BUY SOME TIGHTS. SAVE THE PLANET

We look at the sudden arrival of the FourTwentyTwo company from North Macedonia, and their range of biodegradable tights and hosiery and ask – are Millennials going to buy this?

The phrases “ecologically friendly” and high volume fashion – don’t really go hand in hand. Cheap as chips ladies fashions, designed to be thrown away after just one or two outings, even if they last that long, – are the hallmarks of so many teenage buying patterns with their limited budgets. And the focus of high level brands with their focus on “technology”, usually comes at a high price tag, because it’s high tech. It’s cool.

Or maybe it isn’t. Launched just a few weeks ago in London, the FourTwentyTwo company message is that is that ecological and looking after the planet is a millennial focus, and that their biodegradable range of tights with aloe vera extract – and their antibacterial tights with green tea extract – are spot on in the current mindset of people of all ages.

Sure, there are some compelling stats; the Presentation that Sanja at FourTwentyTwo sends me, has a solid business case for where this aspect of fashion is going. And it has one big advantage over others, which is that the Four Two Two range is both fashionable, but it is also a volume business that is in tune with our desire to lower fossil fuel and plastic consumption.

And whilst there are plenty of domestic producers of plant based garments or food, they tend to be hidden away, almost niche. This launch, looking for retailers and commercial partners – is bold and open.

Full details of the FourTwentyTwo offering and their discussion about plant use, can be seen at: https://fourtwentytwo.eu/ 

Registration opens for Speciality & Fine Food Fair 2022

Nicola MacDonald has written to us to tell us excitedly about the upcoming Food Fair in London. I’ll drink to that. What she says is this:

Visitor registration has opened for Speciality & Fine Food Fair as the event prepares to welcome the speciality food industry back to Olympia London on 5-6 September 2022, with visitors able to register to attend here. 

Speciality & Fine Food Fair is an annual trade show celebrating independent, artisan and craft food & drink suppliers from across the UK and internationally. Each year the show attracts quality buyers from key sectors in the speciality and fine food industry, including key decision-makers from the worlds of retail, catering and wholesale. They have the chance to meet with new-to-market businesses in The Discovery Zone, unearth sustainable businesses in the Sustainability Zone, discuss the latest speciality food trends on the Food for Thought Stage and explore an unparalleled collection of unique suppliers across the show floor.

The Fair will invite independent retailers, farm shops, delis, high-end caterers, speciality wholesalers and more to discover the very latest new products and trends in the world of speciality and fine food & drink and to enjoy an industry-leading seminar programme across three stages.   

As always, the event will be an unparalleled showcase of innovation in the British food & drink market, from established speciality brands to start-ups in their early years of operation, plus an opportunity to meet with unique international food & drink brands from countries including Belgium, France, South Korea, Italy and the Netherlands, plus regions such as the Caribbean and West & Central Africa.  

Speciality & Fine Food Fair Awards judge, management consultant Bruce Langlands, comments: “Speciality & Fine Food Fair is the annual event that has become a focal point in London’s food calendar. It is an amazing platform for producers, suppliers and retailers to launch new products and share industry knowledge.”  

One of the Fair’s most popular returning features is the Discovery Zone, an area dedicated to food & drink brands which have been operating for less than three years. The bustling Zone has become one of the most highly anticipated gems of the Fair and has served as a launchpad for many successful and well-known businesses. 

Speciality & Fine Food Fair Event Manager Nicola Woods explains: “The Discovery Zone is a must-attend for visitors to the Fair. It’s a fantastic opportunity to discover unique, new-to-market products and see first-hand the innovative start-ups beginning to make their mark on the industry.” 

Among the businesses taking part in the Discovery Zone 2022 are G&Tea, a tea-distilled gin brand, plant-based chewing gum Oh My Gum, luxury free-from ice cream producer Mama Dolce, and blueberry wine Blue Aurora.  

The Food for Thought stage at the Fair returns to cover some of the most pressing issues facing the independent retail and speciality food community, from the power of a personalised customer experience to the road to net zero, and from 2022’s supply chain challenges to making the online model work post-pandemic.  

Visitors to the event will have the opportunity to hear insights from a wide range of industry experts and business owners including Charles Banks of thefoodpeople, Jan Robijns of The Broadway Deli & Grocery, Paul Hargreaves of Cotswold Fayre, Stephen Minall of FDReviews, Ben O’Brien of Session Kitchens and many more.  

