Tangy, Sweet and Savoury Snacking…

Focus on SIAL: Poptang

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.

Sustainability

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…

Yumsh Snacks

Who are they?

Poptang is a product of Yumsh Snacks who are the creative minds behind the compelling 10 Acre range. The company is based in Manchester and their mission is to provide great snacks to the freefrom market. As a Northern foodie I can’t help but endorse Yumsh Snacks’ story and mission; they also boast some great foods to back up their brilliant brands.

Why are they innovative?

Popcorn is a fairly humble and simple food that has been on an amazing adventure over the last few years and Poptang represents another twist on that road.

It’s incredible to think of the flavours that you can now harness into popped corn and who would have thought that the sticky sweet goodness of Tango would work so well on lightly popped popcorn? This sweet/savoury/tangy combination is a great addition to the snack shelf and this licensed partnership may well be the saviour of mainstream popcorn.

Why should you love them?

Well, for a kick-off, they’re Northern, so that’s a big tick there! On a more serious note it’s their ‘why’ that I fell in love with . Anyone who follows my blog knows that I’m obsessed by branding and fascinated by what makes an effective brand work. For me, Yumsh Snacks works because of its why and how they make its branding speaks directly to its customers.

Details: www.yumshsnacks.com

SIAL Location: TL 013 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.

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Next Stop: 10 Acre Village

Crisps Mini-Series: 10 Acre

This is the first instalment of my mini-series focussing on Crisps.

Anyone that has been following my Food Adventures will know that I am a big fan of the crisps category; it’s fun, fast paced, innovative and driven by one overarching factor: taste. This was my favourite, and most valuable, category as a Retail Buyer and I had to keep my ear close to the ground with new product developments, competitor activity and sales driving initiatives. For an ambient product, crisps, have a relatively short shelf-life and therefore it was of utmost importance for me that the rate of sale is high and I wasn’t left with any dusty packets.

The market has undergone a change in the last five years as the consumer base has been made to feel increasingly guilty for eating foods that they enjoy and crisps are an easy target. Therefore suppliers have worked tirelessly to find the golden egg and produce a great tasting crisp that ticks a number of boxes for the health-conscious, calorie counters. In my opinion, the big boys have failed at this and only managed to produce different flavours of cardboard that aren’t going to satisfy anybody craving a hunger fix. This has led to the growth of a, still relatively, new sub-sector: popcorn. This mini-series is all about crisps and not the whole snacking category but it is worth noting that the growth of brands like Propercorn have chipped (unintentional pun I promise!) away at the share held by potato crisps in the aisle and this trend doesn’t appear likely to slow down any time soon. A fact that demonstrates this seismic shift is that, in the last couple of weeks, Propercorn have been named as branded Snacks Supplier of the Year in 2015 by The Grocer.

So potato crisps have to react…

The artisanal world of crisps has exploded making it a very saturated market so the need for differentiation and something that allows your product to raise its head above the parapet is key. The mainstream market is dominated by very few, very large suppliers but they are very poor at reacting to trends leaving a bit of an open goal for smaller producers. However, this blatant opportunity also created a bottleneck with a plethora brown paper brands springing up almost overnight. The problem that I faced as a buyer presented with a deluge of options was how to make the right choice. They were all great quality, hand cooked crisps with an endearing heritage and backstory. A small supplier has a number of tools within its gift to create that point of difference (brand, flavours, packaging, marketing, target audience) but achieving the utopia of a unique proposition is no easy task.

However this mini-series is about more than just reviewing a selection of crisps. No, it’s much more than that. This blog is about reclaiming the meaning of quality, potato-based, snacking. I grew up with Kettle being a treat that was savoured only on special occasions but for too long has that ‘premium’ brand let me down. No bag of crisps that features on the shelves of B&M can boast a premium appeal. In fact I was in my local Lifestyle Express the other week and I saw a bag of Kettle crisps with a £1.29 price-mark on a Buy One Get One Free promotion. The buyer in me thought, ‘what an amazing deal, why wasn’t I ever offered that?’ but a little part of my crisp-loving soul cracked, broke off and shattered like the greasy little crumbs in the corner of the bag. 64.5p per bag of ‘premium’ crisps? No sir, I’m not having that!

Right, enough of that! On with my review…

Product Review: 10 Acre Crisps

Rating: 9/10

Appeals to: serious snackers, those crisp-adventurers who simply have had enough of run-of-the-mill crisps

Packaging

I’ll be honest, I’m a little enchanted by it. Now, I should mention that I really dislike gimmicky branding if it’s pitched badly however 10 Acre Village really works. The bags are matte with easy to differentiate varietals and splendidly appropriate imagery. The team at Yumsh have clearly worked hard to depict the brand personality in their packaging even down to the conversational dialogue on the back of the pack.

Price

£0.79 (40g bag) – I’d say they’re underselling themselves here, however it does make the proposition an accessible price point for the grammage and it can still be considered as part of a retailer’s Meal Deal (which as we all know is more sacred than the shroud of Turin). Depending on which environment you find yourself in you won’t be alarmed by this price point at all, I was pleasantly surprised.

