IFE.gif” vspace=5>London hosted the biennial International Food Exhibition this week. Our team of journalists filed a steady stream of stories that appeared on the site on a daily basis. For those of you who missed the show, here’s a round-up of some of the new products which caught their imagination.

Confectionery


The trend towards gratification and indulgence is as strong as ever. Many of the new products launched at IFE were in the confectionery category – here are a few that stood out.


Soller, the 18-month old Californian popcorn maker, is driving the growth of the underdeveloped European popcorn market with two new flavours, launched for the first time at IFE in London. The new flavours of ready-popped microwave popcorn are cheddar cheese and jalapeno pepper and form part of the Popz range.


Soller spokesman George Phillips told just-food.com he was highly optimistic that the European popcorn market would undergo rapid expansion. Currently half the size of the saturated US market, the product has already become firmly established in some EU markets. In most of Scandinavia, for example, per capita consumption is higher than in the US. In many markets, however, there is still huge potential for growth.


Green & Blacks, the UK-based organic chocolate maker, presented a new product for home baking at IFE. The group has launched a family-sized bar of organic cooking chocolate with 70% cocoa solids. Currently available only in dark chocolate, the group is mulling the extension of its cooking chocolate range. Traditionally an inferior product with low cocoa solids, Green & Blacks is determined to improve the quality and reputation of the home baking staple, cooking chocolate.


The Jelly Belly Candy Company celebrated a quarter of a century of Jelly Belly beans by launching three new flavours at IFE. The three new varieties are strawberry jam, sweet ginger and cinnamon popcorn, the latter building on the success of the buttered popcorn bean, which was launched 13 years ago to such popularity that it overtook cherry as the front runner.


As well as the new addition to its flavour base, the Fairfield, California-based company has launched three new packaging formats. A mini-bean machine, which stands 28cm high and comes with a 100g bag of beans, is being marketed as a desktop executive toy. The Jelly Belly 21 Select Tin, which is filled with 65g of 21 flavours is designed as a taster to introduce consumers to a wide variety of flavours. Meanwhile, the Jelly Belly Sour Stick is aimed at children and features the sour varieties of Jelly Belly. The US jellybean maker launched its Jelly Belly jellybeans in 1976. This year it expects to sell over 14bn Jelly Belly jellybeans worldwide.


Kate’s Cakes, the UK-based supplier of cakes to upmarket coffee bars, launched a number of new cake products at IFE. Miniature cakes sold under quirky names such as: Reindeer Treat, Lovebite, Chocolate Chick, Nuts About Chew and Fruity Feeling represent a new development from a company more used to supplying own label cakes.


Kate’s Cakes, founded by husband and wife team Kate and Colin Lloyd, recently relocated to a £3.5m factory in West Sussex. The move has tripled its capacity and saw the group invest in fully computer-controlled ovens. The management team has also been strengthened with new appointments in the areas of product development, accounts and logistics.


Walkers Shortbread, the most famous of all Scottish shortbread manufacturers, made its mark at IFE by launching its new Fairy Tale Choc Chip Shortbread. The new shortbread is chocolate based and features dark and white chocolate chips. Presented in a gold barrel decorated with scenes from popular European fairy tales, it is designed to appeal particularly to children.
The Speyside-based group has also revamped its Scottish Biscuit Range. Recipes have been altered to make the produce even more indulgent, while on a lower price scale, a new range of cellophane-packed shortbread is intended to make sure the company maintains its position in the everyday consumer market. This complements its growing presence in the travel retail and luxury goods sector. Walkers Shortbread has been awarded the Queen’s Award for Export Achievement on three occasions.


Evidence of booming UK organics sector


A report this week from the Soil Association claimed that the organics sector in the UK was booming, and this trend was definitely on show at the International Food Exhibition.


UK producers Swaddles Organic is exhibiting at IFE for the first time, using the show to present its line of premium organic ready meals. The company’s products are found in independent retailers like Planet Organic and Harvey Nichols rather than the big supermarkets, allowing them to build a strong base of customers and brand loyalty.


Bill Reynolds, who runs the company with his wife, said that his products do not compromise on quality, compared to many of the own-label products of supermarkets. He explained to just-food.com that independent organic producers often had to work harder to keep that vital point of difference. The company unveiled products aimed specifically at children and vegetarians at IFE to complement its existing range of premium ready meals.


