian Deterra Sunrise Coffee

northernmunkeebites.coffeepairbrasilThis flavour journey starts with the soft gooey brownie with decadent sweet notes that eventually make way for crunchy, earthy peanut flavours that linger on the palate. The coffee follows on with a smooth caramel entry that is quickly pursued by an echo of hazelnut flavours. A fantastical cyclical flavour flow.

Drunken Pig in the Mud Brownie with Organic Ethiopian Shakisso Coffee

Now, let me warn you – this one isn’t for the purists. This brownie contains vegetariannorthernmunkeebites.coffeepairethiopia bacon, salted caramel and a little whisky for good measure so prepare to be taken on a flavour rollercoaster with a sweet meat treat! The flavours are complex here so I needed to find something that would match these flavours rather than get lost amongst them. This Ethiopian blend delivers just that with a light citrus which picks out the whisky and the caramel to complete the adventure.

So that’s that! Mrs Munkee and I had a belting afternoon and were fully immersed in a self-inflicted, delirious food and drink coma!

Ultimately, there’s no snobbery in me and I’m in the camp that states that you should be able to enjoy your food and drink any way you see fit however I would urge you to give this a go. Just dare to try something a bit different and start your own food adventure!

Northern Munkee.

If you enjoyed my post (or even if you didn’t) please drop me a comment below because sharing is caring!

Food Brands Paying It Forward

On the whole capitalism and business in general get a bad press. It’s viewed by many as a ruthless, Machiavellian world where it’s dog eat dog and I’ll eat your dog! Now, please don’t be alarmed, I’m not about to stand on my soap box but I do want to shine a light on some of the positivity that emanates from the Food and Drink industry and how some of the preconceived ideas are misconceptions

Firstly, let’s be frank: people are in business to make money. Unless it’s a not-for-profit organisation you need to accept that it will never be completely altruistic. However that doesn’t mean that it’s every man for himself; in fact, with the new wave of foodpreneurs, it’s far from it. Many successful new businesses will attribute some of their fortunes to the advice of other business leaders or a well-placed mentor. In my experience of the world of foodpreneurs I have been surprised at how open people are to share contacts, ideas and resources in a symbiotic bid for success. If you ever peek behind the curtain of foodpreneurship you’ll find an amicable, humble and transparent bunch willing to help, listen and advise. Some people call it karma, some people sat it’s ‘paying it forward’ whatever the term used it can be a great help.

There are thousands of examples out there but let me share one example of this positive light that I came across recently…

This example involves two businesses not selling in the same category, not geographically close and not even at the same stage of business development however they do share a passion: producing great food with a brand that people can get fanatical about.

FunkyNut5

Funky Nut Company was founded in 2014 on The Wirral by Julian Campbell and Vigor Foods in 2017 by Paul Rampal in Broxbourne. Julian is currently into his 4th year building distribution and sales of his nut butter brand empire and business is booming with plans to expand production facilities in early 2018. Paul is just beginning his journey with a range of cold-pressed protein balls that he plans to sell to gyms, coffee shops, cafes, farm shops, fine food outlets and direct to his adoring fans.

So, on the surface, two exciting young brands operating independently of each other with their own designs on being the next big disruptor in the market place right? Well, not quite; allow me to explain why…

So you know the fisherman analogy? Give a man a fish and he’ll feed his family for a day, teach a man to fish and he’ll feed them for a lifetime – that one? Well this brand of foodpreneurs takes that one step further because this man will not just feed his family, but he’ll teach you how to feed yours. Then he’ll let you borrow his rod and net. Then he’ll tell you where the best places to fish are and when he’s done all that he’ll fry up one of the fish he caught and invite you and your family round to feast. It’s kind of beautiful isn’t it?

So, with that extrapolated analogy in mind, look out for the symbiotic relationship25008907_154533361836501_4181817344659554304_n between Funky Nut Company and Vigor Foods blossoming in 2018. Now it’s only a simple step but it’s a brilliant gesture because this year will see collaboration between the two brands with a mass sampling campaign of Vigor’s cold-pressed protein balls with orders placed of Funky Nut’s nut butters. The beauty of this is that more people get to try Paul’s beautiful balls and get a cheeky reward just for being fans of Julian’s phenomenal nuts. It’s almost poetic isn’t it? The team at funky nut have done the same in 2016 with the Magnificent Marshmallow Company and the customer feedback to the unexpected squishy treat was great.

There may be some naysayers out there questioning motive but this is how the foodpreneur world works. You start out in business and at some stage you’ll be blown away by the kindness of an apparent stranger. It’ll be someone you admire, someone that’s been there and done that. However that stranger will have had their own apparent stranger just a short while ago, when they were in your position. Fast forward a short while into the future and you find yourself in a position to be a kind apparent stranger and thus the cycle perpetuates. It’s kind of nice that.

So here’s my plea…if you’re a new business: don’t be afraid to talk to your peers, promise they’ll surprise you; and if you’re forming your opinions of corporate fat cats in the Food and Drink industry: please challenge them; there are some awesome brands and people doing some amazing things. Oh, and of course, make sure you check out the collaboration between Funky Nut Company and Vigor Foods…who doesn’t love a freebie and new food forage?

Northern Munkee.

Do you have any great examples of the food industry working together? Why not give a cheeky comment below because if this has taught us nothing more…sharing is caring!

 

Northern Munkee’s Top 10 Foodie Gifts for 2017

So, although you might not be ready for it and you might not want to admit it Christmas is nearly here. That time of year when people over-complicate, over-think, over-spend and over-eat; I love it! It’s a time when we forget what food fad is en vogue this week and we just think about what’s the best way to treat ourselves and delight all of our senses.

However, I’m a Yorkshireman so I must have something to moan about and for me there is one part of Christmas that can cause unnecessary strain, stress and disappointment: the Gift. Now, thankfully, Mrs Munkee knows how to keep me quiet and always does really  well with presents but I can’t say that about every gift I get. So if you’re stuck for what to get that hard-to-buy-for person then you’re in luck because I’ve created my Top 10 Gifts for Foodies in 2017. This guide is compiled with some incredible brands and some fabulous ideas for Christmas (or any other gifting occasion) this year.

