Provenance; artisan; regional; foraged; slow food: these are just some of the words that have been catapulted from the niche world of high end ‘foodies’ to become part of everyday culinary language, thanks to our unremitting passion for speciality and fine food. Where once small, fine food producers were seen as quaint, they are now viewed as inspirational gastronomic trailblazers, who bring energy, enthusiasm and innovation to the food industry.

And nowhere is this brought more to life than at Speciality & Fine Food Fair (SFFF11), the leading industry showcase for quality food and drink. Such is the buoyancy of the speciality market, that the Fair has now expanded its event footprint to become the largest in its 12-year history. The extended floor space means Olympia will be home to around 600 exhibitors during the Fair – 42% of which are exhibiting there for the first time.

The size of the Fair combined with the high proportion of new exhibitors make Speciality & Fine Food Fair 2011 a unique opportunity to find suppliers and source new products on a scale not possible anywhere else in the UK. While British producers will form the backbone of the Fair, a significant international contingent will also be exhibiting, enabling visitors to source regional specialities from around the world. Exhibitors from France, Spain and Italy, along with newcomers from Algeria, Croatia and Portugal all have a presence at the Fair.

Giving independent businesses a helping hand

Speciality, regional and artisan food companies are, by their very nature, often very small, and while in some instances their size can work in their favour, it can also mean they don’t have the resources, or the expertise in-house, needed to take them to the next level. Similarly, those looking to source speciality and fine food to help give their business that all-important point of difference, don’t necessarily have the time or opportunity to find new products and producers.

This is where SFFF11 comes in, providing a melting pot for new products, established producers and buyers. This emphasis on helping independents thrive in the current economic climate runs through the packed Fair programme.

The eagerly anticipated Small Business Forum will be returning, with content tailored to businesses’ real needs. Practical tips on everything from marketing and merchandising to point of sale will be delivered through a series of seminars.

This year’s packed programme includes presentations from Jane Milton from Not Just Food, who will be inspiring businesses with a discussion on current trends and opportunities, Jennifer John from PR agency Ceres, who will be discussing PR and how to make it work for you, and Andy Goss from foodservice consultancy Hungry For Success, who will be talking about simplifying your supply chain.

From an employment point of view, Jane Govey, from the successful Hummingbird Bakery, will be on hand for a session about staffing and the 10 things every employer should know, and Sally Hindmarch, from Partners With You, will be discussing how to successfully build a strong team.

The Small Business Forum will also tackle social media and look at how small businesses can make the most of this ever growing resource. Alicia Cowan from Absolute PA will look at time saving tips for social media, while Karen Lerner from Top Left Design will discuss how to improve your presence online.

Running alongside the forum will be the Business Mentoring Centre, which will provide visitors with the opportunity to seek free one-on-one advice from industry experts that have ‘been there, done that’. Private 30-minute sessions will be run to help companies unlock their potential by helping resolve issues that have been holding them back.

The Great Taste Awards will make a welcome return, with the winning products being showcased at the Fair. Organised by the Guild of Fine Food, the prestigious awards acknowledge the very best food and drink, with the award labels that adorn winning produce now regarded as a stamp of quality. Fair visitors will get the chance to see, try and order the Great Taste Award winners’ products.

Fresh RM, the event organiser, also provides support packages to very small businesses still in their infancy to help them get a foot on the exhibiting ladder.  In many cases, these exhibitors will be showcasing their products for the very first time, providing visitors with an opportunity to forge partnerships with new and exciting companies. An area of the Fair will be dedicated to these producers to help visitors identify them.

A showcase for cocoa nuts

Such is the growth of the premium chocolate market, the Speciality Chocolate Fair will be the largest in its four year history, now housing some of the leading lights of the speciality chocolate world. The show within a show remains the only UK event entirely dedicated to artisan chocolate and as such provides visitors with a unique opportunity to source some of the world’s finest confectionery.

New for 2011 is Speciality Chocolate Live, a demonstration theatre which will showcase new techniques, flavour ideas and tastings from key pastry chefs and chocolatiers. The feature, which is being run in conjunction with Valrhona, will also feature seminars looking inside the chocolate industry and how businesses can educate their customers and differentiate their offering.

