BBQ with Chocolate!

BBQ Mini-Series: Xocolat Spice Fusions by Coeur de Xocolat

So, it’s officially the British summer and it’s that time when we fellas refuse to wear sun cream, go an offensive shade of puce and revert back to our Neanderthal instincts by making a fire to burn meat on.

I love BBQ season but living in the UK makes it tough to predict and event more difficult for retailers, producers and eateries to plan for. However each year the offering keeps on getting better and better and the categories that the BBQ occasion spans is ever increasing. We would now happily shop the meat aisles, bakery, salad section, spices, oils, condiments and, of course, the booze aisle. BBQ is much more than a category in retail; it’s an occasion, a mood, an ambience and something that the whole nation, nay the world, goes crazy for.

BBQ has increased in popularity over the last few years with the explosion of street food trucks and festivals that have shown the common household cook what is possible with a fire, a hotplate and a bit of food soul. If we get invited round to a friends for a Saturday afternoon Barbie it’s no longer acceptable to serve salmonella sausages or botulism burgers. Now we expect brioche buns, sliders, low and slow briskets, sliders, kofte, shawarmas and a fabulous infusion of world flavours and tastes all on an undersized paper plate.

Now, I’m good with a pair of tongs and a hotplate but I don’t profess to being an expert by any stretch so I’d recommend you check out the BBQ Geeks for some absolutely top tips and the perfect BBQ.

This mini-series explores some of the new and great products and recipes that I’ve foraged and found this year to make Britain’s BBQ season great. So, even if we need to turn to supplements rather than the sun for our vitamin D, we can always enjoy well-cooked, well-seasoned and well-complimented meat.

Xocolat Spice Fusions

Rating: 9.8/10

Appeals to: a true Food Adventurer and someone that demands more from their BBQ. If you love meat, BBQs and chocolate you’re in for a right treat!

Packaging

This product is hot off the press and was only just made available a couple of weeks ago. The packaging is simple but on trend with the chalk and chalkboard effect. My only criticism of the packaging is that there is a lot of text on the back and it’s quite small but other than that I’m a fan. I especially like the personal touch from David (@dghchocolatier) who is the creator of the range.

Price

£4.00 – for the category and size of the jar it’s absolutely spot on. You get a lot out of the jars which range from 70g-90g so £4 for a few meals is quite good.

Delivery

Chocolate as part of a savoury dish is something that is still quite alien to a Western palate but it’s slowly creeping into common usage with dark chocolate in a chilli con carne or a Mole sauce being widely accepted. However chocolate was a savoury ingredient for 3000 years before it became a sweet treat so it actually works really well. The chocolate in all of the flavours isn’t too prominent, instead it works with the ingredients of the rub to enhance and change the overall delivery slightly as opposed to usurp any of the other elements.

Ras-el-Hanout with Chocolate

I actually used this jar as a spice to flavour rice and it worked brilliantly. The familiar aromatic notes of the ras-el-hanout was met by a rich dark chocolate that brought out fruity tones and a lingering sweetness that played softly with my brown rice.

Jerk with Chocolate

This concept works brilliantly. Jerk is a fantastic spicy and smoky flavour on its own but when the cocoa is introduced it takes it a whole new level. Love it! I went simple with this one and marinated some chicken with some olive oil and then straight into a hot pan.

Smoky Paprika with Chocolate

This Spice Fusion is similar to the jerk but much sweeter with the chocolate reacting with the sweet peppers. I opted to use this jar as a dry crumb baked atop a beautiful Scottish salmon,

Steak Seasoning with Chocolate

This jar has to be used with red meat and left to marinade overnight. The chocolate adds a real depth and texture to the seasoning and really cuts through a good cut of meat. Perfect!

Verdict – in a word, sweet-fusion! I know that this concept is something that doesn’t necessarily sit right with all of us but believe me when I say you need to try this before you pass judgement. Chocolate and meat is a brilliant combination for any Food Adventurer to seek out.

Details: http://www.coeurdexocolat.co.uk or http://www.xocolatshop.com

So all that leaves me is to ask: what’s your favourite BBQ recipe, tip or trick? Come on folks, leave me a comment below because sharing is caring.

Also, before you go take a look at my blog on a fantastic condiment I reviewed earlier in the year; it’s the perfect accompaniment to any pork dish.

Northern Munkee.