So, without any further ado, drum roll please, in no particular order…

Northern Munkee’s Top 10 Foodie Gifts for 2017

  1. A Chocolate Safari in Bruges from Coeur de Xocolat

northernmunkeebites.chocolatesafariHow Much Will It Cost Me?: £500 (for two people, with discounts for larger groups)

Where Can I Buy It?: www.coeurdexocolat.co.uk

What Is It?: Food tours and safaris are becoming an increasingly popular way to spend our free time and it’s an incredible way to enhance a short, city break. On this trip you will not only explore the chocolate in its spiritual home but you will be accompanied by David Greenwood-Haigh, Master Chocolatier, who will teach you how to taste properly, share the food’s vibrant history and potentially throw in a food pairing session for good measure. The safari is two nights with one full day in Bruges with ferry, food and accommodation included.

Why’s It On The List?: It’s pretty obvious isn’t it? Bruges is an incredible city in itself but what could be better than a flaneur’s jaunt through its magical streets guided by a Chocolate Mastermind? And possibly a cheeky Belgian beer or two because…when in Rome!

  1. A Cheese Toastie Subscription from Cheese Posties

How Much Will It Cost Me?: £4.59 per postie (if you’re just going for one a week, I darenorthernmunkeebites.cheesepostie you to try just one a week!)

Where Can I Buy It?: www.cheeseposties.com

What Is It?: It’s amazing melted cheesiness that’s what! This is the most beautifully simple, expertly branded and great tasting thing that will ever come through your letter box. The variety of food subscriptions you can get your hands on now is growing day by day and surely this is evidence that this is only a good thing!

Why’s It On The List?: Have you seen one of the greatest non-food related shows on TV, Taskmaster? Well, the prince of all subscription boxes was introduced to me by none other than Noel Fielding (not personally but allow me to have my moment) on an epic episode of that show; so how can it not be on the list?

  1. Small Batch Premium Gin Gift Pack from Daffy’s

northernmunkeebites.daffysHow Much Will It Cost Me?: £49.99

Where Can I Buy It?: www.daffysgin.com

What Is It?: If you haven’t seen the gin revolution then the rock you’ve been living under must be cosy! This is an absolute must for gin-lovers and a real premium offer. An award-winning 70cl bottle of Daffy’s gin between to incredible Spanish crystal gin glasses.

Why’s It On The List?: Just imagine the scene…the Queen’s speech has just subsided along with the last goose-fat enrobed roast spud and you crack out these bad boys to enjoy an incredible Scottish gin. Winner! Need I say more?

  1. Gin Selection and Salted Selection Sliders from Fudge Kitchen

How Much Will It Cost Me?: £16.00

Where Can I Buy It?: http://www.fudgekitchen.co.uknorthernmunkeebites.fudgekitchenchristmas2

What Is It?: These fantastically packaged fudge slider collections are perfect for when those dark nights draw in and you need a naughty sugar fix. The indulgently creamy squares are off-set delicately by micro-distilled gins and Skye Sea Salts which delivers a phenomenal flavour northernmunkeebites.fudgekitchenchristmas1juxtaposition.

Why’s It On The List?: These treats are just excellent. Great on their own or with a nice dark roast coffee or smooth whisky or…almost anything!

  1. Trio of Nut Spreads from The Nut Kitchen

How Much Will It Cost Me?: £17.85

Where Can I Buy It?: www.thenutkitchen.com

What Is It?: This is perfect for anyone who enjoys a nutty indulgence. The pack containsnorthernmunkeebites.thenutkitchen a 200g jar of Gianduia Spread, Hazelnut Spread and Almond Spread. You’ll find that these fantastically creamy spreads can go with just about anything: toast, porridge, pancakes, smoothies, ice cream, cakes etc. etc.

Why’s It On The List?: It’s absolutely no secret that I am a nut butter nutter so it’s no surprise that one of my favourite foods has made it onto the list. If you’re not much of a connoisseur you may not fully appreciate that no two nut butters are the same and they certainly weren’t all created equal. These guys have just upped the game!

  1. Dashfire Bitters from Artisan Spirits Company

How Much Will It Cost Me?: £14.90 (100ml bottle)

northernmunkeebites.dashfirebittersWhere Can I Buy It?: http://www.hedonism.co.uk

What Is It?: Quality bourbon or a neutral grain spirit paired with selected spices to give a vividly vintage bitter with a smooth and spicy finish. These beauties are barrel-aged to deliver a distinctive finish.

Why’s It On The List?: Here in the UK we’re more than used to coping with the cold weather but I’ll always appreciate something to just take the edge off it. These characteristic bitters are an awesome flavour-enhancer to add to your festive repertoire and are the perfect gift for that inquisitive foodie!

  1. 70cl Durham Gin from The Durham Distillery

How Much Will It Cost Me?: £27.50

Where Can I Buy It?: www.durhamdistillery.co.uk

What Is It?: This is a small batch gin produced in copper pots with three very distinctivenorthernmunkeebites.durhamgin notes: spicy, savoury and sweet that are all induced by its careful and considered production process. This gin offers the traditional expectations of the drink coupled with the influences of the beautiful Cathedral City of Durham.

Why’s It On The List?: It’s the second appearance for gin on the list so it’s got to be good right? And different to the other one? Well, in that case, I’m two for two! For the gin connoisseur this is a real treat with some subtle nuances in the layered flavour notes. Forget the Fever Tree and go solo on this one!

  1. Peppermill Pizzazz & Sweet Delight from Spice Sanctuary

How Much Will It Cost Me?: £11.98

Where Can I Buy It?: www.spicesanctuary.com

northernmunkeebites.spicesanctuary2What Is It?: Peppermill Pizzazz is a fantastic, Great Taste award-winning, gourmet finishing pepper designed to enhance any savoury food. The Sweet Delight, conversely, is a staple for any baker and will soon become that secret ingredient for your baking.

