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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Corn to win!

Product Review: Joe & Seph’s

I’ll be honest: I’ve resisted Joe & Seph’s in any guise for a couple of years. I don’t know what it is about the branding but it doesn’t seem like it’s for me. The company boasts a large product range that spans multiple categories but popcorn is its bread and butter.

The brand has definitely positioned themselves at the premium end of the premium popcorn spectrum making them inaccessible to shoppers who would potential switch through price point and packaging. This could be a ploy to pander to their large consumer base by offering a more exclusive product which is not enjoyed by riff raff. Some may see this as pretence but I would coin it clever, subtle and targeted marketing.

Rating: 7/10

Appeals to: discerning popcorn lovers with a bit more disposable income than your average Joe

Packaging

It looks brilliant. The clear window lets the product do the talking. The pouch format is like nothing else in the category which serves to break through the noise on a busy shelf. The branding is simple but it gets a lot of messages across in very few words.

Price

£1.50 – for just 32g this is very expensive when you consider that a similar sized pack of Propercorn is just 75p. There’s no doubt that a lot of this extra expense goes into a more premium packaging format but the delivery needs to be pretty amazing to warrant a 2x price hike!

Delivery

Popcorn with Caramel, Honey and Hazelnuts

The initial flavour is a crunchy, crispy sweetness not dissimilar to a pecan pie but then the earthy honey takes over and leaves a peaty taste in your mouth. I enjoy different layers of flavours but for me the caramel and the honey don’t work together well.

Popcorn Coated Generously in Mature Irish Cheddar

This is AMAZING. The popcorn is soft, light and fluffy with a distinctive cream cheese finishes that outlasts the corn on your palate. There is a lot of flavour in this bag and it works really well.

Verdict – in a word, inconclusive. If I was just rating that cheese popcorn I may have given out my first 10/10 but the sweet popcorn was disappointing. Joe & Seph’s have opted for the smaller variety of corn but I would like to see their product using what is, in my opinion, the more premium butterfly variety. The benefit of using this corn is that there are more intricacies in the product for the flavour to attach to. I do feel like part of an exclusive club eating Joe & Seph’s and if I come into some money may be I’ll buy another pack!

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

Northern Munkee.

Put down the bucket and pick up the poshcorn!

This blog is in honour of National Popcorn Day.

I am a huge fan of the current popcorn craze the UK snacking market is experiencing. It’s about time that Butterkist were given a run for their money. Popcorn has moved from being a super sweet snack that was only purchased by the trough for £5 to be consumed alongside a bucket of carbonated soft drink at the local cinema to a fun, trendy, lifestyle product that now proudly sit in any credible retailer’s Meal Deal. The trend has been an absolute phenomenon and has taken the large suppliers my surprise. So why has it been so successful? Well in my opinion the new sub-category of premium popcorn has filled a very apparent consumer need that other pieces of innovation have failed to address for a number of years: namely it’s a healthy snack. Now you might say that there is a raft of healthy snacks clogging up snacking fixtures from Pops to Walkers Sunbites and whilst this is true these products haven’t fully addressed the snacking consumer’s need. All the predecessors have focussed on being healthy whereas the premium popcorn category has focussed, exclusively, on fantastic flavours…and it’s healthy. In this category FLAVOUR IS KING! So if you can produce a great tasting product that also happens to be healthy, you’re onto a winner! That’s exactly what companies, such as Propercorn, have done.

As a buyer I was presented hundreds of different premium popcorn brands as soon as the trend started to gain traction and, in my opinion, there was one big difference between the suppliers that got it right and were successful and those that got it wrong and were unsuccessful: they understood their consumer. I’ll compare two brands on opposite ends of the success spectrum: Sexy Pop and Propercorn. Sexy who? Exactly! Sexy Pop as a food tasted OK, not phenomenal but it was OK. As a brand it was loud, brash and confident. Conversely, Propercorn as a food tasted fantastic, really great flavour profiles. As a brand it was very trendy, fun and didn’t take itself too seriously. Sexy Pop was much cheaper and offered a much higher margin whereas Propercorn was quite expensive versus other similar products on the fixture. Propercorn, for me, embodied everything that is right about the category. It’s on trend, it’s different, it drives new shoppers into the category and it adds value back into a declining market. Sexy Pop embodies everything that the category isn’t. Propercorn has, so far, seen off some ardent competition from the likes of Metcalfe’s, who have just sold their soul for investment, and Walkers, who did react with their own offering (Sensations and Mix-Ups) but it completely missed the consumer they should have been targeting.

I do predict that the popcorn bubble will burst and I hope that Propercorn are able to diversify to move with the times, however, at this current moment, there seems to be no indication that this phenomenon is going to slow down.

Product Review: Popcorn Kitchen – Sea Salt & Olive Oil
Rating: 6/10
Appeals to: health conscious shape-watchers
Packaging 
The packaging was what led me to buy this pack. It’s quirky, simple and fresh. I like the personal touch introducing the makers on the back and I like how simply the messages are communicated. You don’t need to study the pack long to get a real good understanding of what it’s all about. Does it ‘pop’ from the shelf? No, but, as someone who is already bought into the category, I was willing to give it a try.
Price
£2.50 – this is not value for money and the pack doesn’t scream premium like Joe&Seph’s does. I may be doing the manufacturers a disservice here, and I apologise if I am. I picked these up from my local farm shop, which isn’t a very good one and does enjoy getting fat off some unnecessarily large margins.
Delivery
You can tell the quality of a good popcorn before you even eat it. If the manufacturing process has been considered and cared for the corn kernels will have expanded at the right speed, temperature and with the right amount of oil and seasoning. The result should be a beautiful, fully expanded butterfly corn like a cream and gold rose. This bag had an uneasy blend of mushroom and butterfly corn and the pieces were uneven, closed and ugly. How disappointing. Flavour-wise there was a good fluffy texture but the only flavour that came through was the salt. I was really looking forward to seeing how the olive oil manifested itself. I wanted to taste it’s velvety sheen; but I couldn’t. The bag was gluten free, wheat free, dairy free, nut free, soya free, vegetarian, vegan, GMO free and, unfortunately, flavours free.
Verdict – in a word, weak. This bag does not do the expansive category justice. Propercorn can afford to stand down from their post as there won’t be a fight for the top spot just yet.
Northern Munkee.