News

PLASTIC NOT SO FANTASTIC

Are pick ‘n’ mix and compostable packaging the answer?

 

The world’s love affair with plastic is almost over. After more than a century of use and the development of what was thought to be an inseparable bond, sentiments toward our polymer partner are finally coming to pass.

 

That isn’t to say that we’ll be ditching plastics right away, but organisations spearheading the need to dramatically cut back on its use are gaining traction across media channels and platforms. And their message is clear—plastics are now doing more harm than good.  Which presents a momentous challenge for the food and snacking industry.

 

Right now, executives in the sector have their ears tuned to what their closest competitors are doing; after all, plastic packaging has long been the staple for all forms of snack and confectionery items, from single sweets to giant hanging bags, but increased awareness of the havoc it’s wreaking on the environment and food supply chain is forcing companies to seek out more appropriate alternatives.

 

According to new research from The International Food and Drink Event (IFE), 35% of food and drink businesses will be affected by the growing plant-based trend. And this extends beyond the well-documented rise of veganism and vegetarianism to the plant-based packaging products are kept in.

 

Some governments have been quick to respond to the rising tide of anti-plastic sentiment, most notably, France, which has just extended its total ban on plastic bags to focus on other single-use plastics including plastic plates, glasses, cups and cutlery. Crucially, these alternatives also need to be domestically compostable, and the policy comes into force on January 1st 2019. It’s a big, controversial step, and one that the rest of Europe will be keeping a close eye on.

 

‘France has certainly raised the bar in this area,’ says Jonathan Potter of the Delicious Ideas Food Group (DIFG). ‘Compostable packaging is something that just about everybody with a finger on the pulse of the food and snacking industry is thinking about right now. We are trailing compostable and biodegradable packaging with our longer life ambient foods such as raw nuts, dried fruit and confectionery items to test product integrity in the hope we can launch some new innovative mixes in “plant friendly” packaging later in the year’

 

He adds to this that there are, however, more obvious ways of reducing single-use plastic waste; that rather than looking into an environmentally friendly crystal ball to foretell future trends, some of the best answers to plastic reduction come from the past.

 

Adds Jonathan, ‘Some of the old school methods of snack storage, distribution and dispense are still the best and have stood the test of time. Pick ‘n’ mix is one of the best ways of reducing plastic waste in the snacking industry. We’ve been providing installations for about 25 years, and because of the single-use plastic problem, they’re an ideal and obvious solution.’

 

Just one pick ‘n’ mix stand with stock, scoops and compostable cups & tubs saves many kilogrammes of single-use plastics each year.

 

‘That’s highly attractive to ecologically-minded businesses keen on doing the right thing,’ he says.

 

In response to recent publicity, several major contract catering companies in the UK have adopted DIFG’s pick ‘n’ mix scheme, using both Healthy snacking Raw bulk products or traditional confectionery, either combining it with their own system, such as recyclable paper containers for customer snacks, or using the compostable containers DIFG provides.

 

‘Things are certainly changing, and more big businesses are getting behind these types of initiatives,’ adds Jonathan. ‘I think that as people become more aware of plastic pollution and the pressure grows, we’ll see a big rise in companies buying their snacking supplies in bulk and dispensing them to staff and customers through pick ‘n’ mix installations.’

SHAPING UP FOR 2019 STARTS WITH HEALTHY FOOD AND SNACKING

 

One thing this year is almost a dead cert. Healthy eating is going to be high on the food industry’s agenda because it’s high on the consumer agenda. And while that doesn’t mean the entire population is going to stop feasting on pizza, chocolate and fizzy drinks anytime soon, it does mean that growing numbers of people will shift to diets that make an impactful difference.

Whether that’s reducing the negative effects of consumption on the planet, or improving personal health and wellbeing, or both, the general consensus is the way that people are choosing to eat and snack is changing, and the food industry will be redoubling its efforts to stay in step.