Why’s It On The List?: Scratch cooking and baking has seen a real resurgencenorthernmunkeebites.spicesanctuary1 over the last few years but I’m a big believer in those little secrets that can help enhance your repertoire that no-one needs to know about. These fantastic spices will help you get the edge over any other competitive cooks or bakers in your family or friendship group!

  1. Stollen Gift Tin from Elizabeth D Bakes

How Much Will It Cost Me?: £16.50

Where Can I Buy It?: www.elizabethdbakes.co.uk

What Is It?: This is a dual layered gift box of stolleny goodness! If you haven’t crossednorthernmunkeebites.elizabethdbakes the bridge and taken the leap with stolen I must say you’re missing out! Big time! There are 16 pieces of the sweet sweet stollen in this pack but I really don’t recommend sharing!

Why’s It On The List?: My first ever proper job was as an Area Manager for a big German Discounter (no prizes for guessing which one), this was my first introduction to stollen… and I haven’t looked back since! Stollen had to feature on my Top 10 Foodie Gifts for 2017 and if I’m going to recommend anything then it needs to be top quality so it could only be Elizabeth D Bakes!

  1. Chilli Jam Gift Box from Single Variety Co.

northernmunkeebites.lemondropchillijamHow Much Will It Cost Me?: £17.00

Where Can I Buy It?: www.singlevariety.co.uk

What Is It?: This is a fabulous collection of three chilli jams made from three different varietals: Jalapeno, Lemon Drop andnorthernmunkeebites.jalapenojam Anaheim. Chilli jams aren’t anything new but they’re becoming ever more trendy and multifarious in their uses. The entire range produced by Single Variety Co is phenomenal and brilliant quality so you won’t be disappointed if you gift these this year.

Why’s It On The List?: We all know that one chilli fiend don’t we? northernmunkeebites.anaheimchillijamWell now you don’t need to worry about what gift to get for them…or…if there’s a risk of your Christmas Day meal being a little pedestrian why not melt some of the Lemon Drop Chilli Jam into your Nan’s gravy? Just a thought!

I’d love to hear about your favourite gifts for Foodies in 2017…pop a comment below!

Northern Munkee.

Going Nuts…Over Nuts!

With the focus on healthy eating, there has been scare-mongering within the health PR industry to steer clear of items that are termed ‘junk’. Whether that’s pizzas, burgers and chips or crisps, chocolate and sweets.

So the search to find healthy replacements for these foods has surged with focus on energy bars and protein balls. Yet one of the food groups that has always seemed to balance between the healthy and the unhealthy are nuts and seeds.  This small yet powerful food group have been hailed as ‘superfoods’, ‘miracle-foods’ and everything else associated with ‘clean-eating’.  That is if you have them in moderate amounts of course otherwise they become the epitome of bad eating, unhealthy eating and everything else associated with over-eating!

Whilst nuts have been around for eons, and come in all shapes and sizes – the popularity of these have grown as consumers add pumpkin seeds to porridge, nibble on brazil nuts as an afternoon snack or grind almonds to make almond butter. They can be sweet or savoury, pre-meals or post-meals, starters or desserts.

The variety these little foods offer are endless.

Miss Nang Treats: Nang Cin-Almond, Nang Sweet Pea-Original, Nang Vee-Cornish

northernmunkeebites.missnang2Rating: 7 out of 10

Appeals to: nut-lovers and those with a sweet tooth who want to (try) and be relatively healthy

Packaging:

These delights come packaged in little bags of equal looking delight. Wrapped in clear bags with tasteful ribbons, the consumer can see the nuts clearly which are attractive.  The colours of the nuts add to the overall look and feel, one can see these presented as favours in weddings or gifted to loved ones for special occasions.  I like the fact that these are small enough to pop into your bag as well rather than being in a box or dividing up a larger bag.  The tasteful sticker details the ingredients, although perhaps the brand could be a little more prominent on this.

Price:

For 100g bag, ranges from £2-£3. These can be purchased from the website directly.  Although the price is a steep for one bag, these are intended as gifts and can be bought in bulk for events.  The price though for one bag can be deemed fair as the nuts do last over a few days/weeks and can be shared.  It helps manage consumption that’s for sure!

Delivery:

These little bags of nuts are tasty! The three different flavours I tried were all spot onnorthernmunkeebites.missnang1 with my favourite being the Cin-Almond one.  These were so more-ish, sweet without being too sweet, tasty without being overpowering.  Whilst they were sweet flavoured nuts, at no point did I feel guilty for having one too many.  The Nang Sweet Pea – Original were just incredible too, the ingredients just say sugar and salt but these seemed to have just the right balance of delicious-ness.  There is definitely a certain je ne sais quoi as you can’t quite put your finger on the flavours but whilst popping these in your mouth, all you need to do is savour and enjoy them rather than trying to figure it out.  Although I may not purchase these regularly, I do know where to go now for a tasty nut treat and to order some packets for special friends.

Verdict: in a word –more-ish. Whilst the price can initially cause you to pause to purchase, after tasting it you can see that it’s actually a fairly reasonable price.  The whole look and feel is of something that is quite homely and very personal.

Details: https://missnang.com/

I would love to hear your thoughts if you have tried this product – feel free to leave comments below.

Guest Blogger: Mrs M.

About Me

As a person with a recently diagnosed sensitive digestive system, I’m now on a path to make sure I eat well whilst still enjoying myself. Having been fearful of food, I now love finding new products, going to new restaurants to try new twists on dishes and am constantly looking for quirky items to consume.  I’m a huge supporter of simple food that is made tasty with the right combination of ingredients and more importantly enjoying your food and diet in a balanced way.  That means I always have room for my favourite item – chocolate!

 

Big Ideas for Small Businesses

So the first thing I need to do here is come clean because I am a massive nerd. I love a good business book and I’ve read a good few. My book shelves are littered with frogs to eat, purple cows and moving cheese and my Audible account looks like an MBA lecturer’s wet dream. I have amassed a multitude of other regurgitateable business speak; but I don’t care. I am fully aware of the stigma that some of these texts carry and they are the root cause of cringeworthy conversations in board rooms across the world as big wigs play buzz word tennis as they seek to understand.

