It’s the height of the trade fairs season again after the quieter months of July and August. The 20th year anniversary of Speciality and Fine Food Fair was held at the Olympia in West Kensington, London during the 1st to 3rd September 2019. The place was already heaving with visitors when I arrived at 10:00 am on its first day. Food events are always popular.
The fair had a wide range of innovative and diverse selections of products from the finest artisans around the world. The variety of spices, sauces, and other cooking condiments was wide. Festive and seasonal food like chutneys and pickles were also part of the selections. Finest dairy products from hard to soft cheeses and selections of cream, especially from the best of England’s own farmers were there. The vegan, organic, and gluten-free range were well-represented and so were the non-alcoholic drinks. Great Tastes’ award-winning products like cold cuts and charcuterie, tea, coffee, and different categories of snacks and bitesize food shared good proportions of exhibitors. I’ve spoken to many exhibitors and here are some of the people behind the products.
Mt. Mayon Pili Nuts – An Award-Winning Product
When I saw the name of the brand, I immediately asked, “is that the volcanic Mt. Mayon in the Philippines?”, one of the owners, James Costello proudly said yes, that’s right! I felt proud to see products from the Philippines in prestigious events like this. I am from the Philippines and I recognized and remembered pili nuts for its softer and smoother texture in contrast to its hard-to-crack shell.
Pili is not just nuts, the brand has earned awards from the Snacking d’Or 2018 (France), iTQi (International Taste and Quality Institute) Awards 2018 (Belgium) and Great Taste Awards 2018 (UK) as Supreme Champion and Golden Fork Best Imported Food.
James had this nut tested at Campden BRI, one of the largest food testing facilities here in the UK. The results showed that Pili has a lower carb count compared to other nuts that we already have in the market.
I have had the opportunity to taste the different flavors. The Himalayan Pink Salt looks natural but it tastes naturally good!. The Ecuadorian Cacao tastes as good with a hint of chocolate but not too sweet; it’s quite addictive. The Kyoto Matcha is a novelty; a special treat for those who love nutty snacks and matcha tea from Japan. Matcha and pili worked perfectly well together. The combination enhances the unique elements of these two products. And lastly, the smooth pili butter is an excellent addition to the range. To know more about the story behind this brand and how the company gives back to its community in Mt. Mayon, Albay, Philippines, click here.
The proud founder, James Costello (second from left ), Creative Director Cara Gallardo Weil, and Dr. Stephen Costello (next to Cara), also a founder and James’ brother. Myself with Cara during the show at their stand (right photo).
Anthea Organics – A Great Taste Awardee
This award-winning tea from Greece has a class of its own. The hand-picked organic and aromatic herbs are carefully sourced from all over Greece. They have many flavors but when asked if I’d like to taste one of them, I picked the Detox Blend; its aromatic smell that emanates from the open box was so inviting! When in hot water, it smells aromatic and tastes soothing and refreshing too. No wonder, this flavor was awarded three-stars by Great Taste Awards. Personally, I will buy a Detox Blend and Rose Petals flavors when I see these around. I was given some samples and I equally love the other flavors. Apart from own consumption, this brand is an ideal gift for friends and family on special occasions or even for corporate clients. Its tastes and smells authentic and the packaging presentation is world-class.
The proud owner of Anthea Organics, Mrs. Eleonora Goudaki and manager Mr. Ioannis Eminidis
Mykes Gourmet from Spain
This black and rough looking food (in the cover photo as well) is a fresh black truffle from Soria, Spain. Apparently, the province of Soria has the best truffle in the world. It was the first time I’ve seen a whole fresh one! Mykes Gourmet was born in Soria, the land of truffle. Their innovative and high-quality products are made from carefully selected truffles.
They say that truffle is one of the three of life’s great gastronomic indulgences. The BBC has quoted that white truffle from Piedmont in Northern Italy is one of eight most expensive food like saffron, caviar, and oysters. Tatler has quoted the best restaurants in London that served truffle. They say that truffle season is September to December.
Made for Drink – Premium Bar Snacks
The company’s name is exactly what the products are about. This brand was born at the small village called Waltham St. Lawrence in the English county of Berkshire. It is a historic county and a proud home to the Windsor Castle, the English royal residence. The humble-looking founder, Dan was busy entertaining customers but I managed to speak to him briefly. His business started in 2016 serving celebrity chefs and restaurateur, Rick Stein and Heston Blumenthal and also the Fortnum and Mason grocers in London. Three years on, he now supplies to over 300 customers here in the UK. Possibly more after the exposure of his products in this event. A week after the show I saw his products on the shelf of Sainsbury’s near where I live. Giant supermarket chains like Sainsbury’s are some of the most important buyers at the show.