New for 2022 is the Taste the Trends kitchen, where culinary consultant and chef Steve Walpole will be welcoming a host of industry experts to explore the latest trends, flavours and opportunities in global cuisine and using a range of products from the Fair to cook up some delicious dishes.  

Among the sessions and demonstrations in the Taste the Trends kitchen are ‘East meets West’, a look at the influence of Japanese and Korean foods and flavours on western cuisine; ‘Striving for Plant-Based Perfection’, exploring some of the revolutionary products in the plant-based space; a session with the Great Taste Supreme Champion (revealed on 5 September) in partnership with the Guild of Fine Food; and World Charcuterie Live, showcasing some of the quality cooked meats on offer at the Fair.  

“I can’t wait to be back at Speciality & Fine Food Fair, cooking up a storm with some amazing guest speakers,” said Walpole. “Join us on 5-6 September to discover some of the most exciting trends in food & drink and to sample some of the best products on offer at this year’s Fair.” 

As fantastic new drinks products continue to launch onto the market, the Drinks Cabinet at Speciality & Fine Food Fair is a one-stop-shop for visitors interested in everything from soft drinks to low & no beverages to quality spirits and beers from thriving independent breweries.  

At the centre of the Drinks Cabinet, the Inspiration Bar will see in-depth sessions across the two days from Mixology Group providing advice and guidance for visitors looking to make the most of the drinks products they stock.  

Zoe Cunliffe, Director at Mixology School commented: “We can’t wait to head back to Speciality & Fine Food Fair this September to help the Fair’s food & drink buyers learn about the very latest trends and products in the drink sector.” 

“There are a huge number of new products on the market and our session at the Fair will give retailers and wholesalers the tools to make the most out of these exciting and creative drinks offerings.” 

A full list of exhibitors and products on offer, is on the Speciality & Fine Food Fair website, where you can also register for your free ticket.

LIEDER IN LONDON

We are privileged to sit on the second of two concerts, on 17th May, by Mitsui Uchida and Mark Padmore, as they explore the subtlety of songs from Beethoven and Schubert.

The Wigmore Hall – situated just behind Selfridges and in between two of the more upmarket kitchen showrooms – can be easily missed. Unless you are actively looking for its modest but classic entrance, you could be forgiven for walking by, as I have done zillions of times, – without ever knowing it is there, or even why it is there.

And that would be a pity. The Concerts that they host pretty much every evening, are a beacon of excellence, bringing to the general public, outstanding chamber music individual talent. Up-coming future stars rub shoulders with established names who are only to pleased to be on their list of “residents”.

And so it is with this “discussion” of Lieder songs. It is almost seminar in its approach and educated style. You don’t go to Wigmore Hall is you want a night out with your mates. You go almost to be educated. There are pages of Lecture Notes so to say, already neatly printed out, for you to collect, for free. It’s just that, the audience are already educated. They mill about in the modern very friendly bar, they meet their friends, they congregate in the street during the interval, eating ice cream, they exchange discussional points;

“I do think the way he did that recording was better”… and people smile and laugh.

They are still talking and smiling across the rows of nice seats, even when the House Manager announces the concert starting. It is a mix of a club for people with like minds, and my old university days where I knew the topic would be on a bigger level. Except that I used to fall asleep in those days, the girl next to me would nudge me and wake me up if I was ever asked a question. There was no chance of falling asleep in this concert, and no girl sitting next to me. I didn’t know the person sitting next to me.

If there is a misnomer, it is that the singer would be leading this concert, the accompanist doing, well, I guess, accompanying. In fact this was almost the reverse. Mark Padmore’s lyrical expression was being driven by the constant subtlety and change of direction by Mitsuko Uchida, who herself was singing silently along as she played. She controlled the narrative. Even from the start – the hesitation at the beginning, the wiping her hands on her handkerchief – before launching into the first song – it was her pressure that was pushing the recitative in the vocal line.

As an opera freak, this sort of singing was for me, a different experience, and a different audience. Whereas perhaps in say a Jazz concert we are part of the musical expression, the intimacy that is created – this concert was a recognition that we are not part of it, we are voyeurs. And we are lucky to do so, and to be there.

It is well into 30 minutes before Mark Padmore stops and talks about the philosophy of the words he is expressing – he talks about the sentiment of “being exiled from your home country” – how poignant. There is a feeling of shyness as the two of them take their applause.

I have to leave to catch my train, I gently avoid the audience who are still milling and discussing with their friends. Perhaps it is a night out with your mates after all.

