So yesterday my friend Amy and I headed over to the ExCel centre in Docklands here in London with our babies to check out the BBC Good Food Show. I had very kindly been invited by Umi from new start up kefir company, Little Bird Kefir to come visit her at the exhibition and it seemed a wonderful opportunity to see what new foods and producers were out there.
My overall impression of the show was that there are a lot of ‘healthy’ drink companies out there now. Like, a lot. These days people know they should avoid sugary soft drinks but they seem to just not want to drink water and there were a plethora of sweet herbal tea and juice or flavoured stevia type drinks on the market. There also seemed to be a lot of companies selling products to make ‘fat free, sugar free’ baked goods. Kind of reminds me of the Olestra days of the 1990’s, but these products were marketed as ‘natural’. I love the catch all marketing use of ‘all natural’ which is essentially meaningless.
But Amy and I had a great time walking around the exhibition and sampling all the goodies. I always really enjoy chatting to small producers and hearing their stories of how they came to create their business and what they have to say about their products. They’re so passionate and bursting with pride about what they’ve made. There were a few products that really stood out for me for various reasons and I thought I’d share them here.
I should also say that I’m not sponsored, paid or compensated in kind by BBC Good Food Shows or any of the producers below, aside from Little Bird Kefir who gave me my ticket, no strings attached, to come sample their kefir. So a particular thank you to them for giving this mum & blogger a fun day out.
I love my cultured foods (think sourdough bread and yogurt) and this was – I’m pretty sure – the only cultured food producer at the show. Umi and her husband have set up this company making kefir, a delicious cultured dairy drink, very similar to yogurt, but with up to 5 times more strains of bacteria than are found in yogurt. They are really friendly, genuine people. They don’t hard sell their product at all and are happy to explain a million times to people what kefir is and its benefits. And their kefir is delicious. I’m a bit funny about kefir when its over-cultured and gets too sour or bubbly (I’m not one for the carbonated milk thing!) and I’ve run into this a lot with some of the other brands on the market here in the UK, but Little Bird Kefir is very similar to a drinking yogurt. Unfortunately they’re not quite yet certified organic, and as their kefir is produced in Poland I don’t know quite what that means in terms of the dairy being used. But when they’re able to clarify that their product is organic, I’ll be ordering it regularly because now that my daughter is moving on to drinking cow’s milk in a bottle, I’d like to introduce a bottle of watered down kefir to her each night, to maintain healthy gut bacteria. Oh and I think the best part of their business model is that if you live on the UK mainland, you can order their kefir online for home delivery and its priced reasonably enough at 1.5 litres for £8.50, so that you can enjoy it as a daily drink and not just as an expensive occasional treat.
Where has this been all my life? Seriously. I mean it. Where has peanut powder been all my life? This stuff is delicious. And not just ‘healthy’ delicious. Really delicious. If you’re familiar with the Mexican candy ‘de la Rosa’ – a little disc of powdery peanut-ey deliciousness, generically called mazapan – it tastes like that. Concentrated peanut buttery-ness. I guess you could bake with this like a coconut or almond flour, but where this really comes into its own is when added to frozen banana smoothies or when you use it to make a reconstituted peanut butter by adding water or almond milk. Its more delicious than any actual peanut butter and its completely smooth like the fake, sugary Jif, Skippy type peanut butters. And I bought a bag of it for only £3 at the show. (Its normally £5 at Sainsburys or £5.85 direct through the Sukrin website.) Oh yeah…I guess I should mention the nutrition part now…this powder is 50% protein and a whopping 11% fibre. So, fill your boots.
These folks are ADORABLE. And after chatting to Lainy (Elaine) one of the owners, I can see this business is both a leap of faith and a labour of love for them. I mean, people here have never seen our small wild blueberries before. Their berries are imported from Nova Scotia and Maine (not all Canadian then!) and are packaged in glass bottles in a light syrup (which you could stir into yogurt or spoon into the bottom of a champagne glass and top up with prosecco). I sampled some of their berries and they tasted exactly as they should – nothing like the big cultivated blueberries I’ve become used to. They’re tiny and delicious and full of that sweet, concentrated, real blueberry flavour. They’re available at various independent delis and health food shops around the country, but you can order them direct from the owners with free shipping!
This company is based in Belgium. They started out as a popular restaurant called Lombardia in Antwerpen, where they serve fresh, raw juices, but realising they couldn’t export their juices and maintain the raw enzyme benefits, they decided to concentrate them into a powder so they could be reconstituted. Ginger Love is the most popular blend, but they have others as well. I think there are plenty of sweet drinks on the market, but I like ginger and these have that strong, fresh ginger flavour and they can also be blended with hot water to make a sweet fruity, herbal tea…and I kind of like that. EDIT 2018: I am still buying this stuff occasionally from Holland and Barrett when I see it there. I love it and it makes a lovely iced tea.