If you’re already in business you’ll know that everyone has an opinion. Everyone will believe they’ve got that silver bullet that you’ve missed in your business. Everyone will have something to say. So you need to be really cautious about who’s counsel you take and a lot of very successful business people will tell you that collecting advice is a road to indecision which can be true. However, I believe that knowledge is power and it’s that pursuit that keeps our ideas fresh and relevant. So, with that pursuit in mind, here’s my review of John Lamerton’s Big Ideas for Small Businesses.

northernmunkeebites.bigideasforsmallbusinessesBig Ideas for Small Businesses: John Lamerton

Rating: 9/10

Key Themes:

  • Ambitious Lifestyle Business
  • F*ck Fear
  • HIIT

Synopsis:

This isn’t about stealing John’s thunder…because you should just get the book…but let me give you my humble opinion on why you should get the book.

Can I be honest? I was sceptical. I’ve read my fair share of books claiming to herald ‘advice’ for small businesses and, more often than not, they fall well short of the mark. However this book really delivered. It is full of simple, succinct and actionable advice and it’s not told from a pedestal. John Lamerton’s book combines a biographical narrative with sufficient breathing room for business advice relayed in a no nonsense fashion. This approach forges a bond between mentor and mentee that creates a sense of togetherness which is not apparent in other business literature I’ve read.

I chose to read the book as a linear narrative (starting at page 1 and working through to 236) however it’s structured in a fashion that allows the reader to dip in and out as appropriate. This book represents the opportunity to do the smart thing and learn from someone else’s mistakes and reap the benefits of insight from someone who has been there, done that and probably made profit from selling the t-shirts.

Verdict: in a word – inspiring! I read this book in one evening. I genuinely couldn’t put down. Now I’m not going to say this book will definitely revolutionise the way you conduct your business but what it will do is provide a tried and tested framework that you can implement today.

Northern Munkee.

 

Foodies in The Den (15:8)

I love Dragons’ Den. There, I said it. I know some business folk are a dismissive of the show because it can glamourise the investment process and potentially mislead around the rigor involved in securing funding – but I just love it! You can also accuse the show of sensationalising some of the issues which could literally make or break a young business but we’re all adults here so surely we know what we’re letting ourselves in for?

There are many reasons to love The Den and if it is used correctly it can be the perfect platform to propel a small business to the next level which is a fantastic gift to the small business world. However, I love it for one reason: the business lessons. It’s a marvellous microcosm for the business world and emphasises some of the amazing abilities and frustrating failings of the entrepreneurial world.

I have watched the show all the way through but this series I decided not to be a passive observer and get stuck in to offer my thoughts on any foodie that makes their way passed Evan’s lair in the basement and through those ominous sliding elevator doors. So this series I’m going to pull out some of the business lessons gleaned from any brave foodie to enter The Den. I’d also like to point out that what follows is not a criticism but a critique; even if it goes badly wrong, anyone that demonstrates the stones to go on TV to bare all has my respect!

northernmunkeebites.dragonsdenbtemptedSeason 15: episode 8

Entrepreneur(s): Sarah Hilleary

Company: B-Tempted

Elevator Pitch: great tasting gluten free cakes with 9 flavours in a range of formats

Asking For: £75k in exchange for 5% equity

What Went Well?

The Product: it’s on trend. The feedback from all the Dragons on taste was very complimentary, which is clearly a must. It’s well packaged and well thought out in terms of market positioning and pricing (which is usually out of kilter with reality on ‘artisan’ foods).

The Plan: the foodpreneur was very clear with her reason for entering The Den: the opportunity to launch in Tesco Express. Not only is it a great selling point but it shows very clear direction which is quite often lacking from pitches.

The Brand: I can’t say it loudly enough: YOU LIVE AND DIE BY YOUR BRAND. This brand was very well joined up; even down to the Temptation Officer living and breathing the brand assets with a cheeky wink every now and again.

What Could Have Gone Better?

The Numbers: Tuker said, ‘rule number 1 in The Den: you’ve got to get your figures right’. Well unfortunately she didn’t. However, Tuker did launch a bit of a financial assault on the foodie. You could argue it was a bit unfair and most people would crumble under that kind of pressure.

Business Valuation: now this is always a contentious issue – it’s the battle ground in an investor/entrepreneur relationship. For me the ball was dropped when the foodpreneur admitted that the valuation was delivered by a third party. Terminal Value calculated on hugely successful (and ultimately very different) business models was a faux pas.

‘Artisan’: I’m sorry but this is a bugbear of mine. The ‘artisan’ label has become far too manufactured and I fear it’s designed to hoodwink shoppers. If this business has designs on expansion that label cannot carry through.

What Other Lessons Can We Learn?

The Power is in the Plan: I truly believe that this pitch was saved because of the strength and clarity of the entrepreneur’s plan. For an investor it’s absolutely paramount that they understand where their money is going and how the entrepreneur is going to deliver the (usually) ambitious numbers. These elements were evident today!

Outcome: Success! 30% given to the new Dragon Tej Lalvani with a buy back option.

Would Munkee invest? Can I sit on the fence? The business proposition and branding are fantastic. However my nervousness is in the product category. It’s a crowded market and scalability isn’t easy without lowering quality or principles. However, if this is possible then B-Tempted might be onto a winner. So would I take a punt? Yeh go on!

Northern Munkee.

 

When Brands Re-Brand!

Who remembers when Opal Fruits crossed the picket line and became Starburst? When Marathon Bars left the track and became Snickers? Or when Oil of Ulay shocked us all by becoming Olay? Brands rebrand all the time. Sometimes it’s a simple refresh to remain relevant or signal a slight change in direction and sometimes it’s a complete departure from the name and the established brand. I’m sure that none of these decisions were made lightly and I’m sure every concept and subtle nuance were focus-grouped to within an inch of their life – it’s a big deal right. Businesses can spend vast sums of money building brand assets and equity so it’s not an easy decision to go back to the drawing board; however sometimes it may be absolutely necessary.

