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.