 

The plant-based revolution is here

 According to new research from The International Food and Drink Event (IFE), 35% of food and drink businesses will be affected by the growing plant-based trend. Seed butters, and food products with cannabis plant extracts, for example, along with snacks containing higher levels of pre and probiotics and fibre are just some of the rising stars expected to take centre stage this year. Combined with further drives toward an overall reduction in the consumption of  ‘sinful esses’ (salt, sugar, and saturated fats) 2019 looks set to become a millennial landmark for healthier food and snacks. And lest we forget, this is very much a consumer-led movement.

Increasingly tired of, among other things, polluting plastic, unnecessary waste, and gut-churning glutens, consumers are checking labels more insistently than ever, demanding compostable packaging, hunting for provenance proof, and investigating levels of food processing—all before rooting for brand products with their wallets. Consumers want a greater say in the sources, lifecycles, and supply chains of the food they eat.

 

But who will be the stars on the 2019 healthy food stage?

 Certainly, we’ll see an increase in natural fruit sugars rather than added sugar. Gut-friendly foods are tipped to be big as evidenced by major players such as Kellogs entering the market with its ‘Hi’, a range of cereals, which contains prebiotic, active strains of probiotics, and high levels of fibre.

 

Fruit-infused waters will also be pushing to take greater market share, especially from the likes of coconut water brands that have enjoyed huge success over the last few years. And both cactus and maple water are coming our way as people seek out the health benefits of more nuanced hydration sources.

In addition, with the vegan drive continuing unabated, a rise in the number of meat substitutes and alternatives such as soy, and dense fruits such as jackfruit, is almost certain. We also expect increased demand for minimally processed food ingredients, particularly within compound products such as fruit and nut bars. Joining the ranks of nut butters that proliferated in 2018, a range of seed butters are also on their way including pumpkin, watermelon, and sunflower.

Of course, much more will feature in the healthy food eating space in 2019, and it’s impossible to know what the next real runaway success story will be or from where it will stem. But right now, people are exploring new options like never before—trying, testing, tasting, and looking for foods and snacks that will give then an ongoing sense of physical and psychological wellbeing.

 

Improve your offering with Delicious Ideas Healthy Snacks – or your own private label

 At Delicious Ideas, we create and make dozens of own-label healthy snacks, plus our branded portfolio of Healthyideas snacks to meet a fast growing demand from retailers and contract caterers in search of healthy options for their customers.

Of this range, more than half are vegan and all are vegetarian. From ‘Super Fruit, Nut & Seed Boost to Take The Trail Mix’  there are dozens of products with something to suit every taste, and last year we sold over three-million across the range.

Then there’s #SNACKBOOST launched in 2017. Of the ten products in this range, eight are vegetarian, four are vegan, five are CQUIN complaint (Green and Amber on the traffic light system) and all are deliciously tasty. Snacks such as ‘Raw Protein Power, Sour Cream & Onion Hit and Natures Nibbles are just some of the products on offer.

Then there are our bulk snacks which are great for baking, using as breakfast toppings, or as an alternative to confectionery pick ‘n’ mix. Again, half of these are vegan and gluten-free, and all are vegetarian.

There are plenty of mouthwatering bakery products, too, some of which are vegan AND gluten-free. To find out more, Why not check out the Delicious Ideas meets Bakeshed video we shot last year.

Did we mention your own private label products?

Right now, we’re keen to help other companies, including yours, create private label healthy snack brands from scratch through our BRC AA accredited production facility. With four state-of-the-art customer built packing lines and a 750,000 units per week capacity, plus the ability to pack cereals snacks, nuts, dried fruit, seeds and popcorn, we’re perfectly positioned to take large orders for brands of almost any size.

So…if you’re a contract caterer or a retailer keen to get behind the growing drive toward ‘vegan’, ‘vegetarian’, and ‘healthy’, call us now. We carry full BRC accreditation, and we’d love to help you grow and your customers eat food snacks they can really enjoy in 2019.

 

To order a Delicious Ideas Food Group catalogue, which covers ALL of the products in our range, please contact us today.

 

Published: 1st November 2018

 

The rise and rise of veganism : On World Vegan Day, we look at what’s driving the plant-based diet revolution

 

 

When a company renowned for its meat products starts to heavily advertise that it is giving away 900 vegan burgers to commemorate world vegan day, you know that the landscape is shifting and trends are turning.