One of the biggest independent organic manufacturers in the UK, Yeo Valley has added a three strong ice cream range to their dairy products. The company owns Roscombe Farm, the organic dessert specialist, which is exhibiting at IFE, and plan to use Roscombe’s expertise and facilities to produce Yeo Valley Ice Cream. The ice cream comes in vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry flavours with a positioning towards the premium side of the market. Roscombe Farm was also showing its springwater sorbet range alongside its traditional ice cream. The sorbets, which come in Lemon, Mango and ‘country berry flavour’, have been designed with new packaging


Dairy comes up a treat


When another of the UK’s leading dairy firms launched new products at IFE this week, just-food.com was on hand to give a critical tasting. Onken Dairy was premiering its new Kids’ mousse at IFE. The mousse is made with fruit and fromage frais natural yoghurt, and contains added calcium and vitamins. Flavours available include strawberry, raspberry and peach. The company plans to support the launch of the product with a TV campaign based on the popular Toy Story film. The company has also extended its BioPot Lite yoghurt range to include a lemon flavour.


Yakult showcases new lines


Functional foods continue to boom – as Nestlé struggles to develop a coherent strategy, Japanese heavyweight Yakult continues to lead the way.


Japan’s Yakult presented two new functional drinks at the International Food Exhibition in London this week, but the bad news is that none of the products are likely to see a European product launch.


On show were Toughman, an energy drink aimed at men with ginseng extract and vitamins and Hi-Line, a fiber rich peach drink with iron for women.
The products are on show for the first time in Europe with the company using IFE to gauge trade reaction to the new lines. Yakult is best known for its fermented milk drink in the UK, but the company has a long history of using friendly bacteria in fruit and health drinks in Japan.


Convenience food


Alongside indulgence and health, convenience remains one of the driving forces of new product development. IFE saw the launch of a number of innovative products in this segment.


In a bid to break into the healthier end of the convenience food market, Crusty Crock Pots Ltd has developed a brand new product; the “soup in a sandwich.” The company, which was the first to develop frozen versions of the British staple, the Yorkshire pudding, fifteen years ago, showcased the soupermeal at IFE this week. The product is essentially an edible white bread pot with a choice of flavoured “Dunking Lids,” which can then be filled with a choice of soups. Multinational company Maggi manufactured the range of soups as a dry mix that can be hydrated with hot water inside the bread pot.


At present, the product and its production equipment is still in the prototype stage, but soupermeals will be ready to retail at the end of May this year.


On a larger scale, IFE saw the launch of Findus Foodservices UK; a new direction for the frozen foods group which turns over about US$600m a year, and evidence that Findus is undergoing some serious re-branding. New management is hoping that Findus will become increasingly associated with high quality, innovative foodservice.


To do this it is relying heavily on a new range of foods, with a marked improvement in terms of quality and interest. These are not the convenience snacks of yesteryear; Findus is now producing a carefully thought out, tasty meals in three predominant categories. New vegetarian grills come in a variety of vegetable bases; beetroot, celery or carrot, and the company has also developed Pesto Lasagne, Mediterranean Falafel Nuggets and Cous Cous Mediterranean.


A new range of Swedish meals is another innovative feature of Findus Foodservices, which aim first to create and then to dominate a market for Swedish dishes in UK restaurants. The products on offer, mainly based around the country’s traditional meatballs and fried potato brunch, have already proved popular in the IKEA restaurants.


The third category is probably the most important, and certainly the closest to previous Findus form. The range of seafood dishes that accompany the launch are markedly different to earlier products, however. Cod Gratin Almondine and Skipper Cod Portion with Parsley are aiming at a different palate to the original Findus breaded cod portions, and even the humble fish finger gets a more upmarket feel when it becomes a Double Cod Fish Finger. The menu is still largely based around the staple fish favourite cod, but the company sources the fish from the Baltic regions, where there are no problems with falling stocks, as in the North Sea.


Meanwhile, Bombay Bangers launched the unique Raj Range of Anglo-Indian products; a blend of modern British fare with ethnic flavour. Their flagship sausage selection is supplemented with savoury pastries, pickles and chutneys. The marketing force behind the company, Charlotte Hart, reveals however that the recipe does not simply involve adding spice to sausages.


The range is made to authentic Indian specification, from recipes written down in the days of the Raj when the British aristocracy asked servants to prepare their usual meals, but the Indian chefs had to compromise because they lacked all the traditional ingredients.


Hart stresses that this hybrid of Indian taste and British convenience is a gourmet range, which hopes to attract a premium price. “I don’t see any point in compromising the recipe. We want to take the British Raj food range to where it should be. It was eaten by the aristocracy and it should be again.”


The convenience of the Quick Curry Fix selection is likely to appeal to all consumers, however. When the products were showcased at IFE this week they generated much interest. The company is now in talks with a major British manufacturer to bring the range onto the supermarket shelves.


By just-food.com editorial team


Disclaimer: This overview does not aim to be comprehensive. For more information on new products launched at IFE, please visit: www.ife.co.uk