Feeding Your Gut!

Thinking about bacteria used to make me think yuk. I got images of worms and bugs from playing outside or dirt on bathrooms for some reason. So when the term gut bacteria came on my radar it wasn’t one that I instantly warmed to.

However after digestive issues I realised the problem wasn’t with the bacteria but my association with the term to think it’s all bad. On further research I realised that the human body is made up of millions and millions of bacteria and actually the microbiome in our gut was an important part of our whole approach to health. Ailments of the body, including poor digestion, constipation/diarrhoea, joint pains can all be linked to the health and type of bacteria in your gut. Studies also suggest all sorts of ‘dis-ease’ with the body including eczema, psoriasis, diabetes can also be traced back to the bacteria in your gut. When these bacteria are out of line and the ‘bad’ ones overpower the ‘good’, that’s when we can start facing problems with our health.

For me this was a a-ha moment. So to help improve my bacteria, feeding the good bacteria was important. And just as I started to find out more, the mainstream food industry suddenly seemed to catch on and now feeding your gut bacteria was the latest trend. Wary of fads I spoke to professionals including nutrionists/dieticians to make sure I wasn’t just following a gimmick. A lot of it was based on a healthy balanced diet incorporating a mix of vegetables and fruits. However there were some particular foods that could help this microbiome community including sauerkraut, kimchi, miso and kefir. These are all types of fermented foods that when consumed help replenish good bacteria in your gut.

So I did what any sane person would do, I started experimenting and trying different fermented foods to help boost my bacteria. I tried products that didn’t particularly look appealing but actually weren’t so bad when incorporated with other foods. I also tried other items that I’d never look at again! Some of the good stuff I’ve now incorporated as part of my diet and one of them is kefir. Kefir is akin to a drinking-style yogurt which contains beneficial yeast as well as friendly ‘probiotic’ bacteria found in yogurt. The naturally occurring bacteria and yeast in kefir combine to give health benefits when consumed regularly.

And therein lay the extra complexity. I am dairy-free and kefir is more beneficial when consumed with dairy via milk or yoghurt.  So my searching continued until I finally found a dairy-free alternative…..

I just want to add here please get professional advice before you start embarking on new eating plans etc. EveryBODY is different and what works for some won’t for others.

northernmunkeebites.kefirRhythm Pure Coconut Kefir Shot (126g)

Rating: 8 out of 10

Appeals to: Dairy free consumers, free-from lovers, healthy-conscious eaters


I first saw this product at a free-from exhibition and what I instantly liked about it was the very clean, white branding. It was also in a small plastic bottle which reminded me of the milk bottles I used to drink when I was in nursery.  I was attracted by the turquoise coloured font (little things!) and the fact that you could see the product through the clear plastic bottle. The information on the sleeve is short, sharp and to the point. It’s perhaps not the most imaginative of packages but in a way that seems to work as it feels that it is not fussy and not trying too hard.  Clean, pure and simple is how I would describe it.


£1.69 (company website). For a small bottle I did find this fairly expensive.  Appreciate it is a health drink and quite accustomed to the prices of health products being considerably higher.  However this product seems to target those that want to be healthy and are willing to pay the price.  What I did find out is that it does say you can consume the drink across two days, so to me that felt reasonable and that I was spreading the cost.


Kefir has a sharp tangy taste to it, almost fizzy like and on the first few times of consumption it does take a little getting used to. However it is quite refreshing and surprisingly filling.  I loved the fact this was dairy free and so I could consume very easily.  Whilst I go for the plain coconut flavour, there are other flavours such as Mango & Passionfruit which adds a summer flavour but I’m happy to stick with the plain one, sometimes adding my own herbs to it.  The great thing with this is that there is no set time that you have to drink it, you can have it with food, without food, first thing, last thing so there’s no restrictions which helps to just have a quick gulp and get on with the rest of the day knowing you’re doing your best to help your body.

Verdict – in a word, simple. This is an easily accessible drink that has been produced to help you feed your good bacteria. It’s fuss-free, dairy free and hassle-free.  If you’re looking to introduce fermented foods into your diet this is one I would recommend, split it over two days and the price becomes more palatable too!

Details: https://www.rhythmhealth.co.uk/

Feel free to leave your thoughts and comments, would love to hear how you get on with this product.

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!



Eating Well This January: Eating In

OK, so I’m going to assume that a lot of you are like me in that you may have overindulged a little over the Christmas break; am I right? Well if you’ve done that then you probably also spent most of the Twixmas period trying to eat all the bad things left in the house before January arrives; still on track? Now it’s time to admit that you’ve started making strange noises when you raise yourself out of a chair and to do something about it.

I’m not into that ‘New Year, New Me’ bullshit but I do believe that making lifestyle changes can provide a good platform to being a bit happier and a bit healthier. So, I’m on a quest to find ways to eat well but improve my health at the same time.

