Monday, 26 December 2011

Gingerbread Ale, Migraine Relief & Molecular Gastronomy


Every now and then a picture comes along that catches my eye. Invariably, I can't explain why but there is always something about it that I find fascinating. And so it was last week that I came across a giant gingerbread man on a poster for Dough Head Gingerbread Ale from the Vancouver Island Brewery in Victoria, British Columbia. Unfortunately, this limited edition seasonal beer has only been brewed for the Christmas period. Brewer Chris Graham has used ginger, clove and cinnamon to create a beer which tastes and smells like a gingerbread cookie. Although most of us will never taste the beer, at least we will have the poster to look at (I'm sure the brewery won't mind).

As the end of the year is almost upon us, we can reveal the most searched for ginger story on Google in 2011. It was back in June that Reuters, and a number of other sources, reported the encouraging findings that a homeopathic preparation of ginger and feverfew may provide some pain relief for migraine sufferers. According to Wikipedia, migraines affect more than 10pc of people worldwide so it's not surprising that this story was so popular.

I imagine that Australian ginger farmers are having their best Christmas in a number of years. The Gympie Times reported the good news that after two years of suffering from persistent rain and pythium root rot, the farmers, with the assistance of Buderim Ginger, now seem to be heading in the right direction with fresh seed stock, new land and the promise of a 21pc pay rise.

Did you know that ginger beer is said to be the Christmas beverage in Trinidad and Tobago?

Traditionally, December is the time of year for unusual and quirky articles. Well, it is in the UK at least (see New Scientist for a classic example). That 'international weekly journal of science', nature.com, recently carried an article about a Cambridge theoretical physicist, Sebatian Ahnert, who also happens to be an amateur molecular gastronomist. It was in this latter capacity that he published the initial results of research into the matching of flavour molecules in recipes from around the world. Ahnert began the research after becoming intrigued by the anecdotal suggestion that some foods go well together because they contain the same flavour molecules. Apparently, that is why caviar and white chocolate can be served together but only in North America and Western Europe. You wouldn't find this combination in Latin American, Southern European or East Asian cuisine. The Cambridge team found that some common ingredients in North American cooking - milk, butter, cocoa, vanilla, cream & eggs, for example - share flavour compounds with many other foods. But some common ingredients in East Asian cooking - ginger, beef, pork, cayenne, chicken & onion - shared the least flavour compounds. I've been brought up on traditional English fare but I have found myself moving towards the delights of Italian cuisine. This could explain why I find most dishes by Heston Blumenthal (probably the world's most famous molecular gastronomist) so unappealing. If you are still uncertain about which of these two groups you belong to, consider the next flavour combination which Ahnert is keen to try - coffee and garlic!

I shall sign off now by wishing you all a very happy and prosperous New Year.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Ginger Xmas Hit, Winter Beer Festival, Ginger Wine & Increased Earnings

I was extremely pleased to read in the Daily Mail last week that ginger is the big success story in the UK's food and drink sectors this Christmas. The Mail quoted a recent statistic that exports of root ginger from India, the source of the cheapest good quality ginger, have gone up by 76pc year on year. I think that the implication was that UK ginger food and drink products use Indian ginger rather than, say, Chinese ginger which has a strong presence in the UK. My feeling is that Chinese ginger is popular in its raw form for domestic consumption but Indian ginger is preferred for manufactured products.

It's only a month until the 2012 National Winter Ales Festival at the Sheridan Suite in Manchester. The festival, according to CAMRA, will feature over 300 real ales, foreign beers, ciders and perries. The British draft beers category should contain a number of beers with ginger. The 1648 Brewing Co from near Lewes in East Sussex will supply Ginger No.1, a blend of smoked malt and root ginger. The Beartown Brewery from Congleton in Cheshire will supply a blonde ale called Ginger Bear. The Marble brewery from Manchester will be supplying a beer that I know absolutely nothing about. Finally, Robinsons from Stockport will present its famous Ginger Tom, a speciality strong ale brewed with Chinese bruised ginger root.

I discovered on the 1648 website that the Ginger No.1 beer was originally called Ginger Nol. But why Ginger Nol? (I often ask that about many beer names). Well, Oliver Cromwell had red hair and his nickname was "Old Nol". Nol is an old word meaning lump or stump which can be loosely translated as head. Hence we have Ginger Nol! The brewery had to change the name as people insisted on calling it Ginger No.1.

The Times of India reported on Christmas in Nagpur, the largest city in central India and the third largest city in the state of Maharashtra. It mentioned that as winters are cold, ginger wine is very popular because "it creates heat in the body and soothes the throat". The average low temperature for the city is 12C (54F) which, to me, doesn't seem that low but when you have a peak average high of 42C (108F), I would probably find 12C a touch chilly. I also learned that although Mumbai is the state capital, Nagpur is the winter and auxiliary capital. I can't find out why the state needs a winter capital; does anyone know?

JustLuxe, an online affluent lifestyle guide, featured Elixir G, the world's only liquid ginger mix. The Los Angeles-based drink can be used in cocktails, salads and desserts. I was drawn to the article by the paragraph describing the selection and production process. The best ginger root in the world, according to the drink's creator Bill Tocantins, is sourced from a number of countries including Thailand, Brazil and India. Ginger root extract is combined with lemon juice and pure cane sugar to produce a natural drink with no preservatives, chemicals or dyes. I've no idea how you get hold of it.

There has been a surprise development in the sad story of the ginger farmer suicides in the state of Kerala in India. IBNLive has reported that farmers from Wayanad, the epicentre of the crisis, are leasing land in the neighbouring state of Karnataka for next September in the hope that the price of ginger will rise. Another IBNLive report stated that a report on the ginger farmer migration will be submitted to the Keralan state government. An IPS story on the same subject has said that the agrarian crisis is severe. A researcher in agrarian distress told IPS that there "was a huge gap between income earned from agriculture and the input costs incurred by farmers".

After reading about the crisis caused by the drop in the price of ginger, it was strange to read about the big increase in earnings from Indian ginger exports in the first seven months of this fiscal year. Earnings more than doubled from Rs 43.47 crore (434,700,000) to Rs 105.42 crore (1,054,200,000).

And finally, what are ginger infused hot towels? I've noticed that a number of health clubs, spas and beauty salons offer this ginger steam towel treatment but, to be honest, I've no idea what it does apart from opening and cleansing the pores. Let me know if you have had this treatment or recommend it. What does the ginger do?

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Hangover Remedy, Keeping Warm, Gingerbread Houses, Wassail & Toothache

I've mentioned before about the benefit of drinking ginger tea or infusion to reduce the effects of a hangover. Adelaide Now has now also advocated ginger as one of three natural hangover remedies for the forthcoming party season. It states that "It’s soothing for the digestive tract and helps relieve nausea. Try chilled ginger tea with lemon or add fresh ginger to a vegie juice." The only problem I had with the article was the comment that the warm weather in South Australia is well and truly here. I feel really envious especially as I had to scrape frost of my windscreen early this morning! Anyway, I hope that I don't have to give it a try.

Last week The Korea Herald carried an article about traditional Korean medicine in which a lecturer at Pusan National University’s School of Korean Medicine claims that drinking ginger tea in the winter "warms the body". I don't know much about Korea (both north and south) apart from what I learned from watching MASH on television. It seems that winter in North Korea can be quite nippy so the lecurer may be on to something. Maybe I should have had a ginger tea before removing the frost this morning.

Building gingerbread houses is a very popular activity in the USA. There doesn't seem to be a week without a town or city somewhere hosting a gingerbread competition or exhibition. Yesterday it was Houston's turn with its third annual Gingerbread Build-Off. This competition, to quote the Houston Business Journal, "tests the skills of teams of local architects, designers, bakers and gingerbread enthusiasts who come together to design and build a unique cookie sculpture." Hopefully I will be able to share the results with you next week. I know that the art of building gingerbread houses started life in some northern and central European countries but it has never taken off here in the UK although I am beginning to see an increase in gingerbread house paraphernalia in many shops over recent Christmases.

The Nigerian National Daily reported on an exhibition and seminar organised by the Nigerian Export Promotion Council and the Japanese External Trade Organisation. The theme of the seminar was "Market Access to Japan: Spices and Food Related Products". A Japanese food expert said that Nigerian food products were among the "best and of the highest quality grade". The expert went on to identify ginger as one of the Nigerian spice products which could "break easily into the Japanese market". I don't agree that it would be easy as Nigerian ginger would have to compete with exports from India and Thailand, both hardened and seasoned traders.

Last week's story of Jamaica's failure to win a major ginger export deal with a leading US soft drinks manufacturer has been questioned by the Jamaican government. The Gleaner, which carried the original story, has published the Ministry of Agriculture's response. It contains detailed rebuttals of the claims in the original article such as the ministry is seeking to match potential customers to the unique chemical composition of Jamaican ginger, and that the current export level is limited by the availability of disease-free planting material. An interesting article in its own right.

