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Organic Expo*

July 30, 2009

*featuring the Green Show

I recently received free passes to go to the Organic Expo. Until I was contacted about it, I had not heard of it. My obliviousness might have something to do with the fact that I haven’t been reading much traditional press recently (have given up my regular Age habit due to low levels of tolerance for the whimsical stylings of the current writers) and also by my relative apathy towards “organic”. I buy free range eggs and chickens, and pick up organic fruit and veg at the market when the value is reasonable, but I don’t actively seek out “organic” products/produce.

I managed to misread the press release and thought it was the Organic Food and Wine Expo, so was very surprised by the number of textiles and cosmetics exhibitors. And I didn’t realise that it was also featuring the Green Show, which is why so many of the aforementioned cosmetics exhibitors seemed to have nothing to do with organic at all. My mistake. I probably need to attend some sort of Reading Recovery. Of course, there was food and there was wine. We went early on Sunday, which had its upsides (it wasn’t very crowded) and its downside (too early for wine).

If you’d told me at any time prior to 10.30 on Sunday morning that there existed chocolate – real chocolate, not compound stuff – that was nasty, I’d have called you a heretic and had you melted down as fillings for sweet, scrumptious truffles. Imagine my excitement when I saw how many purveyors of chocolate were represented! Some of it was lovely. Some of it was… hideous. Really, truly hideous. There was chocolate with the texture of an over-copha’d chocolate crackle. There was chocolate that didn’t seem to break down at all whilst being eaten – the flavour leeched out after a couple of chews leaving an oddly fatty-fibrous wad. It was perhaps a Willy Wonka-esque not-yet-ready-for-consumption attempt at an all-day-chocolate. Almost a life-changing experience.

Green & Black’s chocolate is not one of the nasty ones and they had scored a prominent position by the entry. I was a tad confused by their approach, though. We were told that the best flavour is the sour cherry… but it wasn’t available for tasting. Both our local independent supermarkets carry Green & Black’s, so when we saw the hazelnut and currant and raisin and hazelnut we exclaimed over the new flavours only to be told that they’d both been around for “ages” but were only available in health food stores. I don’t understand the thinking behind this; it would seem to be deliberately limiting the market. Given that the “only available in health food stores” varieties weren’t being offered for tasting when we went by, I won’t be changing my shopping habits to seek them out.

Most of the food on offer was processed – snacks were well represented – where it would have been good to have a greater representation of whole foods providores (butchers, grocers etc). Compared to, say, the Good Food & Wine Show the tastings were far more accessible – perhaps due to the smaller scale – but we had a less than 50% success rate (read: enjoyment rate) on the samples we tasted. Why “organic” seems to mean “gritty” is a major conundrum. Spiral Foods makes the sesame crackers that I covet above all others. Unfortunately they weren’t offering those. Instead, we sampled a snack made from some rice flakes that tasted like tamari and had the texture of finely ground gravel. Mmmmm. Gravel.

I don’t usually buy much at shows, and the exhibitors certainly weren’t going for the hard sell. The Chipman guys were generous with their sample offerings and mentioned their prices for purchase at the show but many exhibitors had to have the retail availability/price details dragged out of them. People – put up a sign/price tag things/mention what discount show purchase represents over regular retail… you’ll actually find that it helps! Despite the horrible company name, Nana May’s Magic Hands would have had a sale if they’d followed up the sample “mini-mani” with an offer1. The lovely representative didn’t mention price at all, even when asked where the product was available2. Oh, and if two people are wandering past and checking out your stall, don’t elbow one out of the way to get to the other. While I’m ranting, if you are an exhibitor, know your product. How often does your newsletter come out? Twice a year? Quarterly? That’s not hard to learn if it’s the only thing you’re offering!

Lots of new, yummy products to look out for. Some of the things I hadn’t tried before, but will definitely be looking out for were:

  • Carwari Tahini and Honey Butter.The representatives were enthusiastic and the product was lovely.They also have a black tahini, which I didn’t try, but I do adore black sesame so I’m sure I’ll grab some if I find it.
  • Ceres Organics nut butters.Cashew butter is one of my all-time favourite toast spreads, and their version was delicious, but the almond butter was sublime.
  • Absolute Organic vegie crisps.We bought a packet of the beetroot, one of the sweet potato and a lime and black pepper potato.

A lot of companies were either still sussing out distribution, or were in the early stages of getting deals done, which is a problem for impulse shoppers like me. If I was to walk into my supermarket or grocer and see one of the products I’d tried (and liked), I’d probably buy it. Six months down the track I mightn’t even remember it.  Of course, given the disdain that some exhibitors seemed to have for supermarkets and “non-health” shops, I mightn’t ever come into contact with them again anyway.

As a chance to wander around a beautiful building (the Royal Exhibition Building is so much lovelier than Jeff’s Shed), un-harassed, chatting and trying things it was great, but finding out about prices and availability seemed a little too much like pulling teeth sometimes.

= = = = =

1 I still might order online. It was pretty amazing (albeit “natural”, not “organic”), and I am very loyal to my Mecca hand products.
2 She said the products were available at markets (didn’t specify which ones), shows “like this” (didn’t offer to sell any) and “offline”.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 31, 2009 2:40 pm

    Great review of the show, I felt I was there with you.
    When I think of organic food I think of health food, which is not a negative thing. However I get the shits when it is junk food with the word organic on it. I don’t care if the sugar is organic, but organic lollypops are still junk. Oh and they charge three times the normal price.

    I am like you free range and sometimes organic eggs. Ok I confess I have a two tier egg system going on in my kitchen. Organic for eggs on toast etc, and free range for egg wash. This neurosis comes from the fact I grew up on a farm and ate fresh, fresh eggs all the time.

    That almond butter sounds delicioius, I am going to get some.

    • injera permalink*
      July 31, 2009 6:12 pm

      Oh, x2 on the “it’s still junk”! We were tucking into our organic chips and I checked the nutritional information: 30% fat. Gah!

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