Those involved in Speciality Chocolate Live include Damian Allsop, a leading pastry chef and an expert when it comes to creating the finest, handmade chocolates. Damian will be heading up the session ‘Why and when to use water with chocolate’, which will examine where flavours come from in the chocolate process and will include a demonstration of a water based chocolate mousse. Damien will also be showcasing his new range from his PURE collection and conducting a group tasting.

Ivan Icra Salicru, the previous pastry chef at Locanda Locatelli and now Operations Manager for the Giorgio Locatelli Consultancy, will also be running a session on chocolate ice cream fusions. As part of the session Ivan will demonstrate how to create chocolate and olive oil ice cream.

A menu to delight

Despite the packed Fair programme, it is the opportunity to source new and exciting products that remains the main draw for visitors. And this year’s exhibitor list will not disappoint.

Established in 1877, Ashers Bakery [stand 612] manufacture a range of liqueur cakes, biscuits, biscotti and ‘MacGingers’, gingerbread men in kilts. The company will be at the Fair showcasing its unique line of artisan cakes, which includes Chocolate & Grand Marnier, Apricot & Peach Schnapps and Irish Coffee, and a range of whiskey cakes, which includes Island Malt, Highland Malt and Speyside Malt. The individually packaged cakes are ideal for retailers looking to offer a unique range that also makes an excellent gifting option.

Growling its way into the Fair this year is BEAR Nibbles [stand 1084] with its range of 100% natural snacks. The range, which includes granola, fruit rolls and fruit snacks, contains no added sugar and preservatives and each product counts as either one of your fruit and vegetable five a day or one of your three a day for wholegrains. The products all come in brightly coloured, eye catching packaging and are ideal for adults and children alike.

Little Melton Gourmet Yogurt [stand 450] will be showcasing its range of thick and creamy yogurts that are all produced in the little farming village of Little Melton in Norwich. The company produces a range of flavours including Honey, Blueberry, Passionfruit, Mango, Pear and Strawberries & Cream. The range is ideal for outlets looking to extend their chilled offering with an up and coming artisan brand.

My Cup of Tea [stand 230] is a British company which chose its name because it “understands how tea is personal – no two cups are the same and no two tea drinkers are either”. The company specialises in premium produce, from tea bags to loose tea, in a selection of blends including Rooibos, herbal, green teas and traditional breakfast tea. Products are available in beautifully packaged boxes and contain 20 enveloped crystal teabags.

Leading the way with sustainable fish farm is Fish4Ever [stand 1063]. The small British company has a total commitment to sustainability, ethical sourcing and work practices and applies this to its complete range of canned fish. Its product line includes anchovies, herring, kippers, mackerel, sardines, tuna and salmon, and all come in simple, premium packaging. Customers can also use a unique function on the company’s website to trace their chosen product to its source and discover how it was farmed, processed and bought to the UK.

Exhibiting for the first time at the Speciality Chocolate Fair is international premium chocolate brand Kshocolât [stand 572], offering a range of chocolate treats, made from only the finest ingredients. The company is famed for its sophisticated and decadent flavours such as White Chocolate With Lemon and Pepper and Milk Chocolate with Honeycomb and Vanilla.

Exhibiting on stand 475 will be Moo Free Chocolates, a milk alternative range of chocolates, which is entirely dairy, lactose, wheat and gluten free and as such is suitable for vegetarians and vegans. The products are ideal for retailers looking to expand its offering of ‘free from’ options.

Commenting on the 2011 Fair, Speciality & Fine Food Fair event director Toby Wand said: “We are not complacent about the Fair’s success and continual growth, which is why this year we have ensured a strong mix of new features and attractions and the ‘old favourites’.

He continued: “Our support packages for small businesses and our increased show footprint has attracted new producers, which will ensure that this year’s Speciality & Fine Food Fair is a must attend Fair for anyone looking to source new and exciting products to add that all important point of difference to their business.”

The doors will open at Olympia from Sunday 4 September to Tuesday 6 September. Register for your free visitor badge and learn more about the Fair at To keep up to date on Fair content and to join in debates on the industry please follow or join us on LinkedIn

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