Monday, 15 April 2013

Natural and Organic Products Europe Show, 8th April 2013, Olympia, London

I will freely admit that whilst I try, I don't always do everything which is is good for me. I want to eat healthily, do what's good for me, but it is often difficult, inconvenient and expensive. So when I was given the opportunity to go to the Natural and Organic Products Europe Show at Olympia in London, I thought this was a good opportunity to find out more about health, nutrition, new natural and organic products and speak to some experts. 

The show is an annual trade only event where new and existing products are presented, awareness increased and distributors sought. Over 600 exhibitors were featured, with special "Pavilions" for different nations' products. Food and drink was not the sole focus of the show, beauty and spa products were featured, with alternative remedies, vegan shoes, natural fibre clothing, and dietary supplements also making an appearance. To reflect this diversity, four distinct zones were set up; "The Natural Food Show", "Natural Beauty & Spa", "Health & Nutrition" and "Natural Living". 

This was the Natural Beauty and Spa Theatre, where Michelle Thew was presenting a talk on natural cosmetics and avoiding animal testing. It was good to hear the efforts she and the Cruelty Free International Campaign was making to end all animal testing worldwide. 

This was the stand for Combier Ltd, a distillery and fruit liquer maker from Saumur, in the Loire valley in France, which has been trading since 1825. It produces liqueurs (mostly orange based), absinthe, and fruit syrups. These are lovely natural products and exactly what I would seek out for cocktail making.

At the centre of the Grand Hall was the "Pukka Cafe". Nothing to do with Jamie Oliver, this was a tea and coffee relaxation zone run by independent healthy teas brand, Pukka Herbs. They even laid on some entertainment to brighten up the day!

This is Aurelie Servol from Le Jardins de Gaia, who specialises in organic and fairtrade teas and herbal infusions. Her rooibos "redbush" tea is the mellowest I have ever tasted. No hint of bitterness, it is smooth and pleasant. And the gentle flavouring of strawberry and vanilla makes the infusion heavenly!

I sometimes find that over the course of a long day at work, the munchies get the better of me. Before I know it, I'm snacking between meals. Biscuits in particular are my downfall. I stopped buying them some time ago, but there's always someone at work who has some! I have tried fruit and seed nibbles in the past, but found some to be too dry, others too chewy, and generally uninspiring. Eating healthily has to taste good, or there's little point in it.

I was pleased to discover Clearly Scrumptious, whose dried fruit and nut snacks are well above the norm. I had no idea that some of the so-called 'healthy' dried fruit are treated with chemicals and even dyed to make them appear more attractive! That is, apparently, why many cranberry raisins (or 'craisins') are ruby red in colour and apricots mellow orange. Clearly Scrumptious avoid these nasties, producing small bags of natural snacks created in one of your 5 a day sizes. This will make getting my quota much easier for me.

An unbelievably popular attraction was the massage pod, where experienced masseurs massaged, teased and eased visitors’ tensions away. Bliss!

Another infusion which deserves a mention, which was new to me was olive leaf tea. Literally, dried olive tree leaves, dried and made into a herbal infusion. It is an ancient Italian herbal remedy said to have more antioxidants and vitamin c than green tea, and is antibiotic, antifungal and antiviral. Kim Evans, who is pictured here, grows the olive leaves on a single estate in Abruzzo, Italy. I was surprised that the infusion had a pleasant and satisfying flavour, and that you can get many cups out of a very small amount of leaf. I love a cuppa, but probably drink too much tea. This offers me a caffeine free and super healthy alternative.

The whole show had a tremendous atmosphere of sharing and community. Openness, discussion and debate were encouraged. So much so that visitors and exhibitors alike were invited to share their thoughts about what natural and organic products meant to them. Here are some exhibitors recording their thoughts:

For me, the biggest treat of the day was being able to see food hero and complete legend Raymond Blanc do a cooking demonstration. He was was warm, passionate and enthusiastic as you would expect. He talked to us all about the importance of a healthy breakfast. He also considered the 'French Paradox'; the phenomenon where French people appear to eat heavy and fatty food, yet do not appear to succumb to a similar level of heart disease as people in the UK. Raymond theorised that the French eat far more fresh fruit and vegetables than the English, that this reduces the effect of the butter and cream in French food, and that the red wine consumed with food also played its part. 

Charming as always, Raymond stressed the importance of starting young, and made a point of speaking to any children watching the demonstration.

One amusing moment occurred when Raymond took questions from the floor. One woman began asking her question, addressing Raymond mistakenly as 'Marco'. Initially, there was a sharp intake of breath from the crowd. Raymond, however, was far from upset. Smiling broadly, and with a chuckle, said 'Marco? No, I am Raymond! But you can call me Marco, I don't mind. We are very good friends. But if you had called me Gordon.....'

I was delighted when Raymond actually met the spectators and signed autographs. It made my day to meet such an amazing and iconic chef. What a hero!
I had a very pleasant time at the show, and learn a lot in very little time. Overall, there were some excellent, simple and effective products showcased here by different exhibitors. From lentil crisps to quinoa pots, nut salad sprinkles, smoothie mixes, coconut water and non-carb pasta and noodles. Some products were a little more outlandish and only for the dedicated. But I have received new inspiration to pay more attention to what I eat and how healthy eating can be achievable and simple.

I would like to thank the organisers for allowing me to come to the show. 

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