THOUGHT LEADERSHIP IN THE FOOD INDUSTRY

At a time of global increases in prices for every type of basic food, we look at the upcoming Hotel, Restaurant & Catering Show ask; who is taking the lead here, – what does this mean for people in the food industry, and for you and me as mere consumers?

To judge by the hype – maybe nothing. This Hotel Restaurant and Catering event has brought together a range of business leaders, chefs, and tech-savvy people, to talk about, well, just about everything. In particular, the focus at the Tech X Stage will look at AI, as a way of solving the problems of lack of staff.

This is an interesting gambit, because if by chance – we are to have an influx of Ukrainian youngsters – and why not! – then where does this place IT in the grand scheme of things. Are we replacing Polish and Latvian baristas with their equivalent brothers and sisters from Nikolaev.?

So, nothing changed there, then. And yet, the key themes of the Conference are “innovation”, and “profitability”.

It’s not before time. After three years of drought and COVID lockdowns, is this a time of harvest, and if so, where is that new market coming from?

The difficulty, -according to noted Swedish chef Kristin Emilsson, who took her degree in food management in London – is that it is really about the costs facing the suppliers, rather than what the public would like to have.

She says “Obviously it is general costs – but what about staffing?” Her view is that the rapid changes in the world order have led to an acute shortage of chefs, who since lockdown, have now gone and found other jobs elsewhere”.

At the Hotel Restaurant and Catering event this Monday, we expect to see a range of new ideas, new ways of coping with these unforeseen challenges.

We expect to report further in due course.

The Conference can be viewed at: https://www.hrc.co.uk, from this Monday 21st March.

Human Nature. Just the same as before.

We take a fresh look at this new interpretation of the standout 2014 production of Mozart’s “Cosi Fan Tutte” and ask, as it returns to the London Coliseum here in March 2022; how come the the mix of Women and Men and Mozart, never loses its appeal?

There is a young business lady waiting hurriedly inside the Chanel Shop at St Pancras as I happen also to be stepping inside for something. We exchange a few words of greeting. She says that she is running for a train to Darlington. I tell her I am en route to Cosi, at the ENO.

“Oh!! I just love that opera!” she says. “I would love to come – when is it on next?” I quickly look at my ENO app, and smile give her some alternative future dates etc.

I am taking an early dinner at the restaurant just up the road from the London Coliseum and the maitre d’ squeezes me in at a single table just alongside two ladies who are well dressed, with obligatory bottle of chilled white wine, and they are talking animatedly.

“We are going to the Opera!” , they say.

“Really!” – I reply.

“Yes – we have not been for ages, and we are SO looking forward to going out again, And “Cosi Fan Tutte” is one of our favourites.

There is a lot of psychology talked in the media about the darkness of human nature within Cosi… and are we talking about all Women, or all Men, or all relationships – or just a few, and my answer to that is; Come on, guys – this is a Funny Story. That’s it.

The appeal of its story and attraction, is indeed based on several levels, and I will come to that shortly – but people do not come to the ENO production of Cosi Fan Tutte because of they want a seminar on human nature. If they sat down and thought about it, they come because they want to enjoy the constant melody, the incredible harmonisation, the forcefulness – and subtlety – of the direction, the spot on note perfect singing. People going to an ENO Mozart Opera want to be entertained and feel good, despite its underlying messages. I found myself still singing the tunes long after getting my return train from Paddington.

This production is the same as before in 2014 in many ways, the same Coney Island fairground set. There is the same Fortune Teller cabin, redolent of Tom Hanks in “Big”. The same concept of circus gymnasts skills ensemble. It is slapstick and very, very funny.

The additional playing the Ukraine National Anthem, before curtain up – added to that sense of absolute importance. It reminded me all those years ago of the Don Giovanni first night, on the first night of ENO at the Coliseum, – when the Russians had just invaded Prague. No, some things don’t change.

This performance gave a shop window to several of the Harewood Artists who are the future of ENO Operas. Nardus Williams as Fiodiligi is superb as soon as she starts singing; Benson Wilson is just great to listen to. But stealing the show, so to say, has to be Neal Davies as Don Alfonso, always in charge of proceedings, never losing his grip – and his synergy with Soraya Mafi, whilst not as crisp as Mary Bevan originally, was spot on note perfect. I think she can be even more acidic and sharp in her storytelling.


But what took all of our breath away – was the sheer complexity and delivery of the close harmony. It never let up. The complex intertwining of medallic lines, each protagonist singing as if their lives depended on it. It was absolutely glorious.

