This cow’s got a kick!

Product Review: Gloucester Biltong

I’ve reviewed a couple of different meat snacks now and I think I’m developing a keen taste for it, if I do say so myself!

Everywhere I go I see brilliant biltong in different guises whether it be seasoned within an inch of its life or packaged to appeal to the body building masses it’s a trend that’s not going away.

This review was a recommendation from one of my Twitter following. I love Twitter for lead marketing communications. It acts as a brilliant dipstick into the food world. Everyone’s a critic and the Twittersphere isn’t polite or bashful. It says what it likes and likes what it says. So, if you’re a tasty Twitter treat then I’ll take that as a good measure.

northernmunkeebites.glosbiltong

Rating: 9/10

Appeals to: the more discerning meat snacker, a connoisseurs snack

Packaging

Now in my opinion packaging needs to be appropriate for its surroundings. Imagine this product sat proudly on a shelf in a deli, farm shop or fine food hall – it looks perfect. The labelling effectively calls out the products key features and shouts provenance. The silver foil used for the 40g packs is suggestive of how fresh the product is. Another thing the packaging does do is make it look a lot more appealing than its competitors in terms of portion size.

Price

£2.50 – this price point puts the product at a premium versus the high volume competition such as Jack Links and The Jerky Group but it’s a realistic price when appealing to the hardened meat snacker.

Delivery

Original

The smell of well cared for meat hits you as soon as you open the packet and you know you’re £2.50 was money well spent! The slices of biltong are thick but soft so you’re not left chewing for 30 minutes. The seasoning wasn’t overpowering but left a nice peppery aftertaste. Although the beef isn’t fatty you get a smooth velvety texture as you dissect the meat and release the wonderful juices.

Naga Chilli

This portion looks the same in terms of thick slices but it was speckled with golden coriander seeds. It looks inviting and smells incredible. The taste is outstanding. The first flavour you get has fruity notes which makes way for the release of the velvety caramel of the beef and then finally a heat builds to engulf the back of the throat and tongue. It’s not offensively hot but it’s also not one of these products where you’re left wondering what all the fuss was about. This is a brilliant product and in fact I’m still eating the pack as I’m writing these words!

Verdict – in a word, outstanding. I have sampled a lot of biltong and my preference is normally ‘the wetter the better’ but I may have to reassess that assertion. This isn’t a wet snack but it is amazing. £2.50 might seem a lot for 40g worth of snacks but go and spend £1.25 (twice) on a Cruga Biltong and you won’t think twice about spending £2.50!

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

Northern Munkee.

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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.

Meat Treats…

Product Review: King’s Snacks

Meat snacking in the UK is still in its infancy when compared to what’s on offer in other markets not so far away, however it’s becoming more and more popular. The market is, relatively speaking, wide open with Jack Links and The Jerky Group leading the way but acting quite complacently. In my opinion, this makes the category really exciting as it gives smaller producers a good chance to offer something different to the consumer and, quickly, build traction.

Jerky and biltong are both varieties of popular meat snacks that differ in origin and only slightly in preparation. Jerky originates from America and is smoke-cooked at a very low temperature. It is usually very sweet and can be quite tough (although it doesn’t have to be like the bottom of your shoe). Biltong hails from South Africa and is cured, air-dried meat. Biltong tends to be a little softer and more flavoursome.

The story from the guys at King’s Snacks resonates with me as I got into jerky and biltong when I was taking my rugby seriously. It’s a great, healthy way to get protein into your body and is much more effective than a lot of the meal replacement shakes that you see those fellas who look like they’re carrying carpets drinking in the gym! King’s Snacks is a brand supported by three rugby-playing brothers and backed by Mike Tindall so the nutritional benefits are inherent within this business.

Rating: 9/10

Appeals to: health-conscious snackers, athletes and just about anybody on the move

Packaging

The packaging is very clever. It’s very clean and crisp which reflects the natural product inside. This product’s packaging also demonstrates a departure from the cowboy or South African bull that seems to adorn any other packet of jerky and biltong from other kindred companies. The portion size is small but it’s inline with the marketplace.