Most people are deficient in magnesium. And the magnesium in most supplements is in its least bioavailable form, meaning your body isn’t absorbing any of it. So I liked the idea of this natural magnesium water from Slovenia. Okay, that’s a lot of food miles for bottled water and for that reason I probably won’t be buying this water very regularly, but as little as 300 ml of this water is enough to meet the RDA for magnesium. Which is easier than choking down those huge, chalky Cal-Mag ‘horse pills’. And I also like that its naturally balanced with calcium as well.
The Olive Shop
Okay, I don’t think anybody takes as much pride in sharing how great their food is, as do the Greeks. And John, the owner of The Olive Shop was no exception. He had me trying everything they make, just so I could see how delicious it was. And it was. They don’t sell a million types of olive oil; just two, an extra virgin olive oil and an organic version. I bought the litre size tin of EVOO, only realising afterwards that I don’t think it was the organic one, but that’s okay. They also sell olive pastes, honey, balsamic vinegar (balsamic vinegar with honey…yum!), olives, wild organic mountain herbs and some organic olive oil and botanical based toiletries which their friend makes. They also sell what they call ‘rock salt’, which isn’t what we would call rock salt (crushed mountain salt), but is in fact, hand scraped from the rocks along the shores of the Peloponnese (Mani, to be specific) during the hottest months of the year. Although I didn’t taste John’s salt, I can say with confidence that I think this is the most delicious salt in the world, because my Greek friends who live a short distance across the water from Mani buy this same salt harvested from their shoes and it is the only one I use at home now. I also bought some of the Akess Hamamelis & Helichrysum eye cream (only £9!!!) made by John’s friend and I look forward to trying it in a couple of months when I run out of my current eye cream.
EDIT 2018: I’ve had to remove the link for this because sadly I don’t think they exist anymore.
These aren’t a food, but I was kind of intrigued by these vibrating boards. There were a couple of companies selling them at the show and so I went to the one which looked to be the highest quality in appearance to give them a try. I always used to enjoy the PowerPlates when I went to the gym, and this is a similar concept, except you don’t hold on to anything. You can do lower body, abdominal and upper body work on them and they were super easy to use. The only downside I could see was the staff they’d hired to help customers try them out. There were two members of staff on hand. Their booth was empty of other customers and the first staff member I made eye contact just gave me an irritated, dull look and turned around and the second staff member begrudgingly came over and helped me after I asked her to, and answered my questions with as little care or energy as she could possibly do. I’m not quite sure why or how a new mum in her 30’s with a few pounds to lose WOULDN’T be their target demographic, but apparently not. Anyway, despite their lackadaisical and zombie-like approach to selling, I liked the product and will give some thought to researching the various brands and perhaps getting one of these for home workouts at some point, because who doesn’t want to burn up to 500 calories in a half hour workout session?
So the BBC Good Food Show is still on all day today here in London, in case you want to go meet some of these people and try out their goods. Check out their website as they’ll also be at the NEC in Birmingham next month and at Hampton Court Palace in August. I’m hoping to check out the Taste of London show next month as well, so will share my thoughts on that if I make it.
There were other sellers I haven’t mentioned above, like the big organic company, Seeds of Change, who had an adorable little faux garden with fresh vegetables plopped on the earth in little terraced beds and little watering cans for kiddies to pretend to water the plants. There were also some beautiful, brightly glazed natural terracotta ceramics designed by the owner at Bristol-based Collectively Artisan (I’m afraid I didn’t catch his name) and then made by potters in Spain and Greece. (We both bought some little tapas bowls for serving snacks in at home.) And my friend Amy couldn’t stop raving about the Limpopo Biltong stand selling biltong and drywors which she had to visit twice and then stocked up on their dried meats to take home with her.
Overall, I wish there had been more organic producers and I wish I’d arrived earlier in the day because there were a few stalls I just didn’t get to see and had wanted to (such as Arctic Power Berries with their powdered berry food supplements, as I’m quite fascinated by the idea of them and Oppo ice cream made with milk, coconut oil and stevia) but by 4.15 we simply had to leave to avoid the Friday rush hour traffic. (Think getting a large stroller onto the Jubilee Line at Canary Wharf!) We had a nice time and I’d like to thank all the producers and sellers who took the time to chat to us.