From Buffalo Worms to Kombucha

* 4 min read
Simon Gore, our Group Strategy Director highlights a range of new trends showcased at the annual Food Matters Live event.

Having spent the day at Food Matters Live 2018 at London’s Excel, I filled my head (and occasionally my mouth) with many new and intriguing ingredients. I learnt all about Sparkling Jasmin Tea from Copenhagen, high fibre inulin in ‘honey form’ made from chicory, Buffalo Worm Flour in Bear Grylls’ typically hard core energy & protein bars, and No 1 Kombucha lived, conceived and presumably converted by Jonny Wilkinson. And that I needed to start consuming ‘adaptogens’ regularly (like Cordyceps mushroom elixir) and reading up on ‘nootropic nutrition’ - foods with the potential to enhance cognition - mind blown!

At the show, I gave a Marketing Matters talk on the subject of ‘promoting healthy convenience’, in a pleasingly full room of about 70 people. From our work with brands and retailers and consumer insight work, we know that consumers are moving from ‘healthy’ to ‘healthier’ or ‘healthy-ish’ – a more relaxed attitude to wellness that allows indulgences and more flexible diets, and which consider the enjoyment of food to be as important as the health benefits.

This change in consumer attitudes is blurring the boundaries between health and food with the following almost tangible shifts in propositions and design codes:


Inevitably though, today’s consumers want it all, with brands having to reconcile the ‘Holy Grail’ of benefits, namely taste, health and convenience. These changes are no doubt behind why butter sales are growing again (versus ‘yellow fats’) and why the diet market is having to change, with WeightWatchers reimagining their brand as ‘WW’, or ‘Wellness that Works’. And why recent food innovations have been dominated by developments in plant (and insect) based protein and food as medicine (via ‘Dr Google’), all underpinned by the ingenuity and energy of community based, local businesses.

My talk was part of a longer seminar, which included a number of fascinating entrepreneurs and investors. Andrew Walker of Tea Rex chaired, and spoke passionately about his two year old brand, the world’s first 100% fresh single serve fruit and root tea. Andrew set up his brand proposition by asking when was the last time you had powdered egg or milk? So why are the majority of us still sticking with dusty, dried fruit teas? Well I guess price, convenience and 100 years of ritualistically using tea bags. That said, his Tea Rex Lemon – Turmeric – Ginger – Lemongrass is excellent and delivers his proposition in spades!

We also heard from Julia Kessler, the German Co-Founder of NIX&KIX, a refreshingly different range of soft drinks with a subtle kick. The ‘NIX’ is the ‘natural, low calorie, no refined sugar, vegan’ and the ‘KIX’ is the Bedfordshire-grown chillies, some of the world’s finest. The range comes in four flavours: Mango Ginger, Peach Vanilla, Cucumber Mint and Blood Orange Turmeric, all with ‘a little Cayenne for a happy pick me up’. With the added benefit that capsaicin, the hot bit in chillies, has metabolism boosting and energy releasing properties. Even better though, it also increases endorphin levels and provides a natural, happy feeling. A thoroughly on-trend and sophisticated adult soft drink!

Then there was Adam Vanni, the Californian Co-Founder of Jarr Kombucha. Delicious, raw, fermented, tea. Kombucha is a delicious dose of goodness for your gut, and the ‘booch’ from Jarr comes in three beautifully glass packaged flavours: Original, Ginger and Passion Fruit. Low in sugar, kombucha contains beneficial acids, enzymes and antioxidants, which can aid digestion and support the immune system. Adam admits that the UK has actually been quite slow to adopt the concept of kombucha, which has surprised him, but things are beginning to accelerate at last. 

Finally, to complete this inspiring group, was Shilen Patel, CEO of Distill Ventures, who on behalf of Diageo, has been smart enough to invest in Ben Branson and his Seedlip brand, as well as provide him with intelligent business strategy and support in the first few years of development.

As the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic spirits brand, Seedlip is giving the drinks marketing world a masterclass in positioning, presentation and promotion. Whilst artisanal brands have always been built successfully on a truthful story about the product’s inspiration and origins, Seedlip also caught the wave of younger consumers positively choosing No/Low Alcohol (‘NoLo’) drinks. Ben has also added something refreshingly playful and experiential about the brand, encouraging consumers to enjoy experimenting with it. Seedlip’s communications are all over Instagram and undoubtedly best practice currently. The brand has been set up as a nature company rather than just about drinks, and this higher purpose at its core appeals directly to modern, dynamic and young-at-heart consumers.

Now, where’s my Sparkling Jasmin Tea?