This post takes me back to the theme of brand building for food businesses. I’m not going to talk about the food itself (although it is awesome) because I’ve written a number of posts in the past about my love of jerky and biltong; instead this post is going critique the decisions on rebranding that Meat Snacks Group recently implement across their range…enjoy!

Wild West Jerky & Cruga Biltong

northernmunkeebites.wildwestjerkyoldWhat was wrong with the old branding?

Well, nothing really. It has good shelf impact. It’s simple. It has traditional and trusted cues that are relevant to the food. It has a window to allow the shopper to see the food. The brand has been careful to call out important nutritional information: protein and no nasties. So, what’s the big deal? My criticism of this platform is that it’s a bit brash, bold and dated. Although it does a lot of good things a brand needs to remain relevant to its audience and if there’s a shift in who that is then the brand needs to address that.

Was there a need to rebrand?

Yes. The meat snacking market in the UK has moved on significantly in the last three years and the target audience has shifted. When I was still active and playing sport I was the typical jerky and biltong consumer: a gym junky with a need for a high protein (yet tasty) snack. Although this consumer still exists there is a swell of early-adopting foodies that are coming to the table. So if the paradigm has moved brands need to move too.

What’s so good about the new branding?

Well, firstly it’s being considerate of the new paradigm with dialled down but still northernmunkeebites.jerkyrebrandappropriate imagery and colour palette. Big tick. Secondly, it’s kept all the good parts of the old branding and it’s managed to maintain a sufficient number of the old brand assets that it won’t completely alienate the brand’s existing fan base. Finally, the branding has morphed subtly into being more appropriate; what was ‘solid strips of marinated smoked beef’ has become ‘beef silverside marinated, smoked and cooked’. Lovely stuff!

Could they have done anything differently?

No, I don’t think they could. If the aim was to develop a brand that didn’t completely alienate existing users but would excite and intrigue new users then: job done!

Verdict – in a word, boom! If you’re Meat Snacks Group you’ve got to be really chuffed with this. It’s been a bit under the radar (much like the new imagery) but it has reacted to competition in the marketplace and stolen a march at the front again. Well played!

Northern Munkee.

Foodies in The Den (15:5)

I love Dragons’ Den. There, I said it. I know some business folk are a dismissive of the show because it can glamourise the investment process and potentially mislead around the rigor involved in securing funding – but I just love it! You can also accuse the show of sensationalising some of the issues which could literally make or break a young business but we’re all adults here so surely we know what we’re letting ourselves in for?

There are many reasons to love The Den and if it is used correctly it can be the perfect platform to propel a small business to the next level which is a fantastic gift to the small business world. However, I love it for one reason: the business lessons. It’s a marvellous microcosm for the business world and emphasises some of the amazing abilities and frustrating failings of the entrepreneurial world.

I have watched the show all the way through but this series I decided not to be a passive observer and get stuck in to offer my thoughts on any foodie that makes their way passed Evan’s lair in the basement and through those ominous sliding elevator doors. So this series I’m going to pull out some of the business lessons gleaned from any brave foodie to enter The Den. I’d also like to point out that what follows is not a criticism but a critique; even if it goes badly wrong, anyone that demonstrates the stones to go on TV to bare all has my respect!

northernmunkeebites.dragonsdenbkdSeason 15: episode 5

Entrepreneur(s): Adelle Smith

Company: BKD

Elevator Pitch: children’s baking brand with an ethos of fuelling children’s imagination

Asking For: £80k in exchange for 20% equity

What Went Well?

The Product: it’s on trend. Baking and crafting has grown exponentially over the last few years and any activity that brings the family together is bound to resonate with a large audience.

Branding: the products all look fantastic, polished and very clean. It’s easy to see how the range would stand it out in major retailers. It looks premium and fits the premium price point and will certainly offer a point of disruption on shelf versus the beige competition currently on offer in supermarkets.

What Could Have Gone Better?

Subscription Sales: subscription offerings are another rapidly expanding market and brands like Graze have demonstrated that it’s a fantastically effective way to build a brand. However, this entrepreneur failed to capitalise on a potential USP that could support the brand in commanding a premium price point.

‘Strong’ Interest: unfortunately this is a trap that a lot of entrants to The Den fall into. Entrepreneurs are very keen to tell the Dragons which retailers have shown some interest in placing orders; but this isn’t something you can put in the bank. It’s a great encouragement but it’s worthless until the invoice is paid.

What Other Lessons Can We Learn?

Negotiation is a Game: I appreciate that emotions must run high in The Den but Adele’s poker face slipped when Peter Jones made his offer and weakened her negotiation position with both Dragons. I admit that I’d probably get a bit giddy and it must be really difficult not to react on the spot but it’s not a strong stance unless it’s a professional flinch!

Outcome: Success! 35% given to the serial foodie backer Peter Jones!

Would Munkee invest? I wouldn’t usually want to disagree with Peter Jones but did I mention I’m risk averse? The market for baking kits is evolving with the continued success of GBBO but I’m not convinced that the high volume retailers would back a premium offering in a big way. I’m sure this brand will have a lot of success in premium outlets but I’m not sure we’re going to be overcome by a sea of black and white, so I’m out – however I’d love to be wrong!

Northern Munkee.

 

 

Foodies in The Den (15:3)

I love Dragons’ Den. There, I said it. I know some business folk are a dismissive of the show because it can glamourise the investment process and potentially mislead around the rigor involved in securing funding – but I just love it! You can also accuse the show of sensationalising some of the issues which could literally make or break a young business but we’re all adults here so surely we know what we’re letting ourselves in for?

There are many reasons to love The Den and if it is used correctly it can be the perfect platform to propel a small business to the next level which is a fantastic gift to the small business world. However, I love it for one reason: the business lessons. It’s a marvellous microcosm for the business world and emphasises some of the amazing abilities and frustrating failings of the entrepreneurial world.

