London: Spices from Asia, as part of ingredients for healthy snacks, drew curious attendees during the 18th annual Speciality & Fine Food Fair trade exhibition. Held at the capital’s Olympia exhibition centre, the event that concluded on September 4 made for three lip-smacking days.
Innovations in food and drink brought in thousands of professionals. More than 700 exhibitors spanning the retail and hospitality sectors participated in the event, billed the UK’s ‘leading showcase for quality food and drink…an inspiring journey of discovery’. On view was everything from chocolates, dairy products, cured meats, condiments and beverages, to premium alcoholic drinks, and more.
Swarms of independent retailers and buyers, caterers, importers, distributors and wholesalers roamed the centre, eager to know the latest innovations in food and drink that could help improve business.
Top chefs and specialists demonstrated how to maintain profits in Savour the Flavour; Food for Thought featured industry peers and retail experts telling buyers how they managed to overcome “big hurdles” and “future-proof” themselves in the ever-changing world of food and drink.
A highlight in the exhibition was the presence of many Asian entrepreneurs. Destination Reporter India met a young woman who preferred to be simply known as ‘Parul’. She and her husband Kush Khanna set up their healthy snack business in February this year. Called Purl Pops, the snack consists of lotus seeds handpicked by farmers in India and hand-roasted in the UK. Parul told us, “These popped seeds combine the goodness of nuts and have the crunch of popcorn, making snacking fun.” She added that lotus seeds have traditionally been used in Ayurveda and Chinese medicine for their nutrients. Farmers in her home state of Bihar mostly employ women for the seed-picking, popping and sorting. She and her husband are keen to make this ‘ancient superfood’ popular across the world. The seeds come in five flavours including classic ghee and pink Himalayan salt, spiced turmeric and ginger.
Pie Heroes, run by Zainab Patel and her husband Bilal, produce a snack of spiced pies, large and small, in six different flavours such as steak, chicken and vegetable masala. The pies are being snapped up by restaurants, cafes and shops since the business was set up in the UK three years ago.
Spicica, a business set up by Vinita Ramtri earlier this year, sells 30 types of handcrafted premium powdered spices including turmeric, red chilli, coriander, peri-peri masala and chaat masala. Her home-made masala blends include garam masala, pav bhaji masala, rajma masala, achar, chana and sabji. Whole spices include asafoetida, cumin, cardamom and cloves.
Some of the spices hail from the south Indian state of Kerala. “Indian cooking can be easy and fun. This is the message I want to put across to customers,” she said. Orders arrive online and by telephone. She told us that Spicica started with a mission to rediscover everyday spices in their purest form to add more taste and creativity to one’s cooking.”
The idea to launch a business started when work colleagues got a whiff of the delicious spicy aromas that emanated from her homemade lunches and wanted to know more about the ingredients she used.
Aagrah Foods’ representatives were busy discussing their Kashmiri cooking sauces with enquirers. Flavours include karahi, achari, Hyderabadi and balti.
Homemade Curries, created by Sheetal Arora, was billed as ‘fresh, innovative Indian cuisine like you have not tasted before’. Products include pickles with aubergine, radish and chutneys like mango, tamarind and mint as well as snacks of samosa and onion bhaji. She receives glowing testimonials from customers, like: “Best pickles and curries in town, not at all greasy or oily.”
Pure Xtracts, set up last year by Ankar Agrawal, produces organic turmeric massage oil to “ease aches and pains, and nourish the skin”. Other oil products include sesame seed, jasmine, musk and orange, plus lemongrass which, he added, comes from Kerala.
Dadima’s energy snack, panjiri, was promoted by the firm’s founder Anneeka Ludhra, inspired by her grandmother. “Panjiri,” she explained, “is an Ayurvedic, high energy fibre snack. It is traditionally made by Indian grandmothers using ghee, nuts, seeds and spices. It can be eaten by itself or put in tea, coffee, porridge, yoghurt, fruits or desserts.”
Holy Lama’s spice drops, concentrated natural extracts of spices, herbs, flowers and fruits, were on display.
Moveena Nutrition, run by co-directors Usha Nanthan and Nanthan Nambi, produce healthy, naturally sweet treats like mixed nuts and berries, walnut and turmeric fudge.
NO TO WASTE, YES TO FOOD
With more than 25 per cent of London’s population facing food insecurity, those with influence in the industry do everything they can to make a big impact on hunger and food waste. The network of London restaurants, grocers, hotels and other foodservice and retail businesses support a campaign called City Harvest which enables them to deliver nutritious food to 170 organisations such as homeless shelters and after-school programmes.
Event director Soraya Gadelrab said, “Everything we do at the fair is about bringing the stories behind artisan food producers to life, and a big part of this story is what happens to these items that are crafted with love and care. Food waste is a global issue, not just for London, and we want to do as much as we can to support the bigger solution. We’re very proud to work with the team at City Harvest who are dedicated to making a difference. We want to encourage retailers, buyers and producers at our event to get on board too.”
Laura Winningham, CEO, City Harvest, added, “We rely on the industry to give us their food waste that would otherwise end up in landfill, so having a big partner like Speciality & Fine Food Fair helps us spread the word about what we’re already achieving. It gives us a platform to communicate how much more needs to be done.”