Smokey Brae

From cocktail-inspired ice cream to smoked sugar, there was no shortage of inspiration at this year’s Speciality & Fine Food Fair. Each of the 850 producers who attended London’s Olympia last weekend was determined to showcase what was different about their product - and why it was worth paying more for. The Grocer picks out the three top trends from the event.

1. Ethical

It’s long been a buzzword, but today’s consumers are genuinely concerned about what ‘ethical’ means. Rather than just focusing on organic or local produce, they are now demanding both, according to exhibitor Mr Organic. The sauce and tomato brand launched 16 organic products at the show, including an egg-free mayo.

“People care much more about where the product comes from, how it’s grown and how the farmer is treated,” says Kostas Papakostas, co-founder of the Italian brand.

This trend was apparent across the whole show floor. Soft drink brand Lemonaid, for example, was shouting about its Lemonaid & ChariTea organisation to help local charity projects across the world.

Other brands interpreted ethical as being transparent in production methods and shunning unnecessary additives. “The less you’ve done to your product, the better,” says Jason Hayward-Jones, co-founder of Gustare Raw Honey.

Thought all honey was raw? Well, Hayward-Jones says this was a talking point for people visiting his stand. ‘Raw’ means the brand refrains from adding anything, he explains, and it only filters the honey once before packing. This, he says, is what makes the product unique.

The ethical trend was topped off by the Soil Association launching its partnership with Safe and Local Supplier Approval (Salsa). The association will audit according to Salsa standards from November and brands will be able to apply for two certifications in one.

2. Smoked

Of all the hundreds of flavours showcased, smoked produce stood out as a definite trend. But this wasn’t your standard barbecue fare - suppliers put their own spin on smokey flavourings by mixing it with sweet produce.

One such purveyor was, Scottish brand Smokey Brae, which launched last October as a garden experiment and has since expanded to become a purpose-built smokery. Its range includes conventional concoctions such as Smoked Gravadlax Cure and BBQ Rub, but also Smoked Sugar, which can be used to make fudge and marshmallows.

Smoked chocolate was another delicacy on show. Earth Loaf’s Smoked Salt and Almond Chocolate, which uses 72% dark chocolate with cacao husk smoked sea salt, palmyra sugar and North Indian Almonds, was the most popular product on the Indian chocolate stand.

3. Adult twists

Why should kids have all the fun? Brands were determined to make categories such as ice cream and soft drinks appeal to an older audience by giving them adult makeovers.

Dairy brand Boozy Udders, for example, used cocktails as inspiration for its range of alcoholic ice cream. At the stand, frequent exclamations of “ooh” were heard as samples of the Jamaican Rum Punch were handed out. Boozy, it appears, was the right word.

And Thor Dry Apple Spritz had its eye on the soft drinks category. The apple-based brand, which launched new packaging at the show, hopes to provide a soft drink alternative that feels and looks a “step closer to alcohol” than other brands.

Its mint flavour sets out to replicate a mojito, and its apple flavour is essentially cider without the alcohol. “Too many so-called adult soft drinks are thin and disappointing, and consumers now expect much more,” says founder and MD Alistair Scahill.

Coffee was another category to get the same treatment. It is, by nature, an adult category, but brand Ozerlat also wants to make it more so by turning it into an ‘occasion’ using the brand’s Turkish coffee brewing method.

Ditching the instant coffee hit from an espresso on the go, the coffee granules are kept in the coffee cup, so drinkers have to wait until they settle to drink it - not one for coffee-to-go yuppies.