I have watched the show all the way through but this series I decided not to be a passive observer and get stuck in to offer my thoughts on any foodie that makes their way passed Evan’s lair in the basement and through those ominous sliding elevator doors. So this series I’m going to pull out some of the business lessons gleaned from any brave foodie to enter The Den. I’d also like to point out that what follows is not a criticism but a critique; even if it goes badly wrong, anyone that demonstrates the stones to go on TV to bare all has my respect!

northernmunkeebites.dragonsdenspicedbyrayeesaSeason 15: episode 3

Entrepreneur(s): Rayeesa Ashgar-Sandy

Company: Spiced by Rayeesa

Elevator Pitch: fresh-frozen curry sauce with low calorie and gluten free curry bases.

Asking For: £75k in exchange for 12% equity

What Went Well?

Family Business: the positive noise in this pitch was down to the individual who came across very well and the family element of the business added a great slice of personality. Passion, persistence and drive are fundamental to demonstrating entrepreneurial spirit.

Health: this is a fundamental trend in this product area and this focus will drive growth. Assuming the product tastes as good as Deborah Meaden asserted then this USP will help to differentiate the product against some of the more established brands in the category.

What Could Have Gone Better?

The Approach: it may sound impressive and it’s something you should be proud of but being approached by Sainsbury’s and Ocado is not something you can bank. I do appreciate that it will give some confidence but I’m afraid it’s just literature.

Lack of Market Understanding: ‘we don’t have competition’ is a terrible thing to say in the food industry and very unlikely to be true. There are very few brands and products that are inexchangeable. Most products bought are bought in favour of something else because the shopper doesn’t have an endless pit of money. In this example the competition is vast and Rayeesa’s product is easily substitutable for an ambient or chilled option.

Retailer Challenge: for me this single point killed the pitch. If retailers don’t get it, it will never sell. They’re absolutely right in that most shoppers in the frozen aisle are not looking to cook, they’re looking for a convenient, full solution which is why there are so few ingredients in freezers. Unfortunately Rayeesa’s vision that retailers would be willing to put a freezer in the ambient fixture is so far detached from reality. This type of initiative would not be completely impossible to secure but I would wager that it would warrant funding into the £millions plus the cost of hardware. Even in what Jenny coined ‘second tier retailers’ I can’t see it becoming a reality and, although COOK have made some headway, it’s a pipe dream.

What Other Lessons Can We Learn?

Know Your Strengths: for me this pitch is a great example of an entrepreneur that has the right behaviours and drivers to be successful. However, it also highlights Rayeesa’s need to seek market specific support and gain experience and insight externally. This is not a criticism. A lot of entrepreneurs become successful because they surround themselves by the right people.

Outcome: No investment today.

Would Munkee invest? No, I’m afraid I’m too risk averse for this one. The market is challenging and I don’t think the product offering is right. However there are a lot of positive aspects of this pitch so with a few tweaks I’m sure they’ll find success.

Northern Munkee.

 

Foodies in The Den (15:2)

I love Dragons’ Den. There, I said it. I know some business folk are a dismissive of the show because it can glamourise the investment process and potentially mislead around the rigor involved in securing funding – but I just love it! You can also accuse the show of sensationalising some of the issues which could literally make or break a young business but we’re all adults here so surely we know what we’re letting ourselves in for?

There are many reasons to love The Den and if it is used correctly it can be the perfect platform to propel a small business to the next level which is a fantastic gift to the small business world. However, I love it for one reason: the business lessons. It’s a marvellous microcosm for the business world and emphasises some of the amazing abilities and frustrating failings of the entrepreneurial world.

I have watched the show all the way through but this series I decided not to be a passive observer and get stuck in to offer my thoughts on any foodie that makes their way passed Evan’s lair in the basement and through those ominous sliding elevator doors. So this series I’m going to pull out some of the business lessons gleaned from any brave foodie to enter The Den. I’d also like to point out that what follows is not a criticism but a critique; even if it goes badly wrong, anyone that demonstrates the stones to go on TV to bare all has my respect!

northernmunkeebites.dragonsdennaturalnutrientsSeason 15: episode 2

Entrepreneur(s): Liam Sheriff and Craig Newbigin

Company: Natural Nutrients UK

Elevator Pitch: high quality supplement brand that offers 100% transparency and doesn’t contain artificial nasties.

Asking For: £100k in exchange for 10% equity

What Went Well?

The Products: not only are the products on trend and relevant but the duo have proliferated sensibly and developed beyond the functional category. This may present some practical issues when working with retailers whose individual buyers may only look after part of their portfolio. However, having a range that differs in volume and margin is a powerful position when managing margin mix.

Reasons to Believe: having Holland & Barrett on board for a business like Natural Nutrients is a massive coup and absolutely the right retailer at this stage. This will have been a fantastic selling point.

Peter Jones’ Empathy: this isn’t something that you can prepare for but this was fundamental to the success of the pitch. The pair were subjected to harsh loan terms to secure previous investment and not many businesses get offered the opportunity to have a business leader support them in improving that situation. How’s that for belief.

What Could Have Gone Better?

The Numbers: margin is an issue that you can’t escape from and this company was walking a tight rope at a really early stage in the business. The retail price point is high and the margin they make is low; it’s a slippery slope from here but not unmanageable.

What Other Lessons Can We Learn?

Maintain Control: Liam Sheriff did a great job in negotiating a way to secure the investment but have an option to maintain more than a 51% share in the business. This will be important to the business going forward and ensures that there is a clear head driving direction. The inability to make a quick decision can be crippling for some small businesses.

Outcome: Success! 40% equity given to Peter Jones and Tej Lalvani with a 5% optional buy back if the business hits 2018 targets.

Would Munkee invest? No, I’m afraid I’m too risk averse for this one. The market is very clustered and dominated by brands backed by huge companies. I’d also have more concern over the terms of the loan and what was agreed in the past, for me that questioned the credibility of the business. However all Dragon’s made an offer so it looks like Munkee may be wrong!

Northern Munkee.

