Sunday, 27 April 2008
Cowie and I went to the Realfood Festival today and had a whale of a time. We've been to a range of food festivals over the last year or so. The Taste of London was excellent and we are looking forward to going again. But the Good Food Show and London Food Festival were both disappointing. So we had our fingers crossed that the Realfood Festival was going to be a success.
Our hopes were bolstered by the amount of pre show publicity and marketing we saw. This was added to by the fact that the tickets were excited and that the event was being staged at Earls Court. Previous events had failed because they were undersupported in terms of marketing, exhibitors and therefore the consumer experience was poor. The concoction of top location, top exhibitors, high prices and good timing meant that the Realfood Festival was a brilliant experience.
We were almost overwhelmed by the number of exhibitors. But because of the logical way in which the show was laid it it was very easy to get to grips with the flow. We were a bit baffled about the decision to cover the floor with a thin layer of saw dust. When was the last time you went to a genuine farmers' market that did this? It meant that we all left with dusty shoes. And anyone wearing flip flops had a bit of a dusty day. But this was the only negative part of the whole day!
The brands that stood out had something in common. All the exhibitors are passionate about their products. But for the most part they don't move beyond just being a product. Walking down sausage alley we must have tried 5 or 6 samples of swine from seemingly identical producers. All very good sausages. But ultimately they were all the same. This was true of all sectors - cheese, coffee, tea, chocolate etc. The ones that stood out and got us excited were the ones that had taken their product a step further. They had turned their otherwise generic product (albeit passionately created) and turned it into a brand with a personality wrapped up in beautiful clothing.
Our first experience of this charming branding was our encounter with Sharyn Wortman founder of Tea & Philosophy - two things that are very close to my heart!
From the moment we saw the "Tea-Pi" we were smitten. Things got better when we started speaking to the charming "Tea Team" who gave us samples and let us have a free badge. Their teas are blended to meet your different need states. Happiness, in a red packet was my favourite.
Cowie loved the yellow one called Inspiration.
The charm of the team transalted into the beautiful design of the packaging.
The copy on the packets is inspiring and human in much the same was as Innocent smoothies. If I hadn't had a chat with Sharyn I would have guessed that Innocent were behind this venture too. It was no surprise at all to find out that Sharyn used to work in advertising. The creativity and coherent brand experience aren't the work of an amateur. We bought a packet of the red and yellow tea and found ourselves chatting at the end of the show about the fact that our favourite discoveries at the show had been producers who had created brands with distint, stylish packaging. Sharyn pointed out that the extra effort, energy and enthusiasm that goes into these fine details is a sure sign that the product itself is well crafted. The penny dropped. Sharyn was of course right. The best exhibitors had created engaging, memorable brand experiences.
We also loved Nudo olive oil. I wrote about Nudo's adopt an olive tree programme a while ago so it was great to meet the mastermind behind it. He got the adopt an olive tree idea from a pork farm who do something similar with their pigs.
It's a fabulous idea and takes off where Tea and Philosophy left off by creating a rich brand experience. It could very easily be just another olive oil company. But through great packaging, engaging ideas, impeccable products and the founder of the company being on the stand himself Nudo came across as a confident, premium, niche brand.
As a result I bought some delicious mandarine infused olive oil that tasted a bit like the yuzu we had at Roka.
Luscombe Organic Drinks first reared their head at Riverford Farm. We loved their hot ginger beer then and we loved their entire range today! The elderflower is sensational too. Their packaging, team, range and design work all exude quality. It's a well thought out, beautifully crafted drinks brand that would grace the menu of any aspirational gastro pub.
Other highlights included the Sharpham Farm spelt stand that benefits from all the millions earned by the guy in charge of Mulberry. It was a great stand with a charming girl doing the honours. We walked away with some extra fine spelt grain to make pasta with, some spelt porridge for Cowie and a brochure for the very exclusive Charlton House. Another great piece of marketing. Cowie's got her eye on a 4 poster extravaganza with a 30 minute spelt treatment that weighs in at around £600!
One of my favourite moments of the day was having a chat with Oliver Rowe - the guy behind uber local Konstam. He was incredibly charming and full of beans. I mentioned that I had eaten his food a couple of times.
Once at Konstam at the Prince Albert and also at The Future Laboratory trends day where I had been surprised to see him actually cooking. He tried my newly bought vanilla and celery salt and seemed genuinely interested in just having a chat. What a legend. Good man.
This salt was incredile. It's harvested (if that is the right word) on the Isle of Angelsea and is beautifully packaged and lovingly sold at a small stand. It all started by me trying their standard salt which was... er... salty. Then I moved on to their vanilla variety and I was hooked! Great on scallops or sea bass! Then I got some celery salt for Cowie to sprinkle on her quails eggs! Truly delicious and a great way of adding a classy flourish to a dinner party meal. Their Halen Mon product hasn't been through the branding exploration that the products above have. But then again does salt really need it? Their product was so good it spoke for itself. That said I'm sure Maldon sells a few more bags than they do.
Let's finish on a high with the organic mushroom stand - Fundamentally Fungus. Regular readers will know that I am bonkers about mushrooms! So finding a mail order unusal mushroom company was a real find!
It gave me the chance to try the macro function on Cowie's camera out. I'm quite pleased with the result! But it has to be said that my interst in their stand was mainly due to my mushroom mania rather than the fact that their brand was particualry engaging. But then again they are probably aiming at a fairly niche market. There can't be that many fungus nuts about! I really hope their excellent website does well. They girls on the stand were utterly charming.
In generaly we had a marvelous time. At previous events we have left feeling tired, uninspired and with empty bags. This time we waltzed out of the front door with a memory card full of pictures, a head full of copy, a recycled Whole Foods bag full of goodies and heads buzzing with ideas. Great event. Can't wait for the next one.
For a collection of the rest of our photos have a play with the fun widget below or link through to our Flickr set. We agree with the sentiment of the person who drew this on the comments blackboard...