My colleague at the end of Act 1, stood up at the Interval and looked at me, in a state of shock. We all know that ENO performances and direction are always on the edge, the exploration of new angles and avenues. But nobody does Mozart better when it comes to opera for the people.

There are still a couple more performances at my time of writing this Note. Well worth making a point of going.

IT’S HOLIDAY TIME – ON A BIG BOAT!

As gaps are starting to appear in the COVID stranglehold – we look at the background to getting back on the water, with a visit to the CRUISE SHIP INTERIORS EXPO in London Excel, – and what we can expect when we travel.


If you are going to have a Conference about Cruise Liners, then basing yourself by the side of the Thames, and just two tube stops down from the O2 Arena, is not a bad place to start. Adjacent also to City Airport, and equally close to Tower Bridge and some of the richest mooring spots in an already wealthy city financial area – it’s not hard to see why the organisers of this new Event, chose the Excel as their stopping off point.


They all had a party, the night before. If they say that every vertical market is like a small village – everybody knows everybody – then this was the ambience as you walk through the frankly deserted hallways of Excel until you come across Hall 3, and step inside the Trade Show area.


Perhaps the exhibitors and organisers, were expecting more? It didn’t help that just two days earlier, the UK went into a new series of COVID travel restrictions. More than one exhibitor confided that they had to fork out more than £100.00 on a sudden PCR test, that had not been made apparent before travel.


The chaotic travel scenario alas extended into the event itself. And this was a pity. Because CRUISE SHIP INTERIORS EXPO 21 – was actually rather good! There were some very, very inventive new products in the space-saving category, clever hospitality devices rubbed shoulders with travel agencies – and every Stand had at least one major decision-maker resident. Every conversation, was a productive experience.


I loved the Nautilus bedroom pod from Matalika; and the rather interesting invention from Icecooldesign, The nice lady at Franz Fertig showed me how to create a sofa-bed, without pretty much lifting a finger.


People come to Trade Fairs, to do business. There were far more European vendors, than British, and they had travelled there for a reason. There were more conversations in Italian – than English. Everybody was happy to have a chat.


The comparative lack of people created an intimacy – you could progress in a conversation beyond the usual “meet and greet”.


For that reason, although the Fair was not large in size, by comparison to others at Excel – this was a more worthwhile experience.


There was enough space not to need absolutely a mask, all the time. Just to be on the safe side, I put mine on, when re-emerging onto the Excel hallway. I think we are in for the long haul with COVID into 2022, but hopefully long gone by the time we all get back for the same event in 2022. I’ll be among friends.

CAN NEW ENERGY THINKING, SAVE THE WORLD?


We interview Paddy Young, Director of Enlit Europe in Milan this November 21, and ask – if Energy has had a bad press from Global Warming, who will listen to its voices now?

Paddy Young sits back, across the screen from me. He is wearing a blue sweater, very relaxed in what appears to be an office environment, the image is a mix of social cool but also business mode. We are all chilled now.

As the “bringer to the market” of the first major event for the energy industry since European Utility Week & Powergen Europe rebranded into Enlit Europe and COVID planning took over – this is a milestone, that, following on the footsteps of COP26, are we going to see big announcements, big differences?

“No – this is an energy transition event”, he says. The big misconception of you and I, say, is that we want everything all at once”. Paddy continues; “Big gestures, grand concepts, will not themselves be necessary. But what we are looking for, is targeted integration from old to new”.

It is a valid point. This Enlit new-brand of event, is bringing together a segregated group of specialists, ranging from start-ups, through to established voices, each given their “area” or “hub” so to say, to talk about, guide, and show, where an energy future can go.

It is a practical meeting point. And Paddy himself is no specialist. He is a realist, He delivers events in vertical markets, where he can make a difference. His background, from studying in Bucks in the UK, to a global journey of delivering for large corporates, including being the messenger for a global water crisis for so many countries, his remit is to bring to our attention those aspects that we have passed over, but need to change.

The difference, between now – and former years – Paddy explains, “is that we are now entering an age of consumer empowerment. You and I do not have to buy this energy brand or that one. The success of which energy process succeeds will depend on the brand and its ability to engage with its market.”
“People may well choose to pay a bit more” he continues, “if we can start to “love our energy company”.

The fact that people can now make choices, “is that we are all together on the same journey, instead of being a supplier and a reluctant consumer”.

Enlit Europe is spread over three days. It is enough time for people to meet and link with the partners of their choice. We have finished our 30 minutes together – but could have gone on for much longer. “Very stimulating discussion”, he says.

IS DIGITALISATION THE SUICIDE NOTE OF BUSINESS?