Price

£1.99 – this is more expensive than the market leaders but this does two things: sets it apart as a more premium eat and also drives cash back into the snacking category, which is something that it desperately needs.

Delivery

Rib Eye Biltong

This is just heaven! The wetter the better for me! It looks as good as it tastes. It’s so soft and succulent that you could believe it had just been carved. It isn’t too peppery or salty but the seasoning is just right.

Pork Jerky

Now this is a relatively new one on me, I hadn’t had pork jerky before but, based on how good the biltong is, I was willing to give it a go. I wasn’t disappointed. Unlike the biltong this was very sweet but the meat was very tender and fibrous. I wouldn’t eat this all the time as a snack but it’s a great treat option.

Beef Jerky

This is the real acid test – does it stack up against the lower-priced market leaders? It blows the spots off them! Jack Links and The Jerky Group both have a really tough product that would make a cowboy’s eyes water with the strain of chewing; this jerky really doesn’t. It’s not as soft as the biltong so it does require some bite but it’s very recognisably beef.

Verdict –  in a word, superb! This may sound a little ridiculous but not all jerky and biltong products resemble, in flavour or appearance, the meat from which they are produced. There’s no doubt in the King’s Snack product. So if you’re looking for a healthier snacking option or just a tastier snacking option I suggest you give Mike Tindall a call!

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

Northern Munkee.

The Graze Craze…

Product Review: Graze retail packs

Graze is a phenomenon that has impressed me greatly. From beginnings as a subscription snacks business it has progressed to be the embodiment of the snacking market trend. As consumers we are hungry for more variety in their snack and Walkers Cheese and Onion Crisps just aren’t doing it any more. We are also much more aware of what we’re snacking on, where it’s come from and what it’s doing to our bodies so health has become increasingly important. Having said that, we’re still snacking because we need to fill a hunger gap and scratch that itch so a snacking product will only be successful if, firstly, it tastes good – TASTE IS KING. Graze epitomises this shift in buying habits and has carved out a patch for other businesses to follow.

However, I have a confession to make: I have never had a Graze box; I am a Graze virgin. So, today I decided to pop my (morello) cherry! I bought three varieties of the retail translation of Graze that I picked up from a Sainsbury’s Local in Holborn which specialises in food-on-the-go.

Rating: 9/10

Appeals to: people bored with mundane snacks, conscious about what they consume and with a hunger for great tasting products

Packaging

I love the packaging. The biodegradable sleeve encapsulates the business ethos and the messaging is clear, simple and puts across the products’ USPs. The packaging lends the product perfectly to lunch boxes and to be consumed on-the-go.

Price

£1.20 – for a premium snack this is a realistic price point; however the more value-conscious consumer may trade their calorie conscience for an 80g portion of fried snacks instead of a 25g snackette and get more bang for their buck.

Delivery

Thai Sweet Chilli Dippers

A small, but adequate, portion of light dippers with just enough thick, sweet chilli sauce. This is a great conversion of a trendy bar snack but Graze have taken the starchy, powdery elements of the snack out and replaced it with a light crunch. At just 83 calories the sweetness it feels like a, permissible, indulgent snack.

Salted Fudge & Peanut Cookie

This is a perfect little snack. It has the right blend of sweet goodies to keep a snacker interested but still sufficient health benefits to fit within the Graze portfolio. Unlike other products in the market, the balance between sweet and salty is pitched just right.

Lemon Drizzle Flapjack

This last snack is pure indulgence. The stodgy oats are offset by the light, airy lemon drizzle topping. This product is set apart by other flapjacks as it doesn’t leave a fatty grease on your fingers.

Verdict – in a word, converted! As a former Snacks Buyer and a self-confessed Food Adventurer, I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to join the Graze Craze. I have always been a fan of the brand but now I can say that I’m also a fan of the products. In the week that Metcalfe’s has signed a deal that might see it lose its identity, I hope the team at Graze never lose theirs. I think I might be developing a Graze Crave for my future snacking…where do I sign up?

Details: https://www.graze.com/uk/

Northern Munkee.