I've just read that the Great Basin Brewery from north Nevada has released this year's holiday beer - Red Nose Holiday Ale. This interpretation of a traditional Wassail beverage has been brewed with the addition of honey, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. There's not much chance of my ever tasting it but I don't think the chances of the residents of north Nevada are that much better. The reason is that it will be rare, 500 bottles rare. Each bottle of this limited edition will be hand labelled, numbered and signed by the brewmaster.

I'm familiar with the act of wassailling as a southern English tradition of singing and drinking to the health of cider apple trees but I didn't know anything about wassail the beverage. There are regional variations in the recipes but generally they involve mulled cider or beer with added sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger and topped with a slice of toast. As I live in southern England I think that I should make an effort to find a wassailling ceremony close to home.

And finally, researchers at the Qazvin University of Medical Sciences in Iran are testing to see whether ginger is a suitable alternative to painkillers for toothache. According to South Africa's Independent Online an alternative is being sought as ibuprofen cannot be used by people with particular medical conditions such gastrointestinal ulcers and renal problems. You can rely on ginger to come to the rescue.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Ginger Tea Sponsors Volleyball, Agricultural Downsizing, Missed Export Deal & Ginger Coffee

Ginger the Big

I was browsing through some Google Hong Kong search results last week (I don't know why as I can't read Chinese) and came across a character called "Ginger the Big" (see right). Apparently, this little fellow is the key brand for Shandong Manhing Food Company who were selected as the exclusive ginger supplier at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. I really must come up with a little character of my own.

Still on a sporting theme, I discovered that GingerLove, a rather nice ginger tea from Belgium, will sponsor the female Belgian beach volleyball team as they prepare for next year's Olympics. Incidentally, you can read our review of GingerLove on the All Things Ginger website.

Manila Standard Today reported on a Philippines government scheme to encourage farmers in the Highlands to switch from illegally growing marijuana to making an honest living from other crops. Farmers in the towns of Kapangan and Kibungan have chosen to grow ginger on a large scale whilst farmers elsewhere have opted for a range of activities from cattle and pig farming to silkworms.

I came across an unusual use for ginger the other day when I read on nebusiness.co.uk about the recent launch of a ginger muscle rub. Natural Hero, a UK start-up in the north east of England, has developed a couple of herbal rubefacient products including one called Hot Ginger Muscle Rub. The company has worked with experts in medicinal plant research and molecular dermatology at Newcastle University to develop the products which contain 98pc natural ingredients. Although these products have been commercially available for a couple of months, they are still being tested by a range of athletes including runners, cyclists and surfers. I gather the ginger rub does not have much of a smell which, for me, is a big plus point.

The Jamaica Observer reported that the Jamaican Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries will be reviewing the number of crops which the country grows commercially. The idea behind this exercise is that the country should be concentrating on those crops which have a competitive and comparative advantage. The minister, Robert Montague, says that the ministry should "put all our resources behind them and, therefore, maximise the earnings from them". It is planned that the current level of 64 crops will be reduced to 20 core crops, one of which will be ginger. This appears to be a case of a government adopting a business practice which has become common in recent years - downsizing and concentrating on core products and values.

Having just said that Jamaica will be putting more resources into ginger, the government must be livid that the ginger industry has just failed to win a J$500 million (US$6m) contract to supply ginger to US-based Reed's Inc, one of the largest naturally brewed ginger soft drinks manufacturers in North America. The Gleaner reported that Chris Reed, the founder and CEO of Reed's, had been unable to find a reliable supplier and also had issues obtaining an export licence. Reed's will now import 1.5 million pounds of ginger a year from South America (which I assume means Brazil). The Jamaican government believes that the country has the potential to supply 170 tons of ginger but is only exporting a mere 15 tons. The Reed's contract could have increased the export market from 170 to 820 tons, a figure which will surely give both the government and the industry itself food for thought.

The Hindu reported that police in the Indian state of Kerala are hoping to reduce night-time accidents by offering drivers ginger coffee. Certain points on the State Highway are known accident black-spots with nearly 300 people killed so far this year. The police are concentrating their resources (and ginger coffee) at these locations, particularly during the Sabarimala season. (Sabarimala is a Hindu pilgrimage centre in Kerala which attracts 45-50 million followers a year).

I knew Crabbie's wouldn't be out of the news for long. Last week Halewood International, who own the alcoholic ginger beer, reported a massive rise in pre-tax profits from £8.8m to £15.8m. Oh, I'm sure that I saw Crabbie's on sale at Tesco yesterday at 3 for £5.

Congratulations to the pupils of Pathways to Technology Magnet High School in Windsor, Connecticut who have just won the Innovative Beverage category in the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship World Series of Innovation competition. They created GinTropic, described by Hartford Business Journal as "a caffeine-free, tropical fruit juice-infused line of ginger ale soft drinks aimed specifically at improving brand recognition and sales of Seagram’s ginger ale by Coca-Cola". The category was sponsored by Coca-Cola.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

A Healthy Return, Ginger In Winter & The Rise Of Alcoholic Ginger Beer

Last Monday the Sri Lankan president made another call for the country to become self-sufficient in ginger whilst delivering his 2012 budget to parliament. His vision of "food security" follows an earlier government initiative which offered fertiliser subsidies to ginger farmers.

Back in June I wrote about the Fijian government's plan to offer squatters the opportunity to become ginger farmers. For one community of 25 ex-squatter families, they have just learned of the projected return from next March's harvest - $40,000. The families were previously squatting on the Jittu Estate, a district of the capital Suva known for its links to crime and unemployment. They relocated to Lomaivuna, an area known for its ginger farming, in July last year as the first beneficiaries of the Lomaivuna Integrated Agriculture Rehabilitation programme. Here they planted five acres each of ginger, cassava and dalo. It is hoped that soon the families will move to another 90 acres of farmland in nearby Vanuakula. You can read more about this story in the following two Fiji Times articles "40K from ginger sales" and "Squatters progress under farming scheme".

It's been a quiet week on the Crabbie's front. The only thing I found was a press release stating that the drink was being exported to Australia but I had already mentioned that three weeks ago. I expect another company announcement this coming week. Why? Because we didn't have one last week!

I found an interesting statistic the other day on the Waitrose Media Centre site. Waitrose, for those of you who don't know, is an upmarket supermarket chain and the sixth largest grocery retailer in the UK. We've known for a while about the rapid rise in alcoholic ginger beer sales in the UK but I was astounded to read that sales of this type of drink increased by 380pc during 2010 in Waitrose stores. I wouldn't be surprised if the Crabbie's launch the previous year had a lot to do with it.

Unfortunately there have been more suicides amongst ginger farmers in the Indian state of Kerala. A common feature of this crisis seems to be a demand for the farmers to make a loan repayment at the same time as the market price for ginger has plummeted. The fact that rubber farmers further south are still receiving a good price for their product and are exhibiting a lower suicide rate might lend credence, in some people's eyes, to the loan argument. This crisis has now developed enough for a difference of opinion to emerge between the state government and the main opposition party. I'm not going to get involved in that. But I will ask that help, whether from the state, charities or farming organisations, be given to the poor widows who must now contend with managing the business as well running the family home and, of course, grieving.

The Times Of India had a short article extolling the virtues of consuming ginger in winter. I cannot confirm the efficacy of ginger on health but there must be something in it if it has been used for centuries.

Here is a Christmas gift suggestion (and I'm not hinting for me unless you really want to) - The King's Ginger Truffles from Charbonnel et Walker. I will say that I don't earn any commission from this suggestion. In fact, I've never even tried the truffles. But, as I've mentioned before, I do like the drink.

And to finish I think that I may well start a regular section containing the latest ginger products to appear on the market. Last week saw the arrival of a ginger- flavoured Cactus Jack's Schnapps and a white stilton with chocolate and ginger from Long Clawson.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Busy Week For UK Ginger Beer, Flooding, Increased Exports & Boozy Award

It has been a busy week for British alcoholic ginger beers. It started with Ginger Joe making its TV debut (see below) with a spoof moustache advert. This was followed by the launch of this year's Crabbie's Christmas TV advertising campaign featuring the popular retro duo George and Camilla. I cannot find a YouTube video for Crabbie's so in the interest of fair play I will offer a link to the Crabbie's TV advert page. And later in the week it was announced that Scottish brewer Williams Brothers has started exporting its alcoholic ginger beer to Australia.



I've mentioned before about how the weather can have a devasting effect on farming businesses. Fresh Plaza reported last week on the plight of farmers in Thailand after 740,000 acres of farmland succumbed to flooding. The forthcoming harvest of ginger will be unaffected as the growing region escaped the floods. Not so lucky are ginger farmers in Taitung County in eastern Taiwan who have suffered extensive damage following 400mm (15.75 inches) of rain in two days. Farmers here are hoping that the central government will activate its compensation scheme.

