The Speciality & Fine Food Fair touts wellness and sustainability achievements
Image: Kathryn Brand
Earlier this week I attended this year’s Speciality & Fine Food Fair at Olympia, London. It was once again hosted in the beautiful West London venue, with an arching glass roof over a moderate sized ground floor, and an upper level which wraps around the building, balcony-style, and overlooks the other part of the show floor below.
There were ample exhibitors from across the speciality food and beverage sphere, from chocolate, cheese, spirits, and of course a sprinkling of speciality tea and coffee companies.
The ground floor was largely made up of more established companies, such as the English Tea Shop, a partner of the event, which, like almost all the companies exhibiting, had samples on hand for inquisitive visitors. Venturing upstairs I came across a couple of coffee roasters: Wales-based Bay Coffee Roasters had a great selection of its coffees on display, including project specific blends and roasts, and Rounton Coffee Roasters, who were sporting recent Great Taste Awards for six of its specialty coffee products, including two stars for Sparkling Water Decaf Coffee and Colombian Wilton Benitez Pink Bourbon Coffee.
It was also a pleasure to meet some of the many smaller, newer companies at the show many of which were part of The Start-Up Village, comprising companies trading under two years. QuirkyMonkey was launched only in November 2022, and came to the Speciality & Fine Food Fair to display its nootropic mushroom coffees, as well as its recently introduced mushroom hot chocolate. Darwin Fletcher, QuirkyMonkey’s founder, developed the idea for the company after discovering how nootropic drinks could support his focus throughout the day with his neurodiversity. The show presented a great opportunity for new companies, such as QuirkyMonkey, to place themselves in front of possible buyers and collaborators.
There was certainly a theme of health benefits and functionality at the show, and not just across tea and coffee. Functionality, sustainability and ethical production seem to be a necessity for specialty products, as customers are seeking more from their purchases than just a great taste; if they are going to pay that bit extra, they want the extra benefits, whether that be to their health or to the environment. Consumers want to feel that they are using their money for a good cause, and specialty producers are rising to meet this demand, with a tide of Fairtrade, organic, and B-Corp certifications flooding the packaging, and frequently more wellness claims of improved sleep or mood, calmness, better digestion and pretty much anything else you could want.
While some more budget and commercial products may still be able to get away with dodging sustainability pressures for now, as they have the price point advantage, consumers seeking more premium and specialty products do not withhold such demands from their purchasing choices. The array of projects and efforts on display at the Speciality & Fine Food Fair were a credit to this.
- Kathryn Brand, associate editor, Tea & Coffee Trade Journal.
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