Mrs Munkee and I have opted to give the paleo diet a try. Now, I’m not usually a fad-follower but I want to get my mission into print then I will feel more obliged to stick to it and will be publically shamed if I fail! I do want to be clear though: this does NOT mean that I will be neglecting my duties as a Food Adventurer. Instead, what I want to do is find ways to eat great food that fit within the parameters of a healthy lifestyle and food routine.

Please don’t be alarmed though. January’s blog series won’t be preachy and I won’t be turning into a spandex-clad-Mr Motivator-look-a-like. It’s just another leg to my Food Adventure.

Buko Coconut Jam

Rating: 7.5/10

Appeals to: lifestyle managers, competent culinologists and DIY foodies


The spreads market is very crowded but it doesn’t take much to interrupt the fixture and the shopper. Buko’s simple technique of using a different shape jar and more vibrant colours will achieve that disruption. The packaging also emanates healthy cues and communicates what it is and what it should be bought very quickly and simply.


£4.50 – £5.00 – I’ve said this in previous blogs but price points are a tool that manufacturers can use to set customer expectations. What would you think of a product that claimed to be healthy and luxurious but was selling for 32p…erm, what’s the catch, right? Buko’s price point isn’t cheap but it is appropriate for the market.


This is my second round of reviewing Buko’s Coconut Jams so I have a bit of an advantage here.

Instead of just tucking in with a spoon I used these widely diverse jams in a number of different ways: to accompany meat, to flavour smoothies, to work through porridge, to bake with and even to enhance sauces.

Verdict – in a word, versatile! These coconut jams should be a staple for any healthy warriors cupboard as a brilliant defence against the bland. Keep it coming Buko!

Details: www.bukofoods.com

Northern Munkee.


The Secret to Proper Paleo Snacking…

Focus on SIAL: Ape Snacks

Over the next week I will be focussing my attentions on Paris and SIAL: the world’s largest food innovation exhibition.

Innovation is the lifeblood of food retail as it drives new shoppers, new interests, new sales and new opportunities. There has been a plethora of game changing innovations over the last few years that have redefined food retailing in one way or another: bottled water, the shelf check-out, home delivery, micro-meals, vaping…the list is endless.

So, in the spirit of SIAL, I’m going to give my view of the world of retail and food innovation before I adjust my focus to an exhibitor at the conference in Paris.


This has been a hot topic in the food industry for a long time and probably always will be. Sustainability can mean different things to different people but in its simplest form it’s a means to ensuring that we have longevity in supply of food. That can be achieved through fair wages and working conditions, exploring renewable energies or protecting the environment that produces the food. I wrote on this subject in a previous blog and in particular about how manufacturers are turning away from organisations, like the Fairtrade Foundation, in search of a more effective way of creating a sustainable supply chain.

In commercial terms, sustainability is still important to shoppers which can be evidenced from campaigns like The Grocer’s Waste Not Want Not. Suppliers should be mindful of their sustainability stance and can use it for commercial gain such as the multiple retailers’ adoption of ‘wonky veg’ to win hearts and minds.

Food Waste

I touched on this point briefly above but, as odd as this may sound, the management of food waste is becoming more and more trendy. This is partly driven by social awareness and hardship programs like Fair Share and also a socio-economic drive to stop throwing money down the drain through negligence and ignorance.

This trend has seen brands such as Toast Ale, beer made from surplus bread, to emerge. Now, I’m not claiming this is a new trend, far from it; the practice has existed for hundreds of years since fruit manufacturers wanted to preserve their wares in sugar to make jam or potato farmers wanted an outlet for surplus potatoes in a snacking format. What I am saying is that this concept and story is now becoming a commercial opportunity.

Dot Com

Online food shopping is something that has been growing steadily year after year in the UK but there has to be a significant leap forward in the near future that will be a game changer. If I was a betting man I’d say that is more than likely going to come from Jeff Bezos et al over at Amazon where drones are already lining up laden with groceries. Amazon will steal a march on the grocery sector, it’s just a matter of time.

For now, companies like Deliveroo will continue to innovate and do things differently and better than before but surely no one can beat the Amazonian beast to the online food retailing crown?

Flavour Trends

Flavour trends are really difficult to predict and if I could tell you the difference between a flash in the pan and a sticky trend I’d be a very rich man!

Flavour and food trends tend to be driven by social elements like which holiday destinations are popular at the time and therefore it changes frequently, almost on a yearly basis. One trend that is definitely here to stay in the UK is provenance. We are still obsessed by where our food comes from to keep a check on traceability and quality.

Health is still prominent on the trend agenda in the UK and the movement over the last 18 months has seen protein come into the limelight. Is this trend a sticky one? I think not but only time will tell.