The proud owner/founder Dan
Maison Bruyere – French Fine Cookies
A family business which story goes back to 1964 when French baker Roger Bruyere started a cookie and cake business in his hometown near Albi in France. Fast forward it is now one of the well-known cookie makers in France producing cookies in their factory with an ‘artisan savoir-faire’ and has maintains the highest quality of finish products. I had the opportunity to taste samples of their fine apricot cookies; they are crispy and light, it has minimal sugar and butter and they taste deliciously delicate. With carefully designed packaging, the range is ideal for gifts, especially during the Christmas season.
Peter Destrooper, Director/Partner of Maison Bruyere
Lauden – Award-Winning British Chocolate
This brand has a range of hand-made chocolates. The journey started from their own kitchen. Now a world-class brand, its customers include the Queen’s grocers, Fortnum and Mason in Piccadilly, London. Other happy customers, to name a few, are Britain’s very own carrier British Airways first-class cabin, and the luxury liner, Cunard. Based in Leeds in the north of England, they ship in many countries outside the UK.
This one is a winner of the Best Confectionery product in the Great British Food Awards 2017
The proud founders of Lauden, Stephen & Sun
Isigny Ste Mere – French Dairy Cooperative
The old-time experts from as far back as 1932 offered a vast selection of high standard quality dairy products out of exceptional milk from the milk producers in the region of Normandy, France. Their products include cream, soft cheeses, and baby milk powders. They produce excellent ranges of brie (soft cow’s milk cheese) and mimolette (hard cow’s milk cheese), crème fraîche, and their famous Isigny butter. The butter was awarded the ‘Appellation d’Origine Protege’ (Protected Designation of Origin) status.
Backing their unrivaled industry expertise and authenticity of their products and origins is that they were the first agri-food enterprise in France to have received an ISO 9002 certification in 1990 (now ISO 9001) issued by World Organisation of Standardization.
Two Enthusiastic Young Entrepreneurs – The Family Secret
If you are into Indian cuisine, feel free to explore their best-kept secret 🙂
What I Learned from the Show
This was my very first visit to an international food exhibition and I was not sure what to expect. I came out with more knowledge about the fine food sector and food that I have not encountered in my life before.
The Discovery Zone upstairs was a line up of exhibitors, launching their new products and promoting existing products. It is marvelous what you may discover in events like this; it is a place for showcasing innovative ideas. If you believe in your food ideas and you feel it is worth spreading in order for others to benefit from it, this is the show for you. You will be amazed who might just need what you can offer. An event like this gives people the chance to taste the actual products; and a chance for exhibitors and buyers to speak face-to-face.
Here I heard stories from real people behind the products. Stories that we’ve read in magazines or on the internet. They shared their inspiring journey from when the ideas formed in their minds, to the hard work that comes with realizing their dreams and until their ideas finally benefited other people. There was a shared belief in them; it is about hours of hard work, excellent planning and implementation plus a lot of determination. They love what they do and they are proud to tell their success stories.
The show is ideal for food producers, wholesalers, retailers, restaurants, coffee shops, bars, pubs, hotels, B&Bs, airlines caterers, events caterers, passenger luxury cruise ships and other food-related food establishments and businesses.
As well as the series of workshops spread over the three days, there was a live cooking demo as well, which added to the highlights of the day.
The atmosphere was friendly but quite dynamic. There was a lot of food tasting and you can see the enthusiasm of both the exhibitors and visitors. The majority of the businesses are independent family-owned and single proprietorships. Some are a fearless start-uppers who gave up their corporate jobs and jumped into the entrepreneurial bandwagon. The enthusiasm and their own inspiring stories were infectious. There was a strong community feel inside the big hall.
The Event Organizer
The event’s organizer is an international company which business history goes back to more than 100 years. Montgomery International is a UK company based in London. I find that the show was well-organized. Members 0f reception team were welcoming, polite and helpful.
Olympia is one of the most popular venues in London for many reasons. Its location is central and is easily accessible by train, cars, and buses. It’s a 10-minute walk to the famous Holland Park via Kensington High Street. The vibrant high street has good shopping stores and boutiques, pubs, restaurants and coffee shops. You can also pop in at the Design Museum also off Kensington High Street, or the Kensington Palace, Kensington Garden, and Serpentine Gallery which are close by.