Continuing last week's story about the spate of suicides in the ginger farming community in the Indian state of Kerala, reports are emerging which seem to indicate that it was the fall in the price of ginger which was the primary contributing factor. By early last week the number of suicides had, sadly, increased to seven. Before the current growing season started, ginger fetched Rs 2,500 per 60kg bag. Then Nepalese ginger reached the Indian market causing the domestic price to plummet to Rs 500, an 80pc fall. Unfortunately, the farmers had to borrow their start-up funds from money lenders and micro-finance institutions as the banks would not advance them loans. With an input cost per acre of Rs 250,000, a harvest yielding less than Rs 150,000 per acre and an interest rate on the loans as high as 24pc, it is not difficult to see why ginger farmers are facing considerable hardship.

These figures seem awfully high when you consider that the total value of Indian ginger exported to Pakistan in the last financial year was Rs320 million.

The Spices Board of India has released its export figures for the April-September half year and it shows that India exported 8,000 tonnes of ginger, a rise of 44pc compared to the same period last year. The value of these exports increased by 151pc to Rs 90.02 crores (Rs 900.2 million).

Congratulations to Boozy Infusions for winning Best Drink at this year’s deliciouslyorkshire food and drink awards for its Jamaica Ginger Cake Infusion liqueur. I'm intrigued to find out more about this unusual drink which has been described as having a 'knockout aroma'.

Well, I managed to buy a couple of packets of the limited edition Dorset Cereals gingerbread porridge after visiting the only stockist in my area three times in four days. I haven't tried it yet so it had better be good.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Cooperatives, Cricket Fighting, Aromatherapy & Virginian Grown

I've been reading a report about a biosecurity meeting between Fiji and Australia which was held , I assume, quite recently. One of the items on the agenda was an update on Fiji's request to export fresh ginger to Australia. Unfortunately I am not aware of the outcome of the discussions but what I did learn was that ginger is not in the top two agricultural products grown in Fiji. The top two positions go to sugar followed by taro. The report quoted the Fijian agriculture minister, Colonel Mason Smith, as saying "Fiji’s ginger is renowned for its unique flavour and has the potential to become one of the country’s leading agricultural exports".

Today I shall be attempting to find a box of the limited edition gingerbread porridge from Dorset Cereals. I'll let you know if I find some and what it tastes like.

The Shanghai Daily reported last week that the previously fluctuating price of Chinese ginger has now returned to its normal level following three interest rate rises so far this year. Another report, this time from Shandong, said that Chinese ginger farmers are so concerned about the prospect of future price fluctuations that they are joining forces with ginger processing companies to form cooperatives. These cooperatives will offer farmers contracts at competitive prices to hedge against potential losses.

Still in China and an article in the Indian Express with the headline "A game of cricket in China". I must admit that I read the article because I was intrigued to find out who was actually playing cricket (the sound of leather on willow, polite clapping and a lush green vista) in China. I was surprised to find that the article was all about crickets, the insects, and the rapid rise in popularity of cricket fighting. I learnt a little about a disappointing fighter by the name of Big Red Belly and his strict liver, tofu and ginger diet. I'm sure his lack of success had nothing to do with the ginger.

A novel approach to calming passengers' pre-flight nerves has been unveiled at Domodedovo Airport in Moscow. Four different aroma schemes will be dispersed around the airport complex through the ventilation system. The schemes will include a variety of extracts from plants such as vanilla, jasmine, lavender and ginger. This really is aromatherapy on a big scale.

It is always interesting to read about people who have just embarked on a ginger farming career, particularly in areas not traditionally known for producing the crop. Last week I read about Charlie and Miriam Maloney who have just harvested their first baby ginger crop from their farm in Virginia, USA. Although planted initially in a heated environment the ginger plants spend most of their time growing in unheated high tunnels. Officially this is only a trial but the early indications are that this will be a success. The trial is a collaboration between the farmers and Virginia State University with funding from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Baby ginger seems to be very popular in the USA for its tender quality. The Los Angeles-based ginger ale company, Reed's, uses baby ginger extensively in their ginger products.

The ginger farming community in the Indian state of Kerala is trying to come to terms with the news that three farmers have committed suicide in unconnected incidents in the last week or so. It has been said that each farmer had been affected by an inability to repay loans following a fall in the price of ginger. There is a sense of deja vu here as this happened in the same state in early 2000. Unfortunately, and possibly worryingly, many more ginger farmers could find themselves in a similar position of being unable to service a debt. So what has caused this situation this time? A shortage of ginger last year resulted in higher prices which, in turn, encouraged more farmers to start growing the crop this year. But the increase in the number of ginger farmers has now led to a shortage of land which has forced up the cost of both land and land leasing. In most cases farmers will have taken out loans to either buy or lease land. These farmers are now finding it difficult to repay their loans. The Keralan state government has responded by sending a team to the Wayanad district, where the suicides occurred, to investigate and compile a report.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Keep Warm In Winter, Crabbie's Down Under & Flavoured Sausages

Hotlips Pizza is rapidly making a name for itself in the USA for its all-natural carbonated beverages. The Oregon-based business was last year named 'Best New Carbonated Beverage' by Bevnet for its fruity sodas. In an interview last week with Oregon Live, joint owner David Yudkin was asked whether the company was still experimenting with flavours. He replied that their most recent experiment was habanero ginger ale which was delicious but people could only drink about 10 ounces (1.25 cups?) of it. If you are reading this Hotlips, don't give up with this flavour.

Now that we in the northern hemisphere are heading into winter should we not take notice of the advice provided by the Japanese government. Each autumn, the government launch an energy-saving campaign called Warm Biz. The campaign advises on expected topics such as temperature settings and warm clothing. But it also advises on eating root vegetables and ginger to help "warm the body". So when the weather forecasters predict a cold snap go and buy some ginger.

Halewood International has announced a distribution deal which will see Crabbie's Alcoholic Ginger Beer become widely available in Australia. The brand will be stocked by one of the country's largest off-trade retailers, Woolworth's. I don't know whether the deal covers the non-alcoholic John Crabbie’s Cloudy Ginger Beer which, if it does, would put it in direct competition with Bundaberg Ginger Beer. Bundaberg products are already on sale in the UK.

Still with Crabbie's, their Alcoholic Ginger Beer has been announced as the sponsor of Christmas programming on ITV, the UK’s major commercial public service TV network. The sponsorship will feature the increasingly popular George and Camilla, the 'Tickety Boo' couple.

The Jamaican government's official policy of growing more food and reducing the volume of imports has resulted in the spread of greenhouse technology. The Miami Herald reported on the benefits of growing a range of crops, including ginger, under glass. Researchers have found that the quality of greenhouse-grown ginger is just as good as traditionally outdoor-grown ginger but with the added benefit of being protected against adverse weather conditions.

Further to my post a month ago regarding Ford's new Ginger Ale colour, I've now discovered from a number of sites that the colour was "inspired by metallic running pants and Balinese idol paints". I don't know what it means either.

I do like to look for novel and inventive uses of ginger and so my attention was drawn last week to the online UK meat trades journal MeatInfo.co.uk. It contained an article about a Yorkshire quality food provider, Keelham Farm Shop, which has brought out a range of pork sausages, and you can't beat a good pork sausage, to celebrate British Sausage Week. One of these sausages, I was pleased to read, is honey and ginger. Now, I know that ginger sausages are not entirely new but they are still relatively rare, or so I thought. A quick five minute search of the Internet revealed a number of award-winning ginger sausages from earlier this year. The UK National Meat Products Competition awarded a gold medal to Greenfield Pork Products for its Pork, Pear & Ginger speciality sausage. It also awarded silver medals to both the Welsh Sausage Company and Chalcroft Farm Shop for their Pork, Ginger & Spring Onion speciality sausages. If you've never tried flavoured pork sausages (and it doesn't have to be ginger), you don't know what you're missing.

Unless I've made a mistake, I thought that last week's launch of Crabbie's Spiced Orange had already happened a month ago.

You may have noticed that I've mentioned Crabbie's a number of times since this blog was launched. I feel that I ought to state that I am not employed by and have never received any payment from Crabbie's. I shall continue to cover Crabbie's when the need arises as I consider the company to be the standard-bearer for ginger products, in the UK at least.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Worried Ginger Farmers, Fijian Investment, Ginger Coffee Launch And Big Hairy Moustache

ABC Wide Bay, the Australian TV and radio station which covers part of Queensland's ginger growing region, had an interesting report on the problems facing farmers as they embark on a new ginger season. Since last year ginger crops in both the Wide Bay and Sunshine Coast areas suffered badly from the fungal rot pythium. Both areas typically produce 80pc of Australia's ginger annual output but last year some growers lost up to 70pc of their crops. These farmers have now planted this year's ginger 'seed' with trepidation and those farmers not affected last year are understandably concerned. I wish the farmers well for the coming months and I'll let you know of their progress.