Now that my soap box is well worn, I’ll introduce my SIAL 2016 exhibitor focus for today…

Ape Snacks

Who are they?

To quote their mission statement Ape Snacks are ‘about being awesome’ and ‘on a mission to make snacking better’. Ape Snacks is the inspiration of Zack, a patron of the paleo, who became disheartened by the lack of credible snacking options available to him and his family. Zack has an incredible story and one that a lot of people can relate to – it’s half the charm of the brand.

Why are they innovative?

The coconut craze has not been a quiet one and you can now do almost anything with it: cook it, drink it, eat it or even wear it. However, the attempts to convert this craze into a healthy and, more importantly, tasty snack have been fruitless.

Ape Snacks now offers an accessible coconut snacking product that will appeal to the weight management masses as well as the snack seekers.

Why should you love them?

In my opinion the art of these products is in the branding. It oozes personality and very quickly communicates the products’ key features. The snacking category is a difficult one to enter successfully but here is a truly innovative product with a great story; this one should stick.

Details: www.apesnacks.com

SIAL Location: KL 062 National Pavilions and Regions of the World

So all that leaves me to ask is what are your food or retail trends for 2017 that you want to highlight? Come on people, sharing is caring.

Northern Munkee.


Product Review: Organic Buko Coconut Jam

The spreads market in the UK is going through an interesting transition with traditional fruit jams being picked up less and less frequently. Most large manufacturers have set off on a race to the bottom on price which is no good for the shopper or the market place as jars get smaller, quality gets poorer and jobs become more fragile.

So what does the market need? Value. Who is going to drive this value? Small producers with the ability to be flexible. How will they drive it? By being different.

There has been a real surge in the popularity of anything either nutty or chocolatey which is now bringing more shoppers back to the shelf to buy spreads. There has also been an advance made by new sub-categories, hybrids if you like, which take an element of the familiar and blend it with the unfamiliar. For example Tesco have launched a strong range of their own branded biscuit spreads including Custard Creams and Cookies & Cream.

It was inevitable that someone was going to bring coconut to the fixture sooner rather than later; it’s been a bit of phenomenon everywhere else! I remember receiving a jar of coconut butter from Vita Coco when I was a buyer with a generic marketing flyer which said that you could eat it, drink it, cook with it, wash with it, moisturise with it or put it in your hair. Now, I get that it’s versatile but that sort of thing doesn’t sit right with me. I don’t want to put the same thing in my mouth that I do on my feet; I’ve only just got over the confusion The Body Shop caused me with tasty looking soaps. Call me old fashioned but I need to know what’s what; I’m not going to start putting Lynx shower gel on my chips or exfoliating with Rice Krispies. I digress…

When I saw the Buko Coconut Jam I just had to know what it tastes like…

Rating: 7/10

Appeals to: bakers, health fanatics and competent cooks


The jar doesn’t look like a traditional jam jar but it would serve to break up the ‘noise’ on the fixture well. The label is quite small so it would force a shopper to pick it up to engage with it however it does simply and quickly highlight its USPs.


£4.49 – this prices the product at the premium end of the market so Buko Organic will really be working on the emotional purchase to get shoppers to see passed the price point. It will add value back into the category and the price point may automatically exclude some retailers which will enhance the premium, exclusivity for consumers.


I really didn’t know what to expect when I opened each jar, but I certainty wasn’t expecting what I saw. Even though I had read the ingredients beforehand I still expected a fruit jam-esque texture; it’s nothing like that. Imagine the coconut is the fruit in this jam. It creates something that I can only describe as a cross between cream cheese, chocolate spread and cocoa butter. You couldn’t spread it on toast; so I kept it simple and just grabbed a spoon!


This is a really thick, deep coloured spread. The first flavour that hits the front of your mouth is a sweet caramel that melts around the tongue. The coconut notes follow up and linger for a few seconds.


You initially get an intense cocoa hit which quickly fades and is followed again by the chewy coconut. Don’t think Bounty, instead think Bounty, melted and mixed with dulce de leche.

Sea Salted

I’ll be honest, I didn’t think I’d enjoy this one but it was my favourite! It was lighter than the first two and the sea salt served to emphasise an initial sweetness. Really good.

Verdict – in a word, coconutty! I wasn’t sure what to expect with this and the word ‘jam’ may be a little misleading. However, I think it’s a brilliant product, absolutely on trend and would work fabulously as an ice cream topper, in baking or cooking ingredient. As an added slice of goodness the products are Soil Association certified, GMO free, low in cholesterol and preservative free. There’s also a fantastic incentive for eco-warriors as every jar sold saves a square metre of rainforest due to a partnership with green lifestyle brand Cuipo.

Details: http://www.organicbuko.com

Northern Munkee.