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Pimp My Egg…

Product Review: Crackin’ Egg Co

Snacking is one of the fastest moving and most lucrative categories in food retailing; it’s constantly evolving where we, as consumers, become increasingly time poor and demand a more portable, convenient repertoire.

A cornucopia producers from multinational corporations to startisans have sought for new ways to steal a share of the market. This quest has seen a number of innovations hit the market place over the last ten years with health taking a leading role in terms of the snacking shoppers’ needs. However, as I’ve mentioned before, in this category TASTE IS KING. A successful snacking product needs to be firstly, great tasting and secondly, healthy. The era of Slimming World punishment eating has gone and health conscious shoppers and snackers are making lifestyle changes not short, sharp shocks to the system.

This review presents the ultimate in the cusp of the snacking trend. It takes the uber-convenience of a ready-to-eat boiled egg and pimps it! It is the definition of taste meets convenience.

Here’s what I thought…

Rating: 8/10

Appeals to: gym junkies, health conscious, time-poor snackers

Packaging

I really like the packaging and branding. It’s not over the top but it’s targeted right at the early-adopter target audience with a matte cardboard sleeve that provides good shelf presence when it’s compared to other similar products on the market. The producers have also been careful to call out cues that are important to the snackers they are targeting: low GI, low in carbs, GF. The cleverest thing about the packaging, in my opinion, is the egg itself. Want to grab someone’s attention? Do an Avatar and paint yourself bright blue!

Plus there are some egg-cellent egg-based puns on-pack and who can resist joining a pun-off, even if it’s just for the crack?

Price

£1.59 – now if you sit there and work out the value in comparison to pack of a dozen eggs then you’ll be disappointed, but don’t do that. This price is for two eggs, which is an ample snack. If you compare it to other things being bought as snacks this is bang in-line with where it should be. Plus you can often pick them up on promotion at 2 for £2.50.

Delivery

Brilliant. I am already a fan of hard-boiled egg; whether they’re fresh or pickled I love them and they were a staple of my diet many moons ago when I played sport. However, this is taking them to the next level.

The flavour sachets add a depth to the flavour and lift the fleshy egg textures. There is always a danger that you drown the egg but this has been portioned just right. This is a great substitute for any other mid-afternoon snack and I’d take these over a bland sponge cake any time!

Verdict – in a word, egg-squisite (sorry!)! This is a great example of how fast-paced and alive the snacking category is and Crackin’ Egg Co have fit perfectly into the mould of what people expect: healthy, tasty and convenient. Great work Egg Men!

Northern Munkee.

The Perfect Pair…

Food and Drink Subscription Boxes Mini-Series: Cocoa & Roast Club

This is the final instalment in my mini-series covering Food and Drink Subscription Boxes.

Food subscription boxes are still a relatively new phenomenon in the UK but they are going from strength to strength. The trend really seemed to gain traction when Ben Jones posted his first Graze box to offer lifestyle-conscious snackers an alternative to the dusty vending machine in the corner of the office.

Now you can satisfy your food foraging and drinks detecting needs for almost anything without even leaving the comfort of your own wifi hotspot. There are some brilliant subscription boxes out there for meat, alcohol, snacks, artisan food, grow-your-own kits and so much more. Think of them as your own personal foodie shopper trawling through the racks of artisan food and drink to find something that’s just in your size and colour.

Product Review: Cocoa and Roast Club with Coeur de Xocolat/Lulu Coffee

Rating: 9/10

Appeals to: foodie foragers, local business supporters those who enjoy the finer things in life.

Packaging:

The packaging was simple and minimalist but it just built my expectation to tear my way into it!!

Price: 

£19.99 which is the perfect price for the experience that Cocoa and Roast Club is introducing.

Selection:

Coeur de Xocolat Milk Chocolate with Salted Toffee & Dark Chocolate with Peppermint

Lulu Coffee Guatemalan Single Origin

Cocoa and Roast Club have created more than a food subscription box here, they’ve created an ambience, an atmosphere and a moment in your life. Food pairing is an art not a science and there is no more perfect example of pairing than a hot drink with an indulgent treat. Most food subscription boxes on the market, whilst great, are simply a personal shopping and discovery service; Cocoa and Roast have gone one step further and have infiltrated 30mins of your weekend by asking you to grind the beans, boil the kettle and savour the rich cocoa and coffee.