 

Foodies in The Den (15:1)

I love Dragons’ Den. There, I said it. I know some business folk are a dismissive of the show because it can glamourise the investment process and potentially mislead around the rigor involved in securing funding – but I just love it! You can also accuse the show of sensationalising some of the issues which could literally make or break a young business but we’re all adults here so surely we know what we’re letting ourselves in for?

There are many reasons to love The Den and if it is used correctly it can be the perfect platform to propel a small business to the next level which is a fantastic gift to the small business world. However, I love it for one reason: the business lessons. It’s a marvellous microcosm for the business world and emphasises some of the amazing abilities and frustrating failings of the entrepreneurial world.

I have watched the show all the way through but this series I decided not to be a passive observer and get stuck in to offer my thoughts on any foodie that makes their way passed Evan’s lair in the basement and through those ominous sliding elevator doors. So this series I’m going to pull out some of the business lessons gleaned from any brave foodie to enter The Den. I’d also like to point out that what follows is not a criticism but a critique; even if it goes badly wrong, anyone that demonstrates the stones to go on TV to bare all has my respect!

northernmunkeebites.dragonsdencreativenatureSeason 15: episode 1

Entrepreneur(s): Julianne Ponan and Matthew Ford

Company: Creative Nature Superfoods

Elevator Pitch: ranges of free-from snack bars, innovative baking mixes and creative superfoods designed to cater for top 14 allergies

Asking For: £75k in exchange for 5% equity

What Went Well?

Preparation: fail to prepare and all that is key for any business pitch but it is absolutely fundamental when you’re asking someone to believe in you and to part with their money. The entrepreneurs demonstrated a strong knowledge of their own business and also the marketplace which might sound like a basic requirement but is often found wanting.

The business idea: the product ranges couldn’t be more on trend; it’s on-the-go, it’s home baking and it’s superfoods. Winning. Deborah Meaden identified that the freefrom shopper has developed into a shopper that no longer surfs packaging but wants product confidence and assurance and these guys have got it.

Distribution: there’s nothing better for a potential investor to hear than people are already buying your products and there are lots of retailers supporting it. Creative Nature was able to successfully demonstrate that its turnover is generated from a wide range of distribution with some very credible retailers. Although I’m not too sure how Christine Tacon would feel about the confession that the distribution was bought through ‘listing fees’; nevertheless from the entrepreneurs’ point of view this is a very savvy use of seed money.

What Could Have Gone Better?

Owner’s Relationship: the fact that Matthew holds no shares in the business may have come across as a bit of a tongue-in-cheek comment from Peter Jones but the reality is this information did cast a shadow of doubt in The Den. Family businesses are fantastic and there’s nothing more heart-warming than seeing a family business succeed however it does raise some questions from a business perspective. Who really owns the business? Who really runs the business? How integral is Matthew? What happens if he leaves and what’s his incentive to stay? These queries were well handled but these issues will ultimately need clearing up.

Rose-Tinted Forecasting: the ‘£1M contract’ in Co-Op was a bit of a faux pas that the Dragons were bound to pick apart. I completely understand where the numbers have come from, it’s simple science. However, we’re dealing with an art form and forecasting is not that simple. Assuming that a Co-Op store will achieve the same rate of sale as an ASDA is a little naïve; in some product categories ASDA will dwarf Co-Op and vice-versa in others. I do sympathise but a big bold headline like this will get scrutinised and criticised by any savvy investor.

What Other Lessons Can We Learn?

Profit is KING: there’s a cliché in business that sales in vanity and profit is sanity and everyone in the room recognised that Creative Nature’s margins were too tight for comfort. Every business needs to account for scalability and assume some benefits as you scale up however if margins are tight at the early stage of a business that’s a real concern. It’s not unfixable but if you can’t sustain profitability you’re in for a rough ride!

Outcome: Success! 25% equity given to Deborah Meaden with a 5% optional buy back if the business hits 2018 targets.

Would Munkee invest? Yes! Who am I to argue with the Meaden?! Creative Nature has the makings of a great brand and business. It appears like a sound investment and I’m sure there’ll be more than just Co-Op placing new orders.

Northern Munkee.

 

Cold-Pressed Protein Balls

One of the great things about the focus on food trends are the innovative new products that appear on the shelves. Sometimes it can be overwhelming with the amount of choice, yet the fact that there can be so much choice now is truly a positive change in the retail food industry.

For me, the most exciting thing of this trend is the combination of healthy yet tasty food products. Now there are numerous ‘super-foods’ out there and companies have tried to make these ‘super-foods’ into tantalising products – kale cupcakes, beetroot brownies, courgette loaf – and whilst some do succeed, others just don’t seem to hit the mark to be sustainable but are part of a fad phase that goes as quickly as it came.

However I love finding those products that are not necessarily ‘super-foods’ but are healthy everyday ingredients that firms have combined to provide nutritional value. Whether that benefit is more protein or less cholesterol or lower carbohydrates, it’s interesting to witness the innovation and passion of companies to do good for consumers.  Of course, there are those mavericks who just say their products are healthy but actually really aren’t!

Much of the trend for this are energy balls which seem to be taking over the market to provide nutritional value in a snack-bite manner. The energy ball market seems to have exploded recently within the fitness world – however these are starting to seep into the mass-consumer market due to their convenience for time-constrained consumers; think breakfast-on-the-go or mid-morning snacks.

Vigor Protein Balls – Sample Pack (Date & Cacao, Peanut Butter, Lemon & Blueberry)

Rating: 7 out of 10

Appeals to: gym-goers, healthy-conscious eaters, time-restraint consumers!

Packaging

I love the packaging of these – they’re brightly coloured, small enough to hold in your hand and easy to store. My bug-bear with energy balls is that they usually come in a bag or a plastic tub and I always think they are going to get squashed in my bag.  However the sturdy cardboard material of this product lets me just throw it in my bag safe in the knowledge that when I dig it out later they will still be intact and not all squished together.  I also think the shape of the packaging is helpful too – easy to grip and hold in your hand.  I’m a huge fan of colour and love how the bright colours are eye-catching and pop out on a shelf or in your bag/cupboard.  The nutritional information and ingredients are easy to read and the fact you can see the product too is always a tick in my box.