Still on the subject of Australian ginger, here is an interview from ABC Brisbane with Ron O’Grady, CEO of Buderim Ginger.

I've reported occasionally in the past about the progress being made by the Fijian ginger industry to establish itself on the world stage. The Fiji Times has now told us of a $1 million three-year investment programme launched by the Fijian government to revitalise the ginger industry. It is hoped that the investment will improve the country's export earnings from the current $6.3 million to $9 million a year. Basically, the plan is to develop ginger 'seed' with increased vigour which can be grown throughout the country rather than selected areas as at present. Fiji currently produces more than 2000 tonnes of ginger a year of which nearly 50pc is exported, principally to Australia and Hawaii.

Various African websites reported last week about Nestlé Nigeria's launch of its Nescafé Ginger & Lemon coffee. I've noticed that ginger coffee is very popular in many parts of Africa (and the Middle East as well) but, as I've said before, I don't know why it isn't marketed in Europe and beyond. Back to Nestlé Nigeria and the news that this product is being introduced into the health market because of the "beneficial health properties of ginger and lemon". It's questionable whether a statement like that would be allowed in many countries.

Last week a number of websites, including The Drum, reported the launch of a £2 million advertising campaign for Ginger Joe, the alcoholic ginger beer. Depending on which site you read, I'm not certain whether this launch is the start of the £2 million or whether it is the next stage within an existing £2 million. Whichever it is, it's a lot of money. The centrepiece of the campaign will be Ginger Joe's signature ginger moustache, a brand mark fast becoming readily associated with the product. The moustache features quite prominantly, 78 feet's worth of prominence actually, on a billboard unveiled earlier this month in Shoreditch in London. The giant hairy moustache is overlaid with the message "Thanks for donating to our big hairy poster".

By the time you read this you may well have heard about the new flavour to be added to the range of Crabbie's Alcoholic Ginger Beers. Apparently we will only have to wait until the end of October to find out. The phenomenal onslaught of Crabbie's and the rapid emergence of Ginger Joe is shaping up to be an interesting battle. Although the producers may argue that they are aiming at different markets and demographics, I can't help but think of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, and Blur and Oasis.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Ginger For Weight Loss, Ancient Greeks, Combating Crime & Bose Variety

Scotland on Sunday reported on a ground-breaking discovery by Scottish scientists which suggests that ginger could, and I must emphasise the word 'could', help you to lose weight. Researchers from the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health in Aberdeen, in conjunction with the Korea Food Research Institute, found that the body weight of mice increased less when they were given ginger in addition to their normal meals. The scientists stated that to be effective a person would need to consume 25g-50g of ginger a day which, to be honest, is not really feasible. So the scientists believe that a ginger supplement could be the answer. But I must say that this does not mean that you can gorge yourself silly and then pop a pill and feel at ease.

Analysis of amphorae recovered from sunken ships shows that the Ancient Greeks traded in ginger. Scholars have generally assumed that amphorae from 5th-3rd century BC shipwrecks were only used for wine and olive oil. Analysis of DNA trapped in the fabric of the ceramic jars has indicated that the Ancient Greeks traded in a whole range of nuts, spices and herbs including ginger. I have read elsewhere that ginger in the classical world originated in Sri Lanka and Indonesia and became established, according to Pliny, in Arabia. The ginger was apparently transported in pickled form.

The Fiji Times reported on an unusual scheme to combat crime. Officers at a police station in the Nalawa district operate a farming project which aims to demonstrate to people, particularly the young, the benefits of engaging in non-criminal activities. Having just harvested a potato crop, the police officers are now switching to ginger. As I have mentioned before, ginger in Fiji is becoming quite profitable.

The Himalayan reported on the success being enjoyed by ginger farmers in the Makwanpur district in southern Nepal. Around 1,900 farmers have switched to the Bose variety which is commanding such a good price that they have become financially self-reliant. This variety has a very low fibre and moisture content which is much sought-after throughout the country.

A story on orissadiary.com highlights the difficulties faced by farmers as they try to earn a living. Over 500 ginger farmers in the town of Nuagarh in the Indian state of Orissa have lost everything because of incessant rains. The farmers, who are unlikely to have insurance, now face an uncertain future as they attempt to seek compensation from the local tehsildar (a taxation officer).

A number of reports have been circulating regarding a new agriculture initiative from the Jamaican government. The minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Robert Montague, has said that the country must reduce its reliance on imports to make up for domestic production problems. The initiative, to be introduced next year to mark the 50th anniversary of Jamaica's independence, will cover a range of crops including ginger and turmeric. The minister has also said that if imports do not meet Jamaican standards they will not be allowed into the country.

Tributes have been paid over the last week to John Halewood, the founder of Halewood International, who sadly passed away last weekend. The group, famous for its Crabbie's ginger drinks, will remain under the ownership of the Halewood family who will continue with John Halewood's business philosophy and plans.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Tanzanian Ginger, Rum And Ginger,Quirky Beer & Nadia Variety

Generally, this blog tends to report on news from the UK, USA, India and China for the simple reason that these countries seem to generate most of the ginger news. Africa hasn't had much of a look in but now I can report on some ginger news in Tanzania. Ippmedia carried a report principally on the financial benefits of the Jatropha plant but it also mentioned a development in the ginger sector. Over 7,000 ginger farmers in the Kilimanjaro region are now reaping the unspecified but presumably financial benefits of joining a cooperative society. In the last five to six years production has more than doubled and the price has increased more than sevenfold.

I thought that 7,000 ginger farmers in one relatively small region sounded rather a lot until I discovered that the majority, if not all, of these farmers are in fact smallholders with plots ranging in size from 0.2 to 1.0 hectares. Most of the ginger, when not used for domestic consumption, is exported to Kenya, Germany and the Netherlands. Recently it was reported that ginger provides 50% of the income for this region so we can see how important it is for many families. Incidentally, the official language of Tanzania is Swahili and the Swahili word for ginger is Tangawizi.

Brooke Bond Taj Mahal has launched a ginger tea to cater for the changing tastes of Indian tea drinkers. This proves that even with the seemingly humble ginger tea there is scope for something different and distinctive. Variety is the spice of life.

I have mentioned Halewood International a number of times in the past as the maker of Crabbie's ginger drinks. You may have the impression that Halewood only makes Crabbie's products but you would be wrong. Although I may be a little bit late with this news but I read the other day that Halewood recently launched a rum-based, ginger flavoured RTD called Lazy Jacks. The drink will be marketed with the strapline "laid-back refreshing ginger tingler". I'd like to thank Halewood for being at the forefront of the UK's ginger renaissance (and no, I'm not brown nosing!).

The Morung Express sang the praises of more than one hundred ginger farming families in one village on the slopes of Mount Paona in the Indian state of Nagaland. It said that the farmers in the village of Punglwa should be recognised for the quality of their ginger and that a rich harvest is anticipated. Twenty thousand kilograms of the Nadia variety have been planted as 'seed' this year with the yield expected to be seven to tenfold. Nadia has a high fibre content and is recommended for dry ginger production. It is also resistant to inclement weather which is quite a useful attribute as Nagaland has a largely monsoon climate.

I do enjoy visiting the website of that eccentric, quirky and zany US brewer - Dogfish Head. The Delaware-based brewery has been described by international beer writer Michael Jackson as "America's most interesting and adventurous small brewery". The brewery itself describes its beers as "off-centred ales for off-centred people", a mantra I quite like. I am particularly interested in two of their beers - Ginger Peach Wheat and Pangaea. The wheat beer has been brewed not only with wheat, malt and hops but also with ginger peach black tea. As the website says, why use just water? Pangaea is a different kettle of fish altogether. This has been brewed with ingredients from every continent: water from Antarctica, basmati rice from Asia, muscavado sugar from Africa, quinoa from South America, yeast from Europe, maize from North America and, finally, crystallised ginger from Australia.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Car Colours For 2012, Call To Re-Establish Jamaican Ginger & Latest Crabbie's Launch

There was good news this week for ginger lovers in New Zealand courtesy of the Otago Daily Times - Monteith’s seasonal Summer Ale is back on the shelves. This bright, gold beer is made with four different malts, a single hop variety, honey and, of course, ginger. My interest in this beer was overshadowed somewhat by the reminder that I live in the UK, a glorious Indian summer has just ended, and winter looms on the horizon.

The Ford Motor Company has just revealed the colours for its forthcoming range of new cars and they include Ginger Ale. This colour will be seen on the new Ford Escape when it is unveiled at the 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show next month. The Ford blog said that Ginger Ale was selected for its energy and refreshing qualities and went on to describe it as "a classic gold neutral with slight green undertones, it’s found naturally in rocks, minerals and sandy beaches as well as jewellery, gems and textiles". This blog post is a fascinating insight into the work involved in selecting a colour for a particular model. I didn't realise it but Ginger Ale was selected as the Colour of the Year for 2008 by ICI Paints. ICI's Colour Futures Team said at the time that Ginger Ale was the colour of life-sustaining sunshine and described it as "having the ability to convey a mood of warmth, sociability and welcome".