In readiness for World Vegan Day today, GBK released Jack-in-a-bun, a burger comprised of, among other things, quinoa, jackfruit and butternut squash—suitable for vegans. In a burger joint!

And when you start to look a little more closely at the figures and statistics related to veganism today, it’s astounding to see that what many thought of, a decade ago, as not much more than an eccentric fad of tree hugging activists has gathered momentum to take the food and snacking industry by storm.

What was once no more than a trickle has become a mass movement, with the number of vegan food products and snacks in restaurants and retail exploding.

A recent survey by comparethemarket.com suggests that as many as 3.5 million British people  today consider themselves vegan. That’s nearly quadruple the number of ten years ago. And, in the United States, according to research from GlobalData, the number of vegans rose sixfold from just one to six percent of the population.

With more and more celebrities switching to a plant-based diet—a quick search on Google will reveal just how long the lineup is—the trend toward veganism looks set to continue. An even more eye raising figure from a study by Kellogg’s study revealed that a massive 56 percent of people between the ages of 16 and 29 had engaged in veganism in the previous year.

Clearly this is a youth-led movement, with socially conscious Millennials leading the charge. But why the sudden shift to a plant-based diet? A lot of it has to do with social media, driving change, and making people aware that ‘vegan food’ doesn’t have to be synonymous with ‘bad food’.

But also, vegans are increasingly espousing the benefits of a plant-based diets: better for health, better for animals, better for the environment…what’s not to like? In light of these powerful promotional messages, it becomes easier to see why so many are now championing the vegan cause.

What surprised us at Delicious Ideas Food Group is that, while we had never overtly jumped on the vegan bandwagon, when we noticed some years ago the surge of interest in veganism, and discovered that there was a fast growing demand for vegan food, we decided to take a closer look at the many healthy snacking products we were already selling. Needless to say, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that a high number of our healthier ranges were both gluten free and vegan. It was in making this discovery that we decided to change the packaging on the relevant products and include the vegan stamp.

In 25 years of working in the snacking industry there have been dozens of food trends, and part of my job as CEO is to work closely with my team to see what’s in demand, and deliver accordingly. Often that means producing our own products, but equally it involves partnering with other snack producers and working closely with them. Of our own Healthy Ideas and Snackboost ranges, my personal faves are Raw Protein Power, and Super Fruit Nut and Seed Boost. But we also have great vegan bakery, which is increasingly sought after by many of the contract caterers we deal with. A lot of the guys around here love the Ginger, Lime and Parsnip slice.

So, vegan, fad or trend? I think it’s pretty clear to see from the various pieces of research and statistics that it certainly isn’t a fad. In my opinion, it’s a trend that’s set to run for a long time, growing in popularity and gathering momentum, and we’re committed to being a part of it for as long as possible. So, from me and the team at DIFG, we hope you enjoy a fantastic World Vegan Day.

Oh, and before I forget, to celebrate World Vegan Day, we’re giving away £100 of our vegan produce. For your chance to win, all you have to do is follow us on Facebook. It’s Delicious Ideas Food Group.

Published: 7th November 2018

What is life like as a Director at Delicious Ideas Food Group, and what does it take to get a BRC AA certification?

 

One of the biggest challenges of being a company director in charge of a large part of food safety is ensuring every aspect of the business meets stringent standards. Of course, there are the big allergens to be mindful of, the ones that occasionally make headline news, such as nuts and seeds, but there are many other less obvious allergens such as celery, lupin flower, mustard, and molluscs, that need to be tested for and labelled.

Then there are different types of bacteria that need to be checked for on a regular basis. Plus many additional health and safety issues that are part and parcel of running, with a dedicated team, a packaging, warehousing and distribution business.

At Delicious Ideas Food Group, we handle thousands of tonnes of raw fruit, nut, and snacking products each year, and there are a lot of boxes to tick to stay fully compliant.

The BRC (British Retail Consortium), is the main body regulating the food sector, among others, and my role as Delicious Ideas Food Group (DIFG) company co founder is to make sure that everything relating to food labelling, food safety, and food hygiene conforms to high standards. To consistently remain inside of regulatory parameters, I work closely with a team of great people, but closest of all with our production manager, Mark Ayres, whose main responsibility is overseeing the smooth running of the packaging division.

