Private & Exclusive!

Product Review: Privateer Jerky

So here we are again – another meat snack review and I love it! There is a whole world of outstanding meat snacks from the UK now and I won’t be happy until I’ve worked my way through the lot!

Once again this is a very different meat snack to anything I’ve tried before. We’re now into the realms of premium jerky…

Rating: 9/10

Appeals to: meat snackers, jerky fans and those with a sophisticated palate

Packaging

The packaging is really simple. A well presented card detailing the premium branding sewn to a vacuum packed, meat pillow! And what more do you need?

Price

£4.00 (40g bag) – now this is the most expensive of the meat snacks I reviewed but £4.00  for a premium snack doesn’t break the bank and you can tell from the packaging the look of it that you won’t be disappointed!

Delivery

So what’s different about this meat snack? Well you get quality chunks of fantastic quality meat that has been cared for and smoked over Applewood to create a elegant undertone that permeates the whole snack.

Black Jack ‘The Mild One’

The smoked wood notes lay the foundations that are built on by a sweet black treacle which melts slowly into the soy flavours to leave a sweet, aniseed hint as the smoke creeps around your mouth. Enchanting!

Jolly Red ‘The Hot One’

This is fantastic! There is the familiar introduction of the smoke but then the sweet notes and the chilli heat begin to waltz with each other. The heat isn’t overpowering but it builds and sits on the tongue.

Verdict – in a word, exclusive! This is unlike any of the other meat snacks that I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing. It is more premium, cared for and more exclusive. It’s the difference between a cigar and a great cigar. There are layers of subtle flavours that gang up on your taste buds and ambush them in a symphony of premium tastes. Great work Privateer!

Details: http://www.privateerjerky.com/

Northern Munkee.

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Pasta La Vista!

Crisps Mini-Series: Pastinos

This is the fourth 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: Pastinos

Rating: 9/10

Appeals to: early-adopters, snackers with a little more class and a desire to impress at parties

Packaging

The packaging is perfect. It oozes authenticity and really encapsulates the Italian experience. There was always a risk with this type of product that it could be confusing to a shopper but the guys at Pastinos have done a fantastic job of communicating the right messages on pack – this is a gourmet snack!

Price

£1.99 (150g bag) – this is exactly where a gourmet sharing snack should pitch itself. If you go above the £2 threshold you run the risk of not achieving any base sales but £1.99 is just the right price to drive value but also encourage trial amongst curious foodies.

Delivery

So Pastinos are a gourmet snack made completely from pasta and they look exactly how you’d imagine fried pasta should look. I remember sampling these in my Retail Buying role with the whole buying team over lunch and everyone had the same reaction:

‘Erm, crisps made from pasta?’

‘Trust me, try them!’

Arrabbiata

The snacks are light, airy and have a satisfying crunch that leaves a smooth wheaty texture as you finish the mouthful. The chunky vegetable flavours that are held within the pasta snack envelope the whole eat in a neat parcel.

Classic Pesto

This snack is brilliant. It has an intense garlic opening which paves the way for a rich pine nut hit which compliments the light, crisp snack.

Tomato and Sweet Basil

If I had to pick my favourite Pastino, here he is! The rich tomato flavours is complimented perfectly by a sweet sauce that is accented beautifully by an uplifting basil. Spot on!

Chianti and Olive

Confession time: I don’t enjoy olives, I wish I did but I just don’t. However, it really doesn’t matter with this snack, I love them. The chianti is the first flavour I recognise as a light dry note that is surpassed by a rich, smooth oily flavour that lasts long after the swallow.

Verdict – in a word, different! In terms of reclaiming gourmet snacking Pastinos is an excellent ambassador. If you want to differentiate be different and do it well and this is exactly what Pastinos do. I can understand why you might be hesitant at first, it seems unnatural right? But trust me, you won’t look back if you overcome that nervousness. Be an adventurer and get on these!!

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

Northern Munkee.

May the Norse Be With You!

Crisps Mini-Series: Rysp

This is the second 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: Rysp Garlic & Rosemary with Sesame Seed

Rating: 7/10

Appeals to: the health conscious, free-from fanatics and those seeking something new

Packaging

The packaging is basic with most of the pack being transparent to showcase the rye sourdough, baked crisps, which is important for such a unique product. The branding and imagery are quirky and will certainly allow the product to ‘pop’ on shelf.

Price

£3.60 (120g bag) – There’s no two ways about it, this is expensive. The price point certainly sets it apart from any other snack in the crisp category and highlights the fantastic quality ingredients that have gone into forging this snack.

Delivery

Now, this is quite different to anything else in the snacks category and describes itself as Baked Rye Sourdough Crisps. The crisps have a tough texture that give a strong initial sourdough flavour that melts as the oil releases a light rosemary hit with a lasting aromatic garlic which fills the mouth.

The packaging also makes a suggestion that Rysps are great for topping so I took up the opportunity to get the hummus out and I was onto a winner!!

Verdict – in a word, interesting! The potential problem I’d see with this snack is where does it sit? Crisps? Biscuits? Snacks? Crackers? Price point would suggest that it would only look appropriate in a free-from section. In my opinion this is a snack that needs a friend in the shape of a dip or a topping. In sum though this is definitely worth a try.

Details: http://www.plaintasty.com

Northern Munkee.

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.

Meat without Feet!