A Jamaican business executive last week issued a call to arms and demanded that his country re-establish itself as a producer of top quality agricultural produce. Dr Keith Amiel, corporate affairs manager at Caribbean Broilers Group, told The Gleaner that Jamaica needs to go back to basics and invest in a new generation of farmers. We all know that the Jamaican ginger industry virtually disappeared in the 1990s through a combination of disease, poor farming and bad management. Dr Amiel highlighted two products which were known worldwide for their use of Jamaican ginger. He mentioned Canada Dry Ginger Ale and Stone's Ginger Wine which originally had the word Jamaica on their labels but have now had it removed because Jamaica could not supply enough. I think that it is fair to say that Jamaican ginger will not appear in these products again but it doesn't mean that new products couldn't be developed. I'm convinced that Jamaican ginger is its own unique selling point.

Never a week goes by without an announcement or item of news from that remarkable ginger drinks company, Crabbie's. One week it will be news of another sponsorship deal, the next week it will be the launch of the latest in the series of witty TV advertising campaigns with George and Camilla. Last week the market was presented with a new member of the Crabbie's family - Crabbie's Spiced Orange. This is a blend of the existing Crabbie's Alcoholic Ginger Beer, orange and spices. Apparently, Halewood International, who make Crabbie's, used consumer research which said that orange has the most popular flavour profile. I'd like to suggest that there would be a market for a Spiced Lemon and/or Lime equivalent as well. The ginger and lime combination already works successfully in their nut mix.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Baking At Altitude, Magners On Facebook, Rhino Damage & Ginger Painting

I came across a rather unusual recipe the other day for gingerbread and caramelised apples. What makes it unusual is that it has been adjusted for baking at an altitude of between 8,000 and 10,000 feet. Apparently, the adjustments are required because the lower air pressure affects certain ingredients such as eggs and baking soda. The recipe was published in Summit Daily News, a newspaper covering a number of mountain towns in Summit County, Colorado. I've no idea what it would taste like at sea level.

A groundbreaking event in the world of digital marketing/advertising occurred last Monday when Magners became the first alcohol brand to be sold through Facebook. The new Facebook shop will sell Magners Special gift packs with pear and ginger as one of the flavours. I shall keep an eye on this page and 'F-commerce' in general as this will be an interesting extension to many e-commerce sites.

the drinks business reported on the quandary facing UK retailers. They are unsure whether to categorise alcoholic ginger beer as an ale or RTD. Alcoholic ginger beer is enjoying phenomenal growth in the UK and many manufacturers have said that this fermented drink is aimed at the beer-drinking market. With some of these drinks actually being real ales with added ginger I agree with the majority of retailers who are placing the drink in the ale category.

The Fiji Times reported on a new addition to the ginger-growing community. A mataqali has started this agricultural venture as a means of generating an income to meet church obligations. I'm more than happy to read about new ginger farmers but I was particularly intrigued by the concept of a mataqali. I'm not absolutely certain what it is but after checking Wikipedia ("Culture of Fiji") I think that it is just a sibling branch of a family tree. Maybe someone can help me.

I find it interesting to read about the difficulties some farmers have to overcome when trying to produce a hand of ginger. Problems can range from bad weather to plant viruses to wild animals. I've reported before about the problems Indian farmers face with wild boar, tigers and elephants. The Telegraph has now reported about damage caused by yet another animal - rhinos. In an effort to combat this problem the Indian Rhino Vision 2020 programme has constructed an 8km electric fence along the southern boundary of Manas National Park in the Himalayan foothills. Within this protected area, 15 families from five villages have been encouraged to grow ginger. You can't help but admire these farmers.

And finally, have you ever fancied painting ginger? Have a look at this site where Dr.Tan Ching Yam displays a painting of a piece of ginger, Chinese style. It may take a little while to load, for some reason, but bear with it, it's well worth it.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Dry Ginger Shortage, The World's Best, Pan Am & Lebkuchen

I read somewhere last week that there could soon be a world shortage of Chinese dry ginger. The reason is that the temperature in China is lower than expected for the time of year and for those farmers who dry their ginger outdoors this is bad news. It is also bad news for us because China is the world's largest producer of dry ginger.

The Independent carried an article about a report on food flavour trends over the next year. The report, Global Food Additives Market, has been produced by the internationally renowned UK-based Leatherhead Food Research. The gist of the report is that consumers will be moving towards flavours with a bit of a punch and kick like pepper, chilli and, you've guessed it, ginger. I'm not surprised to hear that but I can't help thinking that if the researchers had come to me first I could have saved them a lot of time and effort. Ginger will be in vogue next year, the year after and the year after that.

Today sees the first broadcast of the new ABC drama Pan-Am. I haven't read much about it but I gather it is an airline equivalent of the hugely successful Mad Men. Like an increasing number of programmes recently, Pan Am will feature product placement. Some of the placements I've seen in other dramas and films appear to be so contrived or unnecessary you find that they can detract from the enjoyment. But one placement in Pan Am would be more noticeable by its absence. Cabin scenes throughout the show's first series will show characters being served with Canada Dry Ginger Ale. Apparently, you can't get more realistic than that.

An internationally famous chef has said that ginger from Fiji is the best in the world. The Fiji Times reported that Robert Oliver made the comment in his book Me’a Kai, voted the best cookbook at the 2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. This is very good news for Fiji as it rebuilds its ginger industry following the ravages of disease.

As part of my self-imposed remit to report on small businesses I shall return to a company I have mentioned before. Rachel's Ginger Beer is an up-and-coming business based in Seattle. Having started production in borrowed accommodation, the company has now purchased a bar which will also house its ginger beer operation. If you live in and around Seattle, you can find the bar here.

When the Texas Rangers baseball team won last year's American League West divisional championship, they publicly celebrated by drinking and spraying Canada Dry Ginger Ale. The ginger ale was supplied by Dr Pepper, the beverage conglomerate based in Texas. Last Friday the Rangers won the title for the second year in succession and again celebrated with ginger ale. Seems like an unusual by highly effective form of advertising for Canada Dry.

Now that the northern hemisphere has entered autumn I've noticed that the Web is littered with newly-brewed pumpkin ales and harvest beers. These lovely drinks, mainly from the US, invariably contain ginger. So have a browse and see what you can find.

Autumn in the UK also sees the reappearance of adverts for the Christmas fairs in Germany. I've never been to one but I am tempted by the trips to Nuremburg, home of the famous gingerbread "Lebkuchen". It is said that the city became a centre of gingerbread making because of its position on the spice route. Records show that gingerbread was being produced in the city as far back as 1395. Have a look at this site, an interesting history of the Nuremburg gingerbread industry.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Bhutan Crisis, Travel Retail, Value-Added Project & World's No.1 Ginger Ale

Back in May I wrote about the hardship being felt by ginger farmers in Bhutan whose crops had dropped dramatically in value compared to the previous year. BBS, Bhutan's National Public Service broadcaster, has now reported that the price has continued to fall and has reached a new low. It isn't clear what has caused the fall in price although some in Bhutan blame it on a 'bountiful' harvest in India. I'm not so sure about that as Indian ginger farmers are also suffering from a drop in price. It is ironic that the price is set at the Gelephu auction yard which is also the site of a World Food Programme centre whose role is to alleviate poverty in the country by distributing food aid.

The Boston Globe featured a potted history of the Clicquot Club as told by Paul LaCroix, the great-grandson of the founder of the ginger ale manufacturer. I'll let you read it but I will mention something that I didn't know. The name "Clicquot" was taken from the famous French champagne Veuve Clicquot way back in the 1880s.

A number of sources carried the news that India's largest retailer Future Group has entered a partnership with the Himachal Pradesh state government to promote a range of products, including ginger, under the brand name 'Brand Himachal'. It is hoped that Himachal farmers will have a guaranteed market for their products in Big Bazaar outlets in 80 cities and towns and 65 rural locations across the country. The state chief minister, Kumar Dhumal, believes that the partnership will help farmers to compete in a market currently dominated by China.

The Moodie Report reported that Berry Bros & Rudd (BBR) has identified travel retail as a market with potential for The King’s Ginger. Although the high-strength 41% abv liqueur has been around since 1903, it has only recently been given a new lease of life by BBR. The macerated ginger root drink is made by De Kuyper. If you will allow me, I'm going to shamelessly plug this drink. I'm not a spirits drinker. For years I've only drunk beer and wine. But when I reviewed this product for the All Things Ginger website I instantly fell in love with it. So give it a try. You'll find a link near the top of this page.