This particular combination of cocoa and roast went together like green and grass so I need to take a moment to pause and walk you through it: I opened with a sip of the coffee which commences with rich caramel tones that morph into deep earthy flavours and a soft nutmeg finish. The salted toffee bar presented a delightful mirror of flavours starting with a velvety smooth cocoa and caramel blend and into a salted lift to close. The flavour journey presented sweet into earth into sweet into salt and I found myself queuing up for another go!

Verdict: in a word, sign-me-up (still just one word)! I’m a big fan of this breed of subscription box. I enjoy the forage and discovery in farm shops, markets and festivals but having an expert guide you through the flavour experience as a reassuring maitre de maison is fantastic.

Northern Munkee.

Reap the research rewards…

My new series of blogs offering a peek behind the curtain of the mind of a Retail Buyer focuses on how to add value to your product presentation.

This is the second blog in the series and will focus on market data and research. So I can hear some eye rolls already but believe me, this is really important and it’s something that artisan producers just don’t do; so if you’re on board you’ll be moving to the top of the class!

Ok, so I do appreciate that most artisan businesses don’t have access to huge budgets and even if they do they don’t really want to be spending a large chunk of it on expensive taste tests, consumer panels and research. So how should you go about it? Well, in my opinion, artisan producers are in the perfect position to do it on the cheap. So you’re attending the Foodies Festival in Edinburgh this year with an anticipated footfall of around 25,000 people and you’re sampling your products. Let’s assume you manage to sample to just 10% of the total footfall and you ask everyone that tries a sample one question: ‘what do you think? Marks out of ten.’ You make a quick score and tot them up when you get a spare moment to get your average score. Now you’re in a position to go to a buyer and tell them that you sampled your product directly to your target market and the average score was 9.3 out of 10.

You can also say that you’ve advertised your brand to 25,000 early adopting foodies. If you wanted to go one step further you could even have a questionnaire on your stand that asks your samplers to rate the product versus their normal purchases. Here you can explore more in depth opportunities. When you’re constructing your questions put yourself in the buyer’s shoes for a moment and think about what data will allow an objective decision? Just imagine how powerful something like ‘70% of people surveyed said that they would be willing to trade up from their usual purchase because they loved the product’s quality, provenance and branding’ would be. Don’t underestimate how important this direct feedback is; anytime you’re getting someone to interact with your product or brand then you should be taking advantage.

A buyer would never expect an artisan supplier to act like a large blue-chip business. However if you’re adding value to your presentation by substantiating features and developing them into tangible benefits then you’re helping to facilitate a buying decision.

Northern Munkee.

Dark, thick and saucy!

Product Review: Salubrious Sauce Company Original British Breakfast Sauce

I love a good table sauce but a really good one is difficult to find. We’ve been conditioned over the years by Warren Buffet’s Heinz (now Kraft Heinz) that tomato ketchup and brown sauce should be thin, lifeless and synthetic but that’s just not true!

There are a number of really brilliant sauces on the market now from companies like Tiptree, Great British Sauce and this one – Salubrious Sauce Co.

I was lucky enough to get hold of a bottle of their Original British Breakfast Sauce that I paired with some Heck Square Sausages (just to ensure I was getting the full British breakfast experience!) and this is what I thought…

Rating: 8/10

Appeals to: people like me that refuse to have the sauce dripped over their eyes when it comes to the real taste of our condiments!

Packaging

The label is simple but does a perfect job and invokes thoughts of provenance, authenticity and quality. The bottle is thick and sturdy like any premium sauce bottle should be.

Price

£4.25 – this is a little steep versus other products doing a similar job but as a rule of thumb the price point should be a quality indicator; this tells you that you’re not getting Daddy’s!

Delivery

This is fantastic and just what I expected. It opens with a sweet tomato flavour that bounces into chunky dark fruits and the spicy notes finish off the palate with a light, tangy lift. Now not many sauces do this but this little flavour has the power to change the profile of the whole plate and it perfectly compliments any meaty breakfast.

Verdict – in a word, saucy! I can understand why you’d settle for less if you’re having a dirty breakfast to cure a hangover at a greasy spoon; anything else you’re just not doing your stomach justice!

Yorkshire’s finest delivery…

Food and Drink Subscription Boxes Mini-Series: Posted Pantry

This is the first instalment in my mini-series covering Food and Drink Subscription Boxes.

