Top 12 food takeaways from the Spirit of Christmas Fair

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Retail Times editor Fiona Briggs gets a taste for festive food and drink at the House & Garden Spirit of Christmas Fair at Olympia, London (3-7 November 2010)

1. Debbie & Andrew’s
Premium sausage maker, Debbie & Andrew’s, was causing a sizzle at the show with its Harrogate 97% pork sausages, which found fame on the Channel 4 food programme, What goes in your basket? Described as a really meaty sausage, it is made with 97% lean pork, herbs and spices and a dash of Balsamic vinegar to marinade the meat. The sausages are also gluten and diary free.

2. Jelly Belly
The jelly bean company had a wicked stocking stuffer at the show, Beanboozled. Jelly Belly has created bean flavours that are really ‘yuk’, according to UK managing director Tony Alfano. They have been put in a box alongside regular Jelly Belly jelly bean flavours, matching in colour but not taste. The aim of the game, to see if you dare to compare between Strawberry Jam or Centipede, Coconut or Baby Wipes, Chocolate Pudding or Canned Dog Food. Jelly Belly has also developed a game set including a spinner. Rrp is £2.00 for a 50g box and £7.00 for the game. Also on show were two sets of candy canes in three flavours: water melon, tutti frutti and blueberry; plus cherry, pear and cinnamon.

3. Anila’s
Anila’s was showcasing an award-winning Goa Green Curry Sauce alongside a range of handmade sauces, pickles and chutneys. Developed by Anila Veghela, there are 24 products in the range, all based on family recipes. The products are suitable for vegetarians and vegans and are sugar, dairy, gluten and onion and garlic free. The range is on sale in top end stores such as Harrods, John Lewis Food Halls, Whole Foods Market and Planet Organic plus garden centres and farm shops. The company is also exporting to Ireland, Switzerland and Germany.

4. Rico Picante
A one-year old company set up by a brother and sister team from Peru, Rico Picante presented its range of chilli sauces made from selected Peruvian chilli peppers. They range in intensity from mild and medium (Andes and Amarillo) through to hot and extra hot (Amazon and Oops!). According to founder Christian Castillo, the sauces go on sale in Fortnum & Mason next month (December) and are already stocked by Williams-Sonoma in the US.

5. Snowdonia Cheese Company
The cheese maker was tasting an apple chutney alongside its established cheese range, which is sold through shows, mail order plus independents, delis, farm shops and butchers. Gift boxes featuring four cheese truckles and a chutney make ideal Christmas gifts, especially those featuring the best-selling Black Bomber extra mature cheddar.

6. Innovative Bites
The European licensee for the New York Style brand of savoury snacks was tasting its Pita Chips at the Fair. There are around a dozen lines in the range, already listed in upmarket stores including Harvey Nichols, Selfridges and Partridges. The products, which include a best-selling Sea Salt flavour, are also available through Amazon and sold in selected Budgens and Costcutter stores as well as in Aldi in Germany. Rrps are £2.99 for a 255g bag and 49p for a 40g bag.

7. Uluvka
Competing in a competitive vodka market is the Polish brand, Uluvka. A 40% abv spirit, it is distinguished by being distilled from rye, wheat and barley. According to sales director Craig Kinnersley, this softens the finish. It is also supplied in distinctive bottle and available in box sets comprising the vodka and glasses based on a traditional design used by the Polish Royal Court in the sixteenth century. Off-trade stockists include Selfridges, Harrods and Fortnum & Mason. On-trade sales are via Park Lane-type hotels.

8. Fudge Kitchen
Fudge maker and retailer, Fudge Kitchen, tempted visitors with swirly slices of its creamy fudge including Belgium Chocolate Swirl. The fudge is sold for £4.50 per slice and available in gift boxes of four slices of £16 or six for £20. Available through its own outlets in Canterbury, Bath, Windsor, Oxford, Cambridge, York, Lightwater Valley Theme and Edinburgh, it is also on sale in delis, farm shops and food halls. A novel idea includes a Home Kit (£39.99), including all of the pieces of kit required to make fudge how the Fudge Kitchen makes it – just add cream.

9. Munchy Seeds
A 10-year old company and listed in Tesco, Waitrose, Lakeland and Booths, Munchy Seeds offers attractively packaged tubs of seeds in a range of mixes and bars. The seeds are ideal for adding to salads or sandwiches or just nibbling. The latest variants are Choccy Nibbles, a mix of pumpkin and sunflower seeds and dried apricots in chocolate; and a Chilli Mix. Rrps are £7.00 for a 500g tub and £3.50 for a 200g tub. Tubs feature a selection of animal designs based around a pair of hands painted to resemble a zebra, crocodile, duck etc.

10. Vintage Marque
Port distributor Vintage Marque was sampling its latest vintages at the show including a Warre’s 10-year old Tawny Port, which was being served chilled. According to the company, the aim was to attract new users to the category and dispel Port’s stuffy, gentlemen with cigar-type image. “We’re getting people to think about Port again – it’s not a heavy, boring drink, it’s for everyone,” said staff.

11. Sherston Tea Company
Pretty as a picture, the two-year old Sherston Tea Company enticed shoppers to its stand with its range of loose teas and fruit tisanes, glass teapots and delightful duck-egg blue packaging. Founded by Clare Mitchell, who experienced great tasting teas while traveling and working as a theatre designer in Europe, the company has put together a range of quality teas and tisanes from around the world.

12. Sponge
Born in a Norfolk deli, Sponge is now standing on its own two feet and selling its recognisable range of fully filled, traditional sponge cakes in north Norfolk and online. Its 7in cakes are also being stocked by Selfridges. Newer, and ideal convenience lines, include a baby cake and cake wedges. Packaging includes an attractive cardboard sleeve, which helps to protect the product without being excessive.