Sunday, 27 March 2011

Ginger Drunkards, Fijian Markets And Increased Sales For Reeds

The other day I stumbled across an article in the New York Times from December 1888. What attracted my attention was the title, "Jamaica Ginger Drunkards; Startling Statements Concerning The Prevalence Of The Habit". William H.Doble, a grocer from Dedham in Massachusetts, appeared in court on a charge of violating the liquer law. Specifically, the alleged offence was selling Jamaica ginger as an intoxicant. What made this Jamaica ginger questionable was that although it could be sold legally for medicinal purposes, Doble's version contained 69% alcohol. The statute of the time stated that any beverage of more than three per cent alcohol would be classified as an intoxicating liquor. Surprisingly, the jury found Doble not guilty which must have pleased many of his customers who were described by the New York Times as "Jamaica-ginger drunkards, a species of inebriates by no means uncommon".

The Fiji Times reported that ginger farmers in Dreketi are struggling to find a market for their produce. The farmers are claiming that middlemen and supermarkets are paying such low prices that they cannot afford to expand into large-scale ginger farming. The Fiji ginger industry is based around a few large growers and many small (typically one acre or less) growers. If the Fijian government's programme to increase ginger production is to be successful, it will have to ensure that a fair payment system is put in place.

Reeds Inc, the US confectionery business famous for its ginger products, released its 2010 Annual Report last week. Total net sales increased by 34% but the gross profit margin as a percentage of net sales decreased by 3% to 21%. Reeds stated that the non-chocolate candy segment (i.e. the ginger products) will continue to be a growth area. Linking back to the previous item I learnt that Reeds Crystallized Ginger Candy is manufactured in Fiji.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Buderim Shortage, New Levi Roots Ginger Beer, Alien Invasive Species And A Ginger Pre-Mix

Australia’s Buderim Ginger is searching global ginger markets to fill a 1000 tonne shortfall in domestic production. The shortfall has been caused by the spread of the highly destructive disease pythium soft rot (see post 6th February 2011). Buderim is confident that it will be able to find enough ginger to meet its customer requirements. One possible source could be Fiji where Buderim has a processing operation already. Coincidentally, Fiji has applied recently to export its ginger to Australia.

Levi Roots, famous for his Reggae Reggae Sauce, is to launch Fiery Root Ginger Beer with Lime ‘n’ Honey. If this ginger beer can emulate the phenomenal success of the sauce, which is available in over 600 Sainsbury's supermarkets in the UK after securing a £50,000 investment on the BBC's Dragons' Den in 2007, then it could become one of the biggest selling ginger beers in the UK.

The current issue of New Scientist carries an article about research into the world's most invasive plant species. It found that more than half of these plants established themselves in new habitats after escaping from botanic gardens. One plant mentioned in particlar is Hedychium gardnerianum (or Kahili Ginger, Wild Ginger and Ginger Lily). Native to the Himalayan region of India, this plant was first noted as invasive in Jamaica before being observed in many other regions such as Hawaii where it was introduced as an ornamental plant in the 1940s. Reproducing easily by both seed and rhizome, this plant, which can create 6-foot high dense thickets, is proving difficult to eradicate.

A pre-mix of The Famous Grouse and ginger beer is being trialled in parts of Scotland. The trial will be held from the 1st March until the second week of April in selected bars and pubs in Edinburgh and Glasgow. It is intended that the 6% abv drink, called The Ginger Grouse, will be served long over ice. I have spoken to a number of people who are disappointed not to live in Scotland but are keen for the trial to be successful. They also hope that the drink will be available for home consumption.

In my first post I mentioned that Bruce Cost had launched his latest drink, Fresh Ginger Ale. Well, now you can have a look around his factory courtesy of Liza de Guia at Food Curated.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

An Insect Banquet, Sperm Count And Emerging Markets

The Financial Times featured an article entitled An insect banquet which introduced me to the previously unknown world of entomophagy (defined by Wikipedia as the consumption of insects as food). My attention was grabbed, as always, by the inclusion of a dish containing ginger. A Balinese delicacy has de-winged dragonflies boiled in coconut milk with ginger and garlic. This is what I love about ginger, its sheer versatility. If you are interested, I've managed to locate a recipe for this dragonfly stew at the World Museum in Liverpool. I think that I'll give it a miss!

Recent research in Iran has shown that consumption of ginger can significantly increase sperm count and viability. Well, in rats at least. Rats were divided equally into a control group, a group fed 50mg/kg/day and another group fed 100mg/kg/day. After 20 days it was found that those rats fed 100mg/kg/day showed signs of enhanced healthy sperm parameters and increased testosterone. It must be pointed out that the researchers have not made similar claims about human sperm.

The Indian government department responsible for promoting the export of spices (Spices Board India) has announced that ginger exports more than doubled to 10,500 tonnes during the period April 2010 to January 2011. These exports contributed to an increase in foreign exchange earnings.

Recently I was reading an article about the advertising industry where Sir Martin Sorrell of WPP was re-iterating his football analogy of world advertising markets. His 'Premier League' contains the BRICs and the 'Next Eleven' (or N-11) emerging markets. BRIC refers to Brazil, Russia, India and China. N-11 refers to Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, Turkey and Vietnam. What caught my eye was that out of these 15 countries only three (Russia, Iran and Turkey) do not produce ginger. Significant? I think not but interesting nonetheless.

And finally, something I stumbled across the other day. If you like the blues and you like ginger, you'll like this from Pixar Animations.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

New Ginger Drinks And Queen Exhibition

The spread of ginger-based products continues apace with the news last week of major launches both in the UK and the USA. In the UK, Stone's, the renowned ginger wine maker, announced that it was entering the alcoholic ginger beer market with its Stone's Ginger Joe, named after the company founder, Joseph Stone. Crabbie's, which has taken the UK market by storm over the last few years, has launched two new variants of its famous John Crabbie's Ginger Beer. One is John Crabbie’s Diet Ginger Beer which has 1 calorie per 100ml serving. The other is John Crabbie’s Twist of Orange Cloudy Ginger Beer. In the USA, Coca-Cola has announced that it intends to market Seagram’s Ginger Ale across the whole country. With demand for ginger beverages on the rise, Coca-Cola has decided to use its extensive distribution system to significantly increase availability of the popular ginger ale.

Ginger beers are not just the preserve of large companies and SMEs. Artisan businesses are starting up and grabbing a share, albeit very small, of the market. Recently I read an interesting article about Rachel's Ginger Beer in The Seattle Times. Rachel's Ginger Beer is a very small outfit with the dream of establishing a retail presence. When I read the article I was reminded of a small ginger beer maker in the UK which is at a later stage of development than Rachel's. Grandma's Weapons Grade Ginger Beer, an alcoholic beverage made by Wheal Maiden Brewery, started life in a kitchen and now supplies casks to a small but growing number of pubs. Actually, I tried it at the Hole In The Wall pub in Portsmouth. A lovely pint!

Last week saw the opening of the Stormtroopers in Stilettos exhibition in London to mark the 40th anniversary of the rock band, Queen. The only reason I mention this is because at the pre-opening press night the bar was serving a range of cocktails named after Queen songs. One that took my eye was A Night At The Opera, made from vodka, ginger beer and lime. If you are interested, the exhibition is being held at the Old Truman Brewery in east London and runs until the 12th March.