Last weekend we had the pleasure of representing Merchant Gourmet at the 2015 BBC Good Food Eat Well Show. As a young whipper snapper still blissfully ignorant that my supposedly immortal metabolism is soon to die a slow and lethargic death, I had much to learn at the inaugural outing of the health focused iteration of the BBC Good Food Show. Being more inclined to juice a roast dinner than a bag of kale, I took it upon myself to open my mind up to world of clean living. In my head many phrases such as low calorie or low GI often equate to low flavour and low fun, but our time at the BBC Good Food Eat Well Show served to remedy a true misconception of mine.
What really came as a surprise to me was the abundancy of sweet treats on offer at a show that is aimed at the health conscious consumers. Far from the artificial tasting sweeteners many of us have become accustomed to, the use of natural sweeteners has come on leaps and bounds, and it was particularly telling in the quality of the chocolate on offer. Schooling the public on the health benefits of the chocolate (who knew), and seeking to shun the sugar laden, highly processed forms in the supermarkets a number of delicious chocolates were on offer. Jim Jams chocolate spread offered a sugar free alternative to Nutella, and Seed & Bean’s ethically produced bars should help ease the guilt when you wolf down 2 kilos of them (haven’t you heard? chocolate’s good for you). One of the most interesting revelations to me was the combination of chocolate and other superfoods, like that in Sweet Virtues chocolate, which combine baobab and chia seed into truffles. Similarly, the guys at Oppo were doing genuinely delicious and perfectly smooth ice cream made using stevia and coconut oil, and combining it with Peruvian salted lucuma caramel, and a mint choc chip with spirulina added to pump up the nutrition.
‘Free from’ products can often be ‘free from’ flavour, but the plethora on offer at the Eat Well Show proved that cutting out certain foods from your life needn’t be a path to lacklustre meals. As grain enthusiasts ourselves, the lovely folks at the Teff stand offered a possible glimpse of the next trending grain, however, it was a meatier treat that really took my fancy. In a tidy swap for some lentils, my colleague Kirsty got her hands on some juicy Heck sausages, whose recipe is gluten free, but comparable in quality to something you’d get at a farmers market. The Berlin based Bonativo, however, brings the farmers market to you with their online platform that cuts out the middle man by connecting producers directly with consumers. Food delivery platforms with a focus on quality and freshness were highly prevalent at the show, with a number of other fresh food and meal plan delivery services such as Abel & Cole, Hello Fresh and Super Foodio.
A general theme for convenience across the show was clear to see, with producers reacting to the needs of time-poor consumers wanting to follow healthier lifestyles without compromising on satisfaction. Attempting to challenge perceptions of convenience food, healthy snacks such as Nakd bars, Chia pods and Moral Fibre Foods were everywhere. Ugg foods offered one of the most interesting products at the show, a ready to eat baking kit suitable for the Paleo diet. At the core, the purpose of the show is essentially people trying squeeze healthier diets into their increasingly busy lives, and that probably accounts for the almost fanatic popularity of our Merchant Gourmet stand. The response to not only our freebies, a fragrant freekeh extravaganza and a Mediterranean red and white quinoa, but the ready to eat grains and lentils range was overwhelmingly indicative of this. With our Quinoa snack pots unveiled to the public for the first time, the whole weekend was overwhelmingly positive for our healthy eating lines.
In general the 2015 BBC Good Food Eat Well Show revealed to me that the bland stigma that is usually associated with health foods is increasingly being eroded, and that healthy living is becoming more accessible for consumers. Think of the development in the healthy eating industry as a progression from the stool sniffing Gillian McKeith to the cat-walking Lorraine Pascale. I know who I’d rather share a carrot juice with. So after a long but enjoyable weekend, and with my new found enlightenment for clean living; I kicked up my feet in front of the telly, sipping on my wheatgrass and kelp smoothie, now looking forward to next year.
Author – Jack Cliffe – Marketing and NPD Assistant