It’s a round-the-clock business, and there are a thousand things that can go wrong, so when we received our AA certification last week (equivalent to BRC AA last year) it was with a huge sigh of relief. I suppose it’s the equivalent to a school finding out they’ve been awarded an ‘Ofsted outstanding’ following an inspection. But in the months leading up to our annual BRC audit, I was pretty convinced we weren’t going to get another AA. Why?

Mainly because we’d just moved from 13,000 to 35,000 square foot premises. All of our warehousing, hundreds of tonnes of snacks and sweets, our offices and staff, the entire packaging division. Lock, stock and barrel. On top of that my dad, Clive Potter (also the company chairman), and Mark, were overseeing the factory rebuild, including a new forty foot wall, while moving piecemeal 20 tonnes of packing machinery to ensure minimum production downtime. All of this having just made our first major business acquisition— Barnack Confectionery.

Trying to stay on top of every health and hygiene requirement with so much going on around you…? It was the perfect storm for potential failure. But somehow we managed to navigate through, and get another amazing result. But what has to be done to achieve such a standard?

Basically, I have to be on top of 48 different procedures. These range from waste control and testing to traceability and non-conformances. For example we regularly have to go around and swab the hands of the warehouse and factory staff to make sure we’re consistently meeting the highest hygiene standards. Random products from each of our categories are micro tested to make sure they are well within target range, and this includes organoleptic testing where we have to visually examine and taste the food to make sure it’s still fresh when it reaches end of life. We do this with products from each category, checking for things like integrity, pack seals, food texture, appearance and presentation, which are all scored and recorded, signed off, and filed for Food Safety and Legality.

Throughout the year we record lots of different types of information ready to show the BRC inspector at the time of audit. It’s an ongoing process that takes a huge amount of time to make sure we are the best we can possibly be.

For each product there’s a target count, and the bacteria checklist for chocolate will be different to our fruit mix, to give an example. And if anything misses target— something that, fortunately for us, has never happened—you’d have to raise a non-conformance document, remove that product from sale, take corrective action after asking yourself Why 5 times to get the most accurate reason. We also have to test the water in our building twice a year!

Because we produce, store and sell a lot of gluten free and vegan snacks, we also have to be particularly aware of any degree of cross contamination because, as incidents recently highlighted in the media show, you have to be absolutely stringent in these areas.

All members of staff must follow clear and strict rules. Sara, the warehouse manager, is also trained for BRC, and keeps everything running smoothly. Her team in the warehouse is responsible for ‘goods in’, which includes checking the vehicles, pack integrity again, and looking for any evidence of box damage or pest contamination. If the condition of the stock is unsound, it isn’t allowed into the warehouse, and is rejected and returned.

In terms of structure, our working day predominantly revolves around our HACCP flow plan, which covers everything from ‘goods in’, through to production and despatch. This plan and the processes within it must be strictly adhered to at all times. To obtain a grade AA only 5 Non-Conformances are allowed (ideally you don’t want any!) so the margin for error is slim.

As you can see, there’s a lot to my role with Technical, and this is really just scratching the surface. At Delicious Ideas Food Group, I am also responsible for Payroll, and I oversee HR, Finance and Credit Control plus I’m involved in the wider business decisions relating to future strategy and growth. It’s a busy job with plenty of challenges and rarely a dull moment. But it’s enjoyable to be a co-founder in a family-run business.

I already mentioned my dad, Clive, the company chairman, but there’s also my mum, Jan. Though she’s taken more of a back seat in recent years, she still pops in from time to time to help out in the office. Then there’s my brother, Jonathan who is the CEO and oversees the various sales and marketing teams and longer term strategies of the company.

Since dad got his first van more than 25 years ago, and Jonathan and I were helping mum pack flapjacks in the kitchen, we’ve come a long way. But to get from there to where we are now, running a £10 million business, with myself in a directorial role, would have been impossible without the commitment and dedication of the fantastic team we have around us, and the support and insight of my family.