When I read the previous report about travel retail it dawned on me that I've never really known what it is. So if you are like me, here is a definition I gleaned from last year's Airline Retail Conference. Travel retail can be defined as "All types of sales to the travelling public". It encompasses duty free sales at airports, on board aircraft and ferries. It also includes sales at off-airport shops, border shops, seaport shops, military and diplomatic sales. Rather obvious really, isn't it? Incidentally, I've also read that travel retail is the best way to advertise a product and build a brand.

Whilst browsing during the week I came across a large project being undertaken in the Indian state of Orissa. The project, A Value Chain On Ginger & Ginger Products, started in April 2009 and will last until next summer when Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology and its four business partners will report on the outcome. The aim of the project is to increase the income for farmers by switching to elite varieties of ginger, improving post-harvest management techniques, introducing value-added product processing and, finally, commanding better prices when going to market. A website has been created for the project if you would like any further information.

The Ginger Ale Authority has named Boylan Bottlework’s Ginger Ale as the World’s No.1 Ginger Ale. The Ginger Ale Authority is a US organisation which reports on the world of ginger ale. A worthy undertaking.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Imitation Ginger Ale, Disease-Free Stock, Rural Projects, Online Shop & Long Term View

I found a Canada Dry newspaper advertisement from 1927 which claimed that many imitations were actually made with capsicum. I delved into this a little deeper and found that it was quite common for makers of cheaper ginger ales to use capsicum in place of the more expensive ginger or use it in addition to small quantities of ginger. Usually capsicum was omitted from the list of ingredients on the bottle. Nowadays 'pure' ginger ales dominate the market. I can only assume that ginger ales adulterated with capsicum are no longer made.

Fresh Plaza carried the views of Danny Deen from Denmipex, a major produce importer and exporter from the Netherlands. He said that this season's ginger harvest in China has been good in terms of both quality and quantity. But he also said that prices will be varied because of the uncontrolled nature of Chinese exports. Must be a nightmare for importers!

Islands Business, a news website which covers the Pacific islands, reported on the efforts by Fiji to return its ginger industry to its heyday of the late 1980s and early 1990s before it succumbed to disease. To revive the industry requires disease-free ginger seed. Ginger is currently grown, quite naturally, in areas which receive adequate rainfall. Unfortunately, the problems which affect ginger, root knot nematode and pythium fungal rot, thrive in wet conditions. So the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research and the Fiji Department of Agriculture have employed two farmers to produce disease-free ginger seed on their farms located in relatively dry areas. It is expected that these irrigation-feed farms will produce 60 tonnes of seed for next year and 300 tonnes for the following year. These seed producing farms will also be used to train new ginger farmers.

The Hindu Business Line carried an article with the intriguing title "How many yuppies does it take to change a village?" It introduced the reader to a State Bank of India sponsored programme for young Indian professionals to leave the comfort of their air-conditioned offices and spend a year working in a small rural community on a project of their own choosing. One of the selected projects involves the development of a value-added chain for ginger in the Wayanad district. The value-added route is becoming an increasingly popular and profitable route to take.

We sampled an absolutely gorgeous ginger chocolate the other day but we will keep its identity secret until we launch our new online shop. We are actually going to start selling products which we have tried and tested and, most importantly, liked. In other words, we will only sell products which we would buy.

Last Monday I visited the Speciality & Fine Food Fair at London Olympia. The organisers described it as the 'quintessential trade event for fine food'. I went there hunting for ginger stock for our new online shop and came away extremely happy. But with so much on display it was difficult not to think of other business ideas. Each time I saw a general deli display I thought "I want to open a deli". Each time I saw a crisp producer I thought "I want to make crisps". But by the time I left the show I was convinced that my original business idea was the best.

I came across what I thought were two conflicting stories last week. First, The Hindu reported that ginger farmers in the state of Kerala, many of them growing ginger for the first time, are living in uncertain times. Current market spot prices have plummeted by as much as 75% compared to the same period last year. The low prices have been attributed to both oversupply and disease. And second, The Financial Express reported that ginger farmers in Kerala and neighbouring Karnataka were reaping the financial rewards of investing in ginger. Even allowing for the occasional blip, over the long term (ten years and more) farmers have done extremely well. So that, I think, is the reason for my initial confusion. It all depends on whether you take a short or long term view of the situation.

The Himalayan carried a similar report about how Nepalese farmers have been attracted to ginger recently. As anything could happen next year, let's hope that these farmers take a long term view.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Shipwrecks, Brazilian Exports, Fijian Growth & Ginger With Cayenne

There is an old Chinese saying, "If you have a good habit of eating radishes in winter and ginger in summer, you will not need a prescription from the doctor". It tends to appear on Chinese sites for food, drink and alternative medicines. Apparently, radishes are helpful as they improve the immune system which can be weakened during the cold winter months. Ginger is said to increase appetites which can be reduced naturally during the hot summer months. Can anyone help with any information?

The Malaysian National News Agency (Bernama) ran a feature about the ships which have come to grief in the waters around Malaysia. I was particularly interested in the references to the Diana, a British East India Company sailing ship which hit an underwater boulder close to the international trading centre of Malacca and sank in 1817. I will admit that I was drawn to this ship because ginger has been recovered in archaeological dives. As the ship was laden with Chinese porcelain we can assume that the ginger was from China. And if we also assume that the ginger was packed in ginger jars, and I'd be surprised if it wasn't, then these jars should have wax seals on the bottom from Chinese customs authorities giving permission for export. I would be interested to find out what was found.

The Washington Beer Blog announced that Two Beers Brewing is about to release the first beer made from the new hop harvest. It will launch the brewery's autumn seasonal beers and will be joined at the end of the month by the popular Pumpkin Spice Ale. This spiced ale contains ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice, and I can only imagine what it tastes like.

Last week I wrote about Halewood International's exciting approach to advertising and marketing Crabbie's Alcoholic Ginger Beer. Since then Halewood has appointed Hatch Communications to manage Crabbie's consumer PR function. It will be interesting to see how future campaigns develop.

Reed's Inc, one of America's leading ginger soft drink manufacturers, has just announced its seventh consecutive quarter of sales growth. Revenue for the quarter was 26% higher than the same period last year. I don't have any definitive statistics but this growth does appear to fit in with my observations of increasing demand for ginger products all around the world.

The New York Times had a small review about Divine Treasures, a vegan chocolate shop in the Manchester Parkade Shopping Center, Connecticut. I mention this because the shop sells a Ginger Explosion containing ginger, cayenne pepper and cinnamon. Here in the UK, chocolate with ginger and chilli is very popular but I don't think that I've ever come across cayenne. Interesting.

I know it is a little bit late but congratulations to Fever-Tree Ginger Ale for winning a sofi (speciality outstanding food innovation) gold medal in the Cold Beverage category at this year's US National Association for the Speciality Food Trade awards at the Summer Fancy Food Show.

Brazil is fast becoming a major player on the ginger scene. Fresh Plaza featured Gabe's Import-Export (Comércio Exterior), a Brazilian group of ginger growers linked to an exporter, who farm 200 hectares and export a container of ginger each week. It exports principally to Europe and the USA but sees Canada as the next big market to conquer. Canada has seen a significant increase in interest in ginger tea, ale and cookies in recent years.

The Fijian Agriculture Ministry has announced the launch of a $1m project aimed at boosting the country's ginger industry. Fiji currently exports $6.3m worth of ginger a year and is considered to be an important contributor to the country's foreign earnings. The project, a collaboration between the government, private sector and overseas investors (Buderim Ginger?), has identified three areas worthy of investment. The first is to extend the amount of land under cultivation by 545 hectares. The second is to improve the processing facilities for baby ginger. And finally, to improve the range of value-added products such as crystallised ginger and ginger paste.

Some of you may be wondering about last week's reference to Crabbie's Alcoholic Ginger Beer and toffees. Well, The Toffees is the nickname of Everton Football Club.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Living With Tigers, Crabbie's & Toffees, Ginger Radler & Diversification

Tigers are popular and likeable creatures. Likeable, that is, to people who don't live and work in the same environment as the tigers. The difficulties in living alongside the tiger have come to the fore in Bandipur National Park (BNP) in southern Karnataka, India. The Deccan Herald reported that the Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF) has been brought in to combat the increasing incidents of tiger poaching. Unfortunately, some cases of poaching have allegedly involved ginger farmers who are unwilling or unable to share the BNP (a Project Tiger reserve) with the indigenous tiger.

The Austrian newspaper Kleine Zeitung ran an article about the increasing popularity of radlers. A radler is a beer-based mixed drink and is typically 50% beer and 50% German-style lemonade. A little bit like a shandy if you are outside of central Europe. The paper said that sales volume, in Austria I assume, has tripled over the past two years. Manufacturers are now considering extending the range of flavours to include herbs, grapefruit and, naturally, ginger. I've tried the traditional lemonade and quite enjoyed it. I suspect the ginger variant will be more like a ginger beer shandy than a ginger-spiced beer.

