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05 Mar 2024

Vhari Russell on the importance of innovation, growing a greener future, and the return of comfort food

Vhari Russell on the importance of innovation, growing a greener future, and the return of comfort food

Speciality & Fine Food Fair catches up with one of it's longest standing ambassadors Vhari Russell, Founder of The Food Marketing Experts and Founder of The Fair's charity partner Creating Nature's Corridors, to hear her insights into the latest industry trends and why she loves the world of speciality and fine food. 

How did you first enter the food & drink industry?

I started in the food industry at the age of 22 working for a large importer and distributor called the John Lusty Group. My first role in the food industry was working in confectionery and snacks, focusing mainly on own-label confectionery products for Tesco and Sainsburys. I worked on the first Tesco Finest Easter Egg. 

What is your current role in the sector?

I run a marketing, PR and social media agency we specialise in sharing brands stories and helping them create the pull to drive sales. We very much believe that everything we do is done to drive sales as without sales brands don't thrive. 

What are some of the key trends we might see in 2024?

Personalised health products as our health is our wealth, more focus on gut health. Food that awakens the sense, offering a true experience. Comfort food is also coming back.

Have you seen any new products recently that you found exciting or innovative?

Yes I think the food industry is full of innovation and seasonality often drives this innovation. Innovation is taking so many different levels from the packaging to the growing processes. I recently heard a story about a chocolate brand that has worked with growers to stop growing cannabis and instead, they are growing cocoa. With the new EU deforestation regulation we are going to need to be more innovative around this. 

What challenges are food & drink producers experiencing at the moment?

Costs of everything are a big challenge at the moment. It is time to get creative and think outside the box to ensure your brand stands out and drives the sales forward. 

Tell us a bit about Creating Nature’s Corridors and your partnership with the Fair

 In October 2018 my brother tragically died of Sudden Adult Death Syndrome at the tender age of 37. Rory was a carpenter and created amazing structures from green oak. The shock of Rory’s death led me to question what I would leave behind, what would be my legacy when I left this life. 

Creating Nature's Corridors

My vision is to plant oak trees to replace the ones used by Rory in his woodcraft, as part of our goal to plant 10,000 trees and hedging plants per year. We are just coming to the end of our third planting season at which point we will have planted 30,000 plants. We are keen to do more and keep growing a greener future. We are delighted to be one of the charity partners for the show, as the donation we get enables us to plant more trees and hedging plants that combined with the Montgomery Group team [organiser of the Fair] volunteering is a wonderful partnership.

Tell us about your history with Speciality & Fine Food Fair, what do you enjoy about it?

I have been working in the industry for a number of year and Speciality & Fine Food Fair has always been one of the must-attend events. I have been a show ambassador for the last four years and I love being part of the show. It is a wonderful showcase of food and drink and enables us all to get together to meet and make delicious things happen. I really enjoy the awards that the show runs and helping judge them is a real privilege. It's great to see the brands grow year on year. 

Find out more about Creating Nature's Corridors at creatingnaturescorridors.co.uk. Keep up to date with all the latest news, interviews and industry trends by subscribing to the Speciality & Fine Food Fair newsletter. 

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