We look at SEO and the epidemic of digital solutions in Biz Dev, and ask; are we missing the point here?

I have a colleague, who is Head of Procurement for some large areas of Scandinavia. And what he says is this; “Richard” – he says – “ I have deliberately stopped answering any emails, or any calls, from anybody I do not recognise. If you want me to talk to any of your people, just let me know in advance and I will put their number in my personal contacts.”

In the same way that the freedom of the internet has given us multiple information choices that should have given us a broader outlook – and the reverse has been true – that we only focus on those news feeds that say the things we already believe, – and made worse by algorithms that proactively feed us those restrictive views. So – the same is with SEO and all things digital.

We can now reach out to anybody on this planet. But so can everybody else. Which means that the people that we need and want to talk to – for our business growth, our customer service, etc – have long since made the decision not to be available, at all.

What that means is that, far from being simple to grow a business by finding a person who we do not know, and just giving them a call, has now become more than four times as long and four times as expensive, and now involves, pre-sales people, post-sales people, all manner of IT support and analysis, to do what used to be the straightforward and simple task of just phoning a friend of a friend.

But what is worse, is that this has given acceptance and justification, to being proactive in not making human contact possible at all. Woe betide any receptionist who passes on yours or mine contact details!

This means that both sides are the losers. Vendors of great solutions give up, because they cannot support the increasing drain open their marketing spend. And Corporates or our Public Services continue with their outdated practices because nobody has been able to show them otherwise.

If COVID restrictions have taught us anything, it is that human nature needs human involvement, and yet we seem to be travelling at warp speed in the opposite direction. It is as if we are scared about the whole process of actually talking together in a business environment, or being”sold to”. How terrible.

In our own business here at Profomedia, we research a lot and are continually building personal relationships. Whenever we want to find out something, we reach out and phone someone we already know, – who then introduces us to someone who we don’t.

There. It wasn’t so difficult, was it.

THE PURSUIT OF EXCELLENCE

We talk with Dr Minesh Patel, Partner at the Moatfield Surgey in the UK, and ask – how come they are so good at delivering healthcare for the common man?

Why is it in the UK NHS, that there are good surgeries, and not so good ones, and well, rank awful ones? Why are some standout – and others not so? If human nature is a common denominator, why are there not a set of standard rules, a sort of “go to guide for repairing a surgery”, a recipe book for getting it right, that we all can apply, and that’s job done? And if human nature is indeed the common linking factor, – does this explain why some surgeries are so terrified of change? And others embrace it.

At a time when “innovation”, and “digitalisation” are this year’s buzzwords, can these be imposed by some higher authority – “look, here’s some money, go and start this or that process?” – And if that is the case, then why do we not all have standout surgeries?

The answer is that my human nature, is not your human nature. In short, the success of a surgery, depends on the individual, and the mix of individuals, in each case. You’ve got to “want” to be innovative, to deliver excellence. The only question is whether this is nature at all – or nurture, can we “learn” to be innovative?

Minesh Patel hesitates as he answers this one. In his case, there was never much choice. His father was a doctor, his own daughter is a student doctor, so this is a family tradition so to say, The choice of working in a hospital, or running a surgery, was the freedom to improve and innovate given within a surgery, but it was a journey, taking in improving PCT performance, being Chair of a CCG, leading the clinical strategy development of a developing iCS, before settling and developing the Team at Moatfield, in East Grinstead.

Minesh readily admits that he cannot change or improve everything. Sometimes, the structures themselves do not lend themselves to change. And health inequality from one region to another, one person to another, is a life reality. Having said all that – is there a “process”, an attitude of mind, that is the difference , and what would be the roadmap for other surgeries to follow?

“The answer is little steps, all the time”, answers Minesh.

“At Moatfield, we have a daily huddle, we analyse all of our processes, and we act quickly. Our new website took just 4 days of re-tooling. We are not afraid to act if we believe in something” Minesh uses the word “innovative” a lot. 3 years ago, he became Chair of the National Association of Primary Care (NAPC), which he says has brought him into contact with a lot of like minded and talented people around the country, both within other surgeries and other providers, who are beacons of excellence, and who are learning from each other. It’s a case of seeing “what are the neighbours doing”. so to say. But it is also visionary.

Although we are talking about the daily routine, there is a focus also on the wider picture, why can’t we do things in a different way.

We are getting ahead of ourselves in the discussion.

As if on cue, I look at my watch – we have been talking for 29 minutes. “I’m really sorry!”, Minesh says…. “I have a patient call in a minute”