London Calling

London Fine Food Fair

London Specialty Food Fair

lee-zalben-blog-iconEarlier this year I was in England to exhibit at the Specialty & Fine Food Fair in London. Two lovely British gals, Kirsty and Annette, worked with me at our booth, and they did a fantastic job extolling the virtues of our peanut butter to their countrymen. We were there with a number of other American companies under the banner of the US-based National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT).

Annette & Kirsty at the Peanut Butter & Co. booth

Kristy & Annette at the Peanut Butter & Co. Booth

Before I arrived at the show, I knew we’d be the only peanut butter there, but I was hoping to find a few interesting peanutty products, and the show did not disappoint.

I have seen all kinds of exciting flavor combinations in the US from my chocolatier friends at Chocolove and Chuao, but I was really blown away when I saw the Peanuts & Ketchup bar from Austrian chocolate company Zotter at the show.

Peanuts & Ketchup Zotter Chocolate Bar

Zotter's Peanuts & Ketchup Bar

This is a really interesting concept. Peanuts and tomatoes are actually a really nice combination. The Peanut Butter BLT sandwich sells well at our sandwich shop, and in our cookbook, there’s a fantastic recipe for an African peanut soup which has a tomato base. The company’s rep at the show told me they don’t actually use ketchup in the chocolate bar, it was really a sundried tomato-infused cream. I gave it a taste and it was “interesting” to say the least. I think I would have liked it more if it had more peanut flavor – I don’t think the peanuts had been roasted long enough to impart that rich, toasty flavor that I associate with peanut butter, and I’m sure it wasn’t made with USA-grown peanuts, which really do taste better than peanuts grown anywhere else in the world (most of the peanut butter available in the UK and Europe is produced with peanuts grown in China and India, and the quality is just not the same). But if you’re a peanut butter lover and you ever come across this chocolate bar, I’d give it a try, if for nothing else but the bragging rights!

Zotter Bar

Zotter's Peanuts & Ketchup Bar

Later that day I was walking through the show wearing my Peanut Butter & Co. apron. I stopped to enjoy a nice looking piece of honey cake at a booth occupied by a bakery from the Czech Republic when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and was face-to-face with a rather tall and beautiful African woman who exclaimed, “You’re from Peanut Butter & Co. We use your peanut butter to make our pastry!”

Ms. Akomolafe with her Chin Chin pastry

Ms. Akomolafe with her Chin Chin pastry

Bamidele Akomolafe introduced herself and her company, Longe Foods, a London-based start-up that manufactures Chin Chin, a traditional African pastry, which is sort of like a penne-shaped fried cookie. They have three varieties, Original, Flakes, and one called Nuts, which is the variety for which they were using our peanut butter. It turns out that they had tried a number of different brands but found that our Smooth Operator produced the best tasting results – which I think is at least in part due to the fact that we only use USA-grown peanuts. They were buying our peanut butter by the jar at their local Tesco and were thrilled to get the contact information for Bespoke Foods, our UK importer so they could buy it wholesale. It seems like their goal is to eventually move production and ingredient sourcing to Africa and reinvest their profits in local communities there. Interesting stuff!

All in all, the Specialty & Fine Food Fair in London was a big success. A number of consumers and shop owners were introduced to our products, and we’re hoping to launch mail order in the UK soon. Thanks again to Kirsty and Annette who did a great job at our booth, and to Ron Tanner and Erika Sipos from the NASFT who organized the whole thing.

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