Food subscription boxes are still a relatively new phenomenon in the UK but they are going from strength to strength. The trend really seemed to gain traction when Ben Jones posted his first Graze box to offer lifestyle-conscious snackers an alternative to the dusty vending machine in the corner of the office.

Now you can satisfy your food foraging and drinks detecting needs for almost anything without even leaving the comfort of your own wifi hotspot. There are some brilliant subscription boxes out there for meat, alcohol, snacks, artisan food, grow-your-own kits and so much more. Think of them as your own personal foodie shopper trawling through the racks of artisan food and drink to find something that’s just in your size and colour.

Product Review: Posted Pantry’s Yorkshire Box

Rating: 8/10

Appeals to: foodie foragers, local business supporters and farm shop frequenters.

Packaging:

This subscription box came parcelled up exquisitely to give a great premium feel as well as protecting the integrity of the goodies inside.

Price: 

£22.50 which, for the volume of product you receive straight to your door, is brilliant value; plus you’re getting the added concierge service of hand picked products.

Selection:

Twisted Chilli Tandoori Marinade

White Rabbit Yorkshire Honeycomb Chocolate

Yorkshire Rapeseed Oil

Bracken Hill Yorkshire Lemon Curd

Side Oven Organic Biscuits for Cheese, Organic Museli & Goldenberry’s

Posted Pantry have opted to bring together some of Yorkshire’s finest artisan producers as an introduction to quality food in the White Rose county.

Verdict: in a word, good’un! This is a great way to broaden your food horizons without leaving your own kitchen. In structuring the subscriptions regionally you also get a great sense of the story behind the producers and a greater insight into where the food comes from. Get yourself signed up!!

Northern Munkee.

Check out my mantlepiece!

It’s award season for the food industry with some iconic award processes already underway. This blog is looking at how relevant the awards are and if it’s important from a Buyer’s perspective that a product carries an industry recognised award.

So, you’re an artisan producer and you’re just starting out. You’re really happy with the product, friends and family think it’s incredible and your confidence is starting to build from sales in farm shops, at food fairs and even online. Now you need to start to think a little bit about marketing. It’s a scary thought; spending some of the money you’ve worked so hard to earn when there isn’t a tangible return on investment. Naturally you want your product to stand out. You want to give people a reason to pick it up and buy it.

So you reach the conclusion that your product needs an award, a badge of honour, a mark of trust; but which one? will it demonstrate an appropriate return on investment? will people care? These are all the right questions to be asking if you’re going to spend some of your hard earned cash but I want to consider this from a buyer’s perspective and discuss whether it’s important to a buyer.

Firstly, to answer the question of whether awards are important: the quick answer is yes. Awards are like a Masters degree for a job candidate, they’re not essential but they are important and they’re certainly not a deal breaker. What awards demonstrate to a buyer is that your product has credibility and it has been independently supported. You can tell a buyer how amazing your product is until you’re blue in the face but it’s your baby, you wouldn’t ever call it ugly even if it looked like a thumb! It also tells a buyer that your product delivers against expectations. A lot of awards are designed to assess a product’s suitability based on packaging and description.

OK, so which award should you go for? Well, there is a whole plethora of options to choose from so select carefully. The Great Taste Award is fast becoming the best-known and most subscribed to award for producers large and small. It is even beginning to resonnate with consumers as a recognisable brand in its own right so I would definitely be recommending that one – and it doesn’t break the bank. I would also advise that you enter any free award; there are a number of them out there and why wouldn’t you? Other than that it’s just about picking the right award firstly, that’s right for your product and seconly, that’s right for the person you’re wanting to sell to. If you’re focussing on a food service audience I wouldn’t be pushing the Farm Shop and Deli Awards. In my experience the most noteworthy awards that is recognised by buyers as a true mark of quality are The Grocer magainze’s awards. I would suggest getting a couple of years under your belt before attempting this one but it will make retail buyers pay attention.

I would give one word of warning when it comes to awards and that’s to be wary of the fate of Narcissus. It’s very easy to go overboard and spend a whole year’s marketing budget on accolades and ego-massaging trinkets but it’s really difficult to show a real return from awards. Whilst they do add value they certainly shouldn’t be the sole focus of your brand and marketing plans.

So, in summary…go get awards and be proud of what you’ve achieved. If nothing more it will give you more to talk about when you’re discussing features and benefits.

Northern Munkee.