Yesterday I was given a peek into a world normally forbidden to mere mortals, and invited to the Foodstuffs Expo 2018, held at the enormous ASB Showgrounds in Auckland.
The Foodstuffs Expo is an event that’s closed to everyone except suppliers to New World and Pak & Save supermarkets across the country, and I was expecting something a little bit like the Food Show, an event I’ve attended and exhibited at for years. Oh boy was I wrong. Walking through the doors, I was hit by a sensory overload of sound, sights and smells created by the hundreds of producers wanting to show what they make. As my companion said – ‘if you’re not here at the expo, you’re not really standing up and being counted’.
Some of the products I saw won’t be on shelves for a few weeks, even months, to come, but the innovation and creativity from these Kiwis was an eye-opener. The Arnott’s guys who’ve created cracker chips that kids will love, but are much healthier; the now-infamous Dole pineapple-peeling machine that whips, strips and splices your pineapple perfectly in seconds; fresh hop brew beers that are carefully curated and transported in perfectly refrigerated conditions to make sure the fresh hop flavour isn’t compromised… so much goes into the act of creating the product, packaging it and putting it on shelves. Even the trolleys and forklifts get a mention (now you know there’s a bag holder and a coffee cup holder on some supermarket trolleys but not others, would it make a difference to where you shop?).
But for me, the double-take moment was with Pam’s Product Development Manager, Jocelyn McCallum. Jocelyn’s been with Foodstuffs for 19 years, and what she doesn’t know about taste, flavour and food innovation isn’t worth knowing. She showed me what’s going to become my favourite product – a range of herb and spice extracts that come in tiny bottles, cost about $8 each, and will enhance and create flavours with a single drop. The aroma from these tiny bottles is so intense – I can’t wait to put a drop of the garlic one on my toasted pizza bread when they come out in July!
I can’t deny it; I was exhausted when the time came for me to leave. Everyone I spoke to was so passionate about their product, it was hard not to get swept up in the enthusiasm. Daniel (left), who was feeding us delicious dairy-free CoYo until we had to beg him to stop, learned what he knows about food after a huge weight-loss journey; if you ever need a healthy recipe for anything, he’s your guy!
I’ll be honest; it’s hard to pick a top product when there are so many good ones on offer. But given I do a job where often supermarkets are the bad guys, this was a great reminder that behind these large shop fronts lie a lot of individual Kiwi producers, who care deeply about what they are putting on our shelves.
Impressed? Yup. (Way too full now? Yup.)