What a fabulous weekend! I really enjoyed my 3 days away in Tallinn last weekend, and can thoroughly recommend a visit there. However, I got the timing horribly wrong. It was 18 degrees at home last week and when we arrived in Tallinn, only 1 degree. So, do go, but wait until May. However, that cold weather is thoroughly appropriate for today’s task of helping to proof-read the Christmas Catalogue. Yes, I know, it’s annoying isn’t it! We’ve only just recovered from the last one, but don’t blame me. We only followed the larger wholesalers who had been doing it for many years before Cotswold Fayre started! The belief is that the early bird catches the worm around May!
Anyway, back to the summer, and course, some warmer weather inevitably means that drinks sales spike and retailers and cafes include new brands in their stores and on their menus. Many new drinks are launching at present in advance of the new sugar tax with low or no sugar as their headline. Many of these are using various sweeteners or natural flavourings and I tried a few this week at a show. The vast majority of these don’t actually taste very good and to my palate leave an after-taste of whatever chemical they have used to replace the sugar. Is this something we should be advocating in the speciality food sector? I think not.
The sugar tax was brought in to hit the multi-national companies that were pushing huge servings of fizzy pop down the throats of the majority population. But as in many government schemes, the plan is ill-conceived as the drinks in the fine food sector will be the most heavily hit in terms of tax per ml, albeit they are generally sold in 250ml rather than 330ml. The large companies that the government were hoping to use to change the nation’s behaviour will substitute with chemicals as they are not a fine food product. Lawrence Moore, Sales Director of Belvoir Fruit Farms, says: “Tango, as an example, is tax-free, but the most popularly ranged drinks in farm shops and delis with clean ingredients actually attract the top rate of tax.”
No doubt, it will be confectionery and bakery products next, with another corresponding drop in quality of product, and I think it is time that we are a sector stood up and had a proper debate. I am aiming to write a longer article on this for Speciality Food Magazine and would like others to come forward with contributions to the debate.