Delivery

The one thing that was uniform across all the flavours was the general appearance. Each golden slice curled slightly at the edges to bring back the sounds, smells and sights of the lucky potatoes immersing themselves in the fryer. This non-uniformity enhanced the hand cooked and artisan appeal.

The Secret of Mr Salt

This was a great way to introduce myself to 10 Acre Crisps. It was simple but done really well. The slight fried slices melted in the mouth with a smooth oily finish.

When Chicken Soup Saved the Day

The same melt-in-the-mouth snack but with an initial meaty burst that’s seasoned to perfection.

Pastrami in the Rye

This is a brilliant snack. In terms of capturing the flavour description it is spot on. There’s an initial sweetness to the crunch that is quickly enveloped by a peppery mustard and strong beef finish.

When the Chilli Got Sweet

The first experience in this bag is a sweet tomato quickly chased through by a vinegary flavour with an ever so slight tingle at the back of the tongue.

The Story of When the Cheese Met the Onion

The most prominent flavour in this bite is a sharp white onion which is softened slowly by a delightfully light and creamy cheese.

When the Pepper Crack’d

Pepper crisps can be a little intense but 10 Acre have found an airy pepper that operates on another level to the oily potato to add a real flavour depth.

The Amazing Adventures of Salt and Vinegar

If I had to pick a favourite in the village this is it. It felt like I was eating a bag of chips, out of yesterday’s newspaper, with lashings of vinegar and a sprinkling of salt straight from the chippy. What a brilliant bag!

Verdict – in a word, inspiring! I said that I was setting out to reclaim the world of premium snacks, well here’s a brand that can do just that. The branding, packaging and flavour profiles are all brilliant and the price point is, if anything, too accessible. Also, as an added bonus, all their products are Gluten Free, Dairy Free and MSG Free; which, as well as being very important to sales is becoming increasingly important to shoppers looking for a snacking fix. Retailers take note: put Kettle crisps on your gondola ends to drive that volume and to get the masses flocking but if you want to add some value and credibility back into the category I’d be knocking on a few doors in 10 Acre Village!

Details: http://www.tenacrecrisps.co.uk

Northern Munkee.

Food Adventures in Manchester…

Food Journey: Prestbury Farm Shop

It is my right, nay my duty as a #FoodAdventurer to seek out brilliant new food places that are doing their bit to promote local businesses and bring great quality foods to more people. I am not one of these Foodies who is on a crusade against major Multiple retailers, without them the industry wouldn’t work, but I believe we should celebrate and support those purveyors and producers who believe in the greater good.

This Food Journey took me to a beautiful village outside of Manchester called Prestbury. The drive in isn’t what you’d associate with Manchester; I don’t think I saw one hoodie or one traffic jam! Prestbury is exactly the sort of place that a #FoodAdventurer likes to go hunting: it’s relatively devoid of big name brands but instead has well established, traditional shops that serve it’s affluent population.

From the outside Prestbury Farm Shop is a unassuming and inviting but don’t let the simple frontage fool you, the treats that are held inside are well worth stepping across the threshold for. As you can see from the pictures I took, they actively draw in a lunch-time trade by braving the North West weather and serving various meat sandwiches straight from the grill – what a great way to grab attention and entice the senses!

I was initially welcomed by brightly coloured, ripe and abundant fruit and veg which set the tone for the rest of my exploration. One side of the shop is dominated by an impressively stocked chiller with fabulously cut and marinated fresh meats. The opposite side boasts a great collection of locally sourced jams, rubs, sauces, drinks and seasonings. In my opinion this is the sign of a good food shop: one that supports local businesses and one that does some of the foraging for you. If I trust the shop I’m in I’ll trust that the products on sale are going to be of a high standard.

So I thought I’d put this theory to the test…

‘What’s good here?’ I’m sorry, a typically annoying, open and unsuggestive question.

‘The meat. That’s what we’re known for. It’s fresh and local, you’ll love it.’ The response came back quick as a flash from a fella that had the look of someone who took pride in his work. I liked that.

northernmunkeebites.prestburyfarmshop

So I ended up buying to fully prepared spatchcock chicken; one with a smoky BBQ marinade and the other steeped in garlic and herbs. They were just £10 for both birds and I couldn’t wait to get these home for Mrs Munkee and I to try.

So how did they taste? Incredible! All I did was open the vacuum-sealed packaging and place the chicken in a large roasting dish and waited while the aromas enveloped my kitchen and built my anticipation. The delivery was outstanding. The chicken had an even and well-balanced marinade in both varieties with the BBQ dish suggesting a sweet, fresh-from-the-grill taste and the garlic offering a light, crispy coating to a succulent bird. The flavour ran through the full depth of the meat and made two brilliant evening meals, served with roasted vegetables and a simple onion rice.

If my trip to Prestbury Farm Shop has taught me anything it’s that a #FoodAdventurer should always keep their eyes open for potential foodie delights. This is a shop that could easily be missed if you’re swept up by the strains and stresses of daily life but let me assure you: if you have missed it then you’ve missed out. At both sittings of the Prestbury produce that I hunted and gathered, Mrs Munkee declared, and I quote, ‘I am going to be very upset when this ends’.  Looks like I’ll be journeying to South Manchester again!

Northern Munkee.