Product Review: Barefoot Chilli Biltong

I’m starting to develop a keen palate for biltong and other meat snacks so it’s only right that I continue my quest to find the perfect on-the-go protein snack.

As I journey deeper into my quest I am realising that the hunger for meat snacks is growing amongst the early adopters; biltong and jerky are replacing hairy pork scratchings in bars in trendy spots up and down the country.

Rating: 7/10

Appeals to: meat snackers and protein junkies!

Packaging

The packaging is great – it’s simple and let’s the product do most of the selling. The labelling is really simple but effective with the right cues contained within the background. I did find the packaging quite tough to get into, which as a 6ft 2′ former rugby player did mean that I lost man points! My only other criticism on the packaging is the branding itself. As a consumer it’s unclear who’s biltong you’re eating and you could be forgiven for thinking the brand was ‘Spiced ‘n’ Sliced’ as it is much bigger than ‘Barefoot Biltong’. This is only a minor point in terms of product delivery but in terms of brand building it’s a bit of a faux pas.

Price

£3.90 – this is what I’d expect to pay for 100g of good quality biltong. It doesn’t come cheap but it’s well worth it!

Delivery

The first thing that hit me when I eventually got through the packaging was the different smell that this biltong carried over other brands – it was very light and floral and not necessarily what you’d expect.

This is another dry biltong, which isn’t my favourite. However, I did learn from their website that you can specify how you want your biltong (from wet to dry) which I think is a great touch. Not only does it enhance the experience and quality elements but it gives the product a personal touch and leaves you thinking that ‘this pack was made just for me’.

Despite this particular pack not being my preference it was a vast improvement on the Raging Bull brand I blogged about which was dry all the way through the eat. This biltong just needed a few chews to release the flavours and the juices. The heat was quite gentle but it was enough to enhance the quality meat.

Verdict – in a word, wetdry! Meat snacking in the UK is still far more infantile than its counterpart on the continent and unfortunately, as a nation, we are allowing Peperami to lead the way in terms of market share. However, if we band together as a merry artisanal army we can resist low quality meat snacks and feast on quality biltong until we can’t chew any more.

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

Northern Munkee.

Root-ine Check

Product Review: Leighton Brown Root Crisps

I’ve blogged on a number of occasions about the snacks category and it’s not secret that it’s one of my favourite categories. It’s dynamic, it’s fast paced and it’s exciting; I love it!

However, from a manufacturer’s, it’s a red sea of hyper-competition with some of the world’s biggest multinational corporations wading through it scaring away any brave minnows. Having said that there are examples of new entrants making their mark on the category and hurting the brand share of the big boys such as the continuously successful Propercorn.

So, like me, you love the category and you want to enter the market – what’s the best way to do it? Firstly, I’d say don’t play by the big boys’ rules. Don’t make a Cheese and Onion 32.5g bag of crisps – it’s safe to say they’ve got that covered thanks. Rather than focussing on what they’re doing focus on what they’re not doing or what they can’t do. These juggernauts are slow to move and not fleet of foot so if there’s a new emerging market trend jump on it and sail off on the current; they’ll just have to watch for a while, or at least until they can get the cap ex signed off!

This leads me onto my latest product review: Leighton Brown’s Root Crisps. Vegetable crisps aren’t a new thing by any means but they are becoming increasingly more popular. There’s a common misconception that vegetable and root crisps are healthy – they’re not. However it does add a completely different flavour profile and texture to a potato or corn snack and after all in this world, TASTE IS KING!

Rating: 9/10

Appeals to: snackers young and old; a snacker who cares more about his tastebuds than to assault them with a 20p bag of Oinks

Packaging

The packaging is brilliant and a big part of Leighton Brown’s appeal. It has the premium matte colours juxtaposed with the retro, Napoleon Dynamite-esque typeface. The pack is shouting to early adopters: ‘try me, I’m the next big thing!’

Price

£1.28 – this is a little pricey for 40g but I’d still say they’re value for money as the delivery far outweighs other 40g offerings. If you were sat in a trendy pub in the Northern Quarter in Manchester supping a refreshing IPA you wouldn’t hesitate to part with £1.50 for these.

Delivery

Parsnip and Manuka Honey

The sweet soft crunch of the parsnip is enhanced by the rich and velvety Manuka honey as you first bite into the golden crisp. The garlic and soft spices gentle sweep through your mouth adding another layer to the flavour personality. You’re left with a smooth blend of herbs and spices as you dive back into the bag for another!

Beetroot, Horseradish and Dill

I’ll be honest -these are more of an acquired taste. However, they do deliver against expectations. The sweet beet is the starter, the horseradish is the main and the dill is a lifting dessert. The deep purple snack will really appeal to strong flavour junkies.

Sweet Potato, Cheese and Jalapeno

Wow! I think I’ve found a new favourite crisp! The nacho cheese that introduces the crisp is soft, creamy and delightful. It is then followed up by the sugars of the sweet potato and the acidity of the jalapeno. It’s certainly not blow your socks off heat but there’s enough to make you aware of it. These crisps are brilliant, it’s like a bowl of loaded nachos in every bite. On their own…this could have been my first 10/10!

Verdict – in a word, exciting! This is what the crisps and snacks category is all about. It’s not a done deal but the product is definitely right and, with the right strategy, Leighton Brown could be onto a winner. Watch out big boys!

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

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.