The Crabbie's team at Halewood International have been at it again. There is never a month which goes by without at least one announcement about a new product or another sponsorship deal or a new advertising campaign with Camilla and George. Just a fortnight after they announced the impending launch of a stronger version of their iconic alcoholic ginger beer they sign a deal to become the official ginger beer of Everton Football Club. The deal is only natural given that both parties share the same home county of Merseyside. For any marketing students out there, forget your textbooks. Just follow Crabbie's and watch a real life masterclass in how to promote a brand.

Pakistan Today made a compelling case for agricultural diversification as the answer to the problem of improving the lot of farmers. One view of diversification advocates the use of secondary crops to generate an additional or replacement income to that provided by the main crops. It is advised that secondary crops are selected on the basis of current market needs and conditions. Using that criteria. ginger fits the bill perfectly as demand is increasing worldwide. In addition, we have already seen ginger used as an intercrop elsewhere and we know that intercropping is a form of secondary crop management.

I've just read that Ginger Island is up for sale. It's an uninhabited national park in the British Virgin Islands. I don't know where its name comes from but I do know that it is on the market for $20 million. I think that I'll give it a miss.

We haven't had any responses yet to last week's request for help with Old English Ginger Wine from Rock & Rye Sales. It does seem to be very difficult but persevere please.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Spare Ginger, Prison Farmers, Pickled Ginger & Help Required

If there is anyone reading this who has some spare ginger to export, this will be of particular interest to you. I've been reading an International Trade Centre publication entitled "Tropical Fruits And Vegetables In China - Market Overview". Ginger features quite prominently in this report which is not surprising as China produces quite a lot of it. Unfortunately for Chinese exporters they also eat quite a lot it. They eat so much of it, in fact, that the Chinese domestic market is growing at 10% a year which, using official 2009 figures, translates into an extra 650,000 tons. Using these same figures, from a domestic harvest of 6,500,000 tons, 340,000 tons went for export, presumably to the West and commanding a high price. For the same period imports were 782,000 tons (a tenfold increase on the previous year) with most being imported in November and December. You can see that the Chinese are finding it difficult to produce enough to keep pace with demand. So here is your opportunity. Go for it and make a Chinese consumer happy.

I've just realised that although the Chinese consume ginger at a far higher rate than the global average, we at All Things Ginger can't be far behind.

The same report also mentions that a lot of ginger imported into China comes from Thailand. And much of this ginger is in salted form. A typical production cycle is as follows: 1) Japanese customers will select their preferred salted ginger supplier in Thailand; 2) The salted ginger is exported from Thailand to China (probably Shandong Province); 3) The salted ginger is converted into pickled ginger; and 4) The pickled ginger is exported from China to Japan.

The Sri Lankan Daily Mirror reported an interesting story about a new scheme which the Sri Lankan government are launching. The Prisons and Rehabilitation Ministry, in conjunction with the Minor Export Crop Ministry, will be improving the agricultural skills of prisoners by encouraging them to cultivate prison land. And as this is Sri Lanka, ginger will be one of the crops.

The Deccan Herald reported that farmers in the Indian state of Karnataka have wasted hundreds of thousands of rupees treating their ginger seed without taking expert advice. The claim was made by District General Secretary Gurushanthappa of Raitha Sangha, a powerful farmers movement. He said that farmers had been convinced by local agrochemical companies of the need to treat their seed without the advice and support of the state agriculture and horticulture departments who he accused of neglecting ginger. It is not difficult to see how farmers in many parts of the world could be persuaded to use chemicals as their whole livelihood depends on the outcome of the next harvest.

Halewood International, famous for its Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer, is set to launch a stronger 6% abv version later this month. Crabbie's Black will be available from the 26th August and targeted at an older male audience. Apparently, real ales with a higher alcohol content than the usual 3%-4.5% are experiencing significant growth in the UK markets. It is this trend which has encouraged Halewood to launch its own offering.

A participant on the All Things Ginger forum is asking for information about Old English Ginger Wine from Rock & Rye Sales in Scarborough, Ontario. It seems that this company no longer exists as it is proving very difficult to find anything on Google. I had a look and, sure enough, it is difficult to find any information. But I did find Rock & Rye Beverages from Toronto, Ontario. This didn't mean much to me until I discovered that Scarborough is now a suburb of Toronto. Is it the same company? I'm intrigued now. Any help would be appreciated.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Chinese Ginger Varieties, New Fijian Factory & Ginger Ale Tax

Loose ginger in the fresh produce section of UK supermarkets always seem to come from China. Disappointingly for me, the labels on the packaging give no information as to the variety. It is quite likely that what I am seeing could well be either Weifang ginger or Laiwu ginger. Both of these varieties, which are highly regarded and sought after, come from central Shandong Province. Weifang ginger is the thicker of the two but I couldn't identify either of them on the basis of just seeing one.

I've often been puzzled as to why ginger ale and non-alcoholic ginger beer are taxed. Here in the UK they are both subject to value-added tax (VAT) which is a form of sales tax. I'm also annoyed that alcoholic ginger beer is taxed but that is another story. But it appears that these beverages have been taxed for many years. During the First World War the US government enacted the War Revenue Act as a way of raising extra money and encouraging thrift. This imposed a tax on soft drinks which unfortunately included ginger ale. In typical tax raising fashion, the Act was not repealed or superceded once the war had ended. Ginger ale has been taxed at State level in many parts of the USA ever since for many different reasons. In 1927, California suggested a tax to support education. Some states levy a tax as a way of tackling the obesity problem. And last year, Pittsburgh proposed a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (including ginger ale) to fund the pension scheme for the city's employees. It does seem rather unfair to group the healthy properties of some ginger ales with, say, fat-laden doughnuts.

Incidentally, I've been looking at the UK's VAT regulations to see how they affect various ginger products. Gingerbread slabs are zero-rated but a gingerbread man decorated with chocolate is taxed at the standard rate 'unless the chocolate content amounts to no more than a couple of dots for the eyes'. You couldn't make it up.

The New Sabah Times reported that ginger farmers in the state of Sabah in Malaysia have been offered a guaranteed market for part of their crop. Participating farmers in the valley district of Tambunan have signed a sale and purchase agreement with the Federal Agriculture Marketing Authority (FAMA) for up to 30 tonnes of this season's harvest. FAMA will also be responsible for providing training in crop management and marketing. FAMA is a marketing agency established by the Malaysian government and operated by the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry.

The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) ran a feature on Kaiming Qiu, a Chinese businessman, who arrived in Fiji fifteen years ago as an architectural engineer on a construction project. Once the project had finished, Qiu decided to stay on in Fiji and moved into farming. He has now just opened a FJ$0.5 million ginger processing facility which will produce powdered, crystallised and syruped ginger for the export market. This venture is part of the revival of the Fijian ginger industry which was devasted in the 1990s by a nematode infestation. The revival is being aided by the use of disease-free ginger 'seeds' through the EU-funded Facilitating Agricultural Commodity Trade (FACT) project in collaboration with the Fijian Department of Agriculture.

I've always assumed that Victorian ginger beer was an alcoholic beverage as this was the only way for people to drink poor quality water. But I couldn't understand how children could drink it as well. I've now found out that the UK Excise Tax Regulations (1855) stated that ginger beer could not have an alcohol content greater than two per cent. It was this requirement which made the drink popular with children.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Salted Ginger, Monsoon Season, Value-Adding, Intercropping & Virility

Last Tuesday was the start of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting when Muslims refrain from eating and drinking during daylight hours. The Times of India reported that Muslims in the union territory of Chandigarh, the joint capital of both Punjab and Haryana, will start each day with a breakfast of dates or salted ginger. I can understand someone eating ginger for breakfast but I'm puzzled by the addition of salt. Maybe it's just a difference in taste but I could never contemplate my Western palate having bacon for breakfast and not being able to drink until sunset.

Still in India, the Hindustan Times had an article on the best food to eat during the monsoon season. It recommends steamed and hot dishes as the best way to overcome the health risks caused by low sunlight levels and excessive dampness and moisture in the air (sounds a bit like the UK for most of the year). The article also recommends the inclusion of a number of herbs, including ginger, for their anti-microbial qualities.

Last week The Miami Herald reported on one of the speakers at the Jamaica USA Chamber of Commerce’s annual Movers and Shakers breakfast at Jungle Island. Christopher Tufton, Jamaica’s new minister of industry, investment and commerce, said that Jamaican farmers need to convert their crops into value-added products. As an example, he said that raw ginger needs to be processed into higher value ginger oil and ginger tea. He then went on to say that these value-added products should be marketed at the millions of visitors who come to Jamaica each year. Sounds like an excellent business idea.

An increasingly popular and profitable crop in India is rubber. Unfortunately it can take a minimum of seven years before a newly planted rubber plantation can start providing a return. To provide a valuable income during a plantation's immature years, a farmer will intercrop with turmeric and ginger. However, intercropping is only viable for three to four years before the newly emerging rubber tree foliage becomes to dense. But still well worth doing.