Price

£5.99 for a sample pack of three via the company website. I think this is fair price as in each pack you receive 2 or 3 energy balls, plus a range of flavours.  If I just bought one pack for roughly £2 I would think I’m getting fair value for money in terms of quantity, and it’s in line with the price range for other products of the same ilk.

Delivery

I have tried a lot of protein based ‘treats’ during my time when I was really into my gym and work-out sessions. Quite frankly I found them difficult to eat and digest as they tasted like cardboard.  So I was slightly wary of trying these energy balls, especially as they are meant to be protein based.  However, although not totally bowled over I was pleasantly surprised as you could taste the flavours (peanut butter has the strongest).  However there is still the lingering dryness that is associated with many protein promoted products.  I don’t think many protein based products can get away with letting go of the dry taste,although these energy balls do try to at least have some genuine flavour in them rather than the majority which has either chocolate or caramel to try and cover the bland taste.  The peanut butter flavour is definitely the most flavoursome but the lemon and blueberry comes a close second- it’s refreshing to have a protein product with a fruit flavour.

Verdict: in a word – worth-a-try (3 words in 1!). These are a really good attempt to offer something different in the protein-based energy ball market.  There are a lot of protein products available yet these do stand out for packaging, different flavours and for appealing to all for a quick snack on the go.

Details: https://vigor-foods.com/

I would love to hear your thoughts if you have tried this product – feel free to leave comments below.

Guest Blogger: Mrs M.

About Me

As a person with a recently diagnosed sensitive digestive system, I’m now on a path to make sure I eat well whilst still enjoying myself. Having been fearful of food, I now love finding new products, going to new restaurants to try new twists on dishes and am constantly looking for quirky items to consume.  I’m a huge supporter of simple food that is made tasty with the right combination of ingredients and more importantly enjoying your food and diet in a balanced way.  That means I always have room for my favourite item – chocolate!

 

An egg-cellent replacer?

Eggs. That one simple word brings me so much joy.  I LOVE eggs.  Scrambled, hard-boiled, soft-boiled, poached, omelleted, mixing it with veg/salads/rice, fried over a crispy gluten-free toast…any concoction you can think of that would have eggs in or on it, I will devour.

Over the last year I have had to cut out a lot of foods but I refused to cut out eggs – I had read about the dangerous effects of eggs – too many will cause you cholesterol, hard-boiled will cause you constipation, non-organic will be pumped full of chemicals, organic eggs are smaller and so forth. However for some reason I never bought into the horrors of eggs as I did with other food products.  I saw them as my one thing that my digestive system couldn’t take away from me and out of sheer stubbornness refused to give them up.

Now as the market trend points towards veganism, with more and more people adopting this lifestyle –I also contemplated it. But the thought of giving up eggs was the one thing I couldn’t quite fully accept.  My mind-set had become so stuck in eggs being a saviour for me that letting go of it seemed impossible.

So I did what any other rational person would do – I googled! Searches showed me of course replacements for eggs in baking and cooking but I couldn’t seem to find an alternative to eating eggs as they were.  Then as the universe would have it, I was offered to review a product that seemed to hear my plea for non-egg eggs. It was also combatting the bad things I heard about eggs such as being cholesterol free and providing fibre as well so was definitely worth a try.

Orgran Vegan Easy Egg

Rating: 7 out of 10

Appeals to: vegans, free-from consumers.

Packaging

The product comes in a bright yellow (naturally) rectangular cardboard box, large enough to make it feel like a substantial size but yet still small enough to be able to pour/tip the product. My first impressions was that it did not look like an egg carton which made me contemplate how could I make boiled eggs from this?!  The writing on the front clearly pointed out all the free-from benefits (it’s not only egg-free but gluten-free, wheat free, dairy free, soy free and yeast free), however the box was covered in writing on all sides making it a little difficult to read the main pointers you need.  Instructions on the back of the box explaining how to make the product with graphics were very helpful.

Price

£4.45. I was kindly provided some samples but a quick search online showed me the price range and it felt quite high.  Although the packaging details that the product is equivalent to 15 eggs, it still seems vegan/free from products will continue to carry the high price tag as it’s not a mainstream lifestyle.

Delivery

The product itself is a flour-based mix. You need to add water and oil to it, to then be able to make a mixture.  This you would then cook as you would normally cook scrambled eggs, an omelette or even make a frittata or quiche.  However if you fancy boiled or poached – this obviously isn’t the answer for that!  It is as quick and easy as it is to whisk eggs.  The taste however is not quite as straight-forward, it tasted a little stringy.  On a second batch I added in some other herbs and spices which whilst covering it up could not deter from the rubbery taste.  Looking at the ingredients I could understand why there was a chewy-feel to it – with a host of stabilisers in the product it may not be the most nutritional of products but for a quick breakfast or evening meal it does the job.  Add a few spices or flavourings to it and it’s a go-to product on those days when you just don’t have enough time.  Whilst not quite tasting the same as eggs, I can see how this can be a replacer for those who don’t want to or cannot tolerate eggs.

Verdict: in a word – easy. This is a go-to quick and easy food item.  However if you’re looking for taste then it maybe doesn’t quite hit the mark.  Spice it up with herbs and flavours and it may just be enough.

Details: http://www.orgran.com/products/vegan-easy-egg-2/

I would love to hear your thoughts if you have tried this product – feel free to leave comments below.

Guest Blogger: Mrs M.

About Me

As a person with a recently diagnosed sensitive digestive system, I’m now on a path to make sure I eat well whilst still enjoying myself. Having been fearful of food, I now love finding new products, going to new restaurants to try new twists on dishes and am constantly looking for quirky items to consume.  I’m a huge supporter of simple food that is made tasty with the right combination of ingredients and more importantly enjoying your food and diet in a balanced way.  That means I always have room for my favourite item – chocolate!