Every now and then we are going to hang out with some of the cool foodie folk we get to work with or who we have bumped into along the way to find out a little bit more about what makes them tick, both on the ‘shop floor’ and in life more generally.
We call the series “5 Food Minutes with …“
Tessa Stuart helps food brands to give their products the best chance of finding their way into customer’s shopping baskets. She literally spends hours in supermarket aisles, engaging directly with shoppers, finding out that makes them choose particular products. Her knowledge has found its way into 2 best-selling books and her skills are much-sought after by start-ups and established businesses alike. We are particularly excited to hear which products Tessa believes we should all be looking out for.
We were delighted to catch up with Tessa for ‘5 Foodie Minutes‘.
Hi, who are you and what foodie mischief do you get up to in your day job?
I’m Tessa Stuart and I’m a stalker. I watch and interview hundreds of shoppers a year, right there at the supermarket shelves as they are buying food products. I work with global brands and one-man bands to research their food products with real shoppers to make sure that their branding really stands out.
I do affordable consulting by the hour on the phone with smaller food businesses on their branding and potential customers. I’ve also written two best-selling food business books, ‘Packed: The Food Entrepreneur’s Guide‘ and ‘Flying Off The Shelves‘.
I regularly speak at food industry events.
What inspires you?
Artisan food businesses inspire me every day. It takes huge guts, courage and enormous amounts of energy to open a bakery, run a deli or an independent café, and even more of all these to keep them going.
Where in the world do you get to hang out doing your foodie thing? Can you tell us a little of what is so special to you about ‘place’?
I am mostly to be found in various supermarket aisles chatting to lovely shoppers, but I also love getting to visit Wales, Nottinghamshire and other lovely spots for food business events or to meet farmers, honey makers and vegan cheese inventors. Put me down in any new place and I’ll be hunting out the good cafes and delis and intriguing food businesses within minutes.
Which 3 food (or drink) producers should the foodie world know more about?
My current chocolate addiction is Pump Street Chocolate – they make glorious chocolate. I finally got to visit their lovely bakery in Orford, and if you’re ever in that direction, you must make a detour for their melt-in-the-mouth Canadian butter tarts.
I’m also eating large spoonfuls of Utta Nutta peanut butter. Made by Katie in Wiltshire, this is so fresh and so crunchy and delicious.
On my last hiking holiday to Cyprus, I took From Our Farm grass-fed Welsh biltong and I know The High Street Delicatessen wisely stocks this one (after we headed to Pembrokeshire to meet Mike and Rachel)!
I’d also recommend Kinomi Nuts made by Hiromi Stone – the best nuts ever, with stunning seasoning.
Where was your last holiday … any ‘hidden gem’ recommendations?
Last year we went to Getaria in the Basque Country. It’s a glorious old fishing village, just along the coast from San Sebastian, but without the crowds. We discovered the stunning pinchos and cheesecake at Elkano Txiki, Calle Elkano Kalea, and ate lunch and dinner there every day. We justified it by surfing it off on the spectacular surfing beach at Zarautz nearby.
What is your favourite meal?
Being a bit in love with Spanish food, the Other Half and I occasionally slink off to Barrafina in Adelaide Street off the Strand, settle onto the bar stools and watch the chefs cook up gloriously fresh fish and Iberico pork, suckling pig and tortillas in front of us. It’s one of the most lovely food experiences to have in London.
You have £30 in your wallet/purse and an open mind about supper – where do you head to locally and what do you buy?
We are lucky enough to have Natoora near us in Chiswick, so I’d take my £30 there in a few months from now and buy all their gorgeous Italian produce – ripe Sicilian Datterini tomatoes, fresh buffalo mozzarella and a huge bunch of fragrant Italian basil, which I could inhale happily all the way home. Oh, and a couple of their perfectly ripe yellow peaches.
Favourite food writer?
The cookbook I use most is ‘A Modern Way To Cook‘ by Anna Jones. I’ve discovered how delicious vegetarian cooking can be from her; her leek and tomato cassoulet topped with sourdough croutons gets made at least once a week in our house. I also have many Nigel Slater cookbooks, and particularly love his Kitchen Diaries, so handy to turn to the month we are in and see what he suggests to cook.
Most comforting ‘comfort food’?
Because it’s so grey this Spring, I’ve been making rice puds a lot – playing with my nutmeg grater is irresistible and making clouds of aromatic nutmeg fall onto the surface of the milk is one of life’s small but significant joys.