It is not difficult to stumble across something different and unusual on the Web. The other day I found a website for can collectors. The Can Museum is an "international collaboration of beverage cans for the enjoyment of everyone around the world". When I searched for "ginger" I was presented with 360 cans ranging from well-known brands such as Schweppes and Canada Dry to brands I've never heard of such as Hyde Park and Cott. Have a look and take a trip down memory lane.

Scientific American posted an article on its blog about how Kenyans are eating White's ginger out of existence. The herb (Mondia whitei) is not a member of the ginger family but has roots similar in appearance to ginger rhizomes. It is popular in Africa because it is believed to have virility enhancing properties. It is so popular, in fact, that it is now very difficult to find in Kenya. The Kenya Wildlife Service believes that companies in Florida and China are producing the herb to satisfy the growing demand. These companies may not have the market to themselves though. To protect its dwindling rain forests, the Kenyan government has started the Kakamega Environmental Education Programme. Part of this project involves the planting of the Prunus africanus tree intercropped with White's ginger. Each tree will provide support for the slow growing vines produced by the herbs. White's ginger used to be abundant in the Kakamega Forest so its re-introduction is welcome but one feels that the project needs to be protected to prevent theft. So this story could have a happy ending. A bio-friendly and commercially beneficial project. Perfect!

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Clicquot Club, Ginger Wine & Aluminium Chloride Toxicity


"Every bottle of Clicquot Club Ginger Ale is generous measure - not the skimpy bottle you are accustomed to in buying ordinary ginger ales. We believe not only in giving honest goods, but in giving honest measure. There are two generous glassfuls in every bottle - enough for two persons, or two drinks for one person. Clicquot Club Ginger Ale is made of the purest confectioners' sugar, Jamaica ginger and citric fruit flavors the earth affords - and the purest and best water. Fresh, country air sweeps through the factory, and the blending and carbonating (done under the supervision of an expert chemist) is in surroundings as clean as a model housewife's kitchen. Clicquot Club is the kind of ginger ale you would make for yourself if you had our facilities". This piece of text is taken from a newspaper advertisement published in 1911, one of a range of adverts placed by Clicquot Club across North America. I was taken not only by its quaintness but also by its complete lack of dubious and unsubstantiated claims used by advertisers until relatively recently.

The Clicquot Club Company was founded in 1881 by Henry Millis in Millis, Massachusetts. The company initially sold sparkling cider but after a few years began to focus on ginger ale which remained popular for the next 70 or so years. The steadily increasing sales of Clicquot Club Ginger Ale, made from Jamaican ginger, coincided with a sharp increase in ginger exports from Jamaica. In fact, by the 1960s, Jamaica was the third largest producer of ginger in the world after India and Sierra Leone. In 1965 Canada Dry acquired Clicquot and closed it down. It was about this time that the Jamaican ginger industry started its rapid decline from which it is still trying to recover. Were these two events linked? Was the success of Jamaican ginger a direct result of the success of Clicquot? I think that it was more than just a coincidence.

There was good news last week for ginger growers in the Indian state of Mizoram. The state government has amended its liquor prohibition law to allow growers to convert their ginger crops into wine. The change also applies to grapes, apples, passion fruit, peaches and pears. The government has acknowledged that farmers can actually earn more from converting raw crops into wine. Presumably the government will also take more in taxation.

This week's "ginger in medicine" research project is an Egyptian study entitled Role of Ginger Against the Reproductive Toxicity of Aluminium Chloride in Albino Male Rats. The study involved feeding two groups of rats aluminium chloride (AlCl3) with one of these groups also receiving a daily dose of ginger. The outcome was that the ginger feed had an ameliorating effect on the AlCl3 toxicity. I don't know much about aluminium chloride but I do know that in one form it is irritating to the skin and in another form it is used in deodorants and antiperspirants. I have also discovered a report of another Egyptian study last year but that one used grape seed extract instead of ginger. Do the Egyptians have a particular problem with aluminium chloride?

I was quite pleased yesterday when my wife discovered a rhubarb and ginger cheese. I haven't tried it yet but when I do I will publish a review on www.allthingsginger.co.uk.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Women Growing Ginger, Shell Ginger, Healthier Broilers & Laying Performance

Whilst researching the world of ginger I often come across aspects which I've never encountered or considered before. One such case is a report by the Canadian International Development Research Centre on growing ginger in the Sikkim and West Bengal states in India. In particular it focuses on the social and gendered nature of ginger production. It describes the differing approaches to growing ginger across the many ethnic groups and how these have changed over time. It also examines the difficulties faced by women who want to grow the crop. Although the report is now over five years old I'm sure that many of the issues raised then could still apply today. Have a look for yourself but beware, the report is quite long.

I've never really taken much notice of members of the ginger family other than the one we love to eat and drink (Zingiber officinale). But that was until last week when I discovered an American article about Shell ginger (Alpinia zerumbet). This is another "ginger" which can be ingested although claims to its medicinal effectiveness have yet to be scientifically proven. Search the Internet for images of the plant and I think you'll find that it will look quite nice in the garden or as a large houseplant.

It is not only humans who can benefit from ginger. A report on the Effect of Aqueous Extract of Ginger (Zingiber officinale) on Blood Biochemistry Parameters of Broiler has just been published by researchers at the University of Tikrit in Iraq. The aim of the research was to determine whether the addition of aqueous ginger extract to the drinking water would have a beneficial effect on the blood biochemistry of the birds. The research was particularly interested with those factors which could increase the chance of a bird developing diabetes e.g. high cholesterol and blood glucose levels. The outcome, if I can spoil it for you now, was that the addition of aqueous ginger extract at a rate of between 0.4% and 0.6% beneficially reduced the blood glucose, LDL-cholesterol ("bad") and VLDL-cholesterol (could be "bad") levels whilst at the same time increasing the HDL-cholesterol ("good") level. Sounds like a win-win solution.

The result of another poultry and ginger experiment has just been published. Shandong Agricultural University in China and the Lethbridge Research Centre in Canada conducted research into the Effects of ginger root (Zingiber officinale) on laying performance and antioxidant status of laying hens and on dietary oxidation stability. The report in Poultry Science concluded that a diet supplemented with ginger powder improved laying performance and also the serum and egg yolk antioxidant properties. There is no end to the versatility of ginger!

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Ethiopian Report, Save Rachel's Ginger, Crop Insurance & Malaysian Ginger

I was surprised to read recently that ginger has been grown in Ethiopia since the 13th century. I was even more surprised to discover that after 800 years the Ethiopians aren't that good at it. In an effort to identify and rectify production problems, two Ethiopian academics have produced a report called Production, processing and marketing of ginger in Southern Ethiopia which concludes with a number of recommendations. These cover every aspect of the ginger production life cycle including the identification of suitable varieties, improving post-harvest techniques and developing ways to market.


My wife recently received a subscribed email from Rachel's Organic, a British company who make organic dairy products. They recently (February this year I think) introduced a Special Edition Greek Style Ginger yogurt which is now coming to the end of its planned life cycle. I shall let Rachel continue with this story. "Are you ready to say goodbye to our Special Edition Organic Greek Style Ginger Yogurt? We love this one a bit too much to let go just yet, so we’re giving you the chance to decide whether you would like it to stay. Let us know what you think by heading to our Facebook page." It's up to you and me now.

The Thaindian News reported last week that the state government of Himachal Pradesh in Northern India has launched a pilot scheme to provide insurance to farmers for a range of crops including ginger. The insurance will be available for the duration of the kharif (or rainy) season. Agriculture in India is a risky business as it is always at the mercy of the weather. Farmers can cope with a typical monsoon season but occasionally they will be hit by either too much rain or too little. It is what Sir Albert Howard (a British botanist, organic farming founder and Indian government agricultural adviser) called "a gamble in the monsoons" back in 1916. The scheme being provided is Rashtriya Krishi Bima Yojna, a safety net devised in 1998 to cover a wider range of crops and a larger group of farmers. The insurance scheme could become an important and integral part of farming as the state is highly dependent on agriculture.

My copy of The Daily Telegraph yesterday contained a feature supplement about the economic, agricultural and industrial sectors in Malaysia. It said that agriculture contributes 12 per cent of that country's GDP. Most of that contribution comes from palm oil, cocoa and rubber which, between them, generate significant export revenues. When I noticed that ginger was not mentioned anywhere I decided to add a little bit of information myself about the Malaysian ginger industry. Now, I accept that raw ginger is not a major export commodity; in fact, Malaysia has been known to import ginger from Australia. But my brief research shows that Malaysia appears to be concentrating on value-added ginger products, particularly ginger oil. And the production of ginger oil has been guided by research and development projects at the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur. These projects originally came under the control of the Chemical Engineering Pilot Plant (Cepp) but is now known as the Institute of Bioproduct Development.