How Kadode Kampot Pepper Burst onto the UK Pepper Market from a Standing Start
This episode of the show features Michael Winters from Kadode Kampot Pepper. Kadode Kampot Pepper produces a range of exquisite peppercorns (black, white, red and a long red) in Kampot, a province in the south west of Cambodia.
Two key business challenges Michael has had to overcome are:
- the low awareness in the UK of the pedigree, provenance and world-beating flavour of Kampot pepper
- buyer and consumer perception that peppercorns are just another commodity
What You’ll Hear About in this Episode
In this episode of the show you’ll hear:
- how one of Michael’s voyages of culinary discovery and subsequent chance email about finding a source of Kadode Kampot pepper in the UK ended up with him becoming the source of the pepper
- an overview of the history of pepper in Cambodia, and why Kampot pepper is now so scarce
- how FarmLink, a collective based in Kampot, and co-owner, along with the pepper farmers, of the Kadode brand, partners with pepper farmers to help them find international buyers and become financially sustainable
- about FarmLink’s obsessive focus on provenance, quality, and hence taste
- how Kadode Kampot peppers swept the board at the Great Taste Awards, and how this validation is enabling Michael to re-position the peppers with buyers
This is the first of a two-part series about Kadode Kampot Pepper. Tune in to the next episode of the show to hear the second part of my conversation with Michael.
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Get the Show Transcript
If audio isn’t your thing, you can download a transcript of the show here: Ep #033. Kadode Kampot Pepper: Bursting Onto the Market From a Standing Start.
You can also find the full transcript of the show at the end of this post.
Very Sound Bites from Michael Winters
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Links Mentioned in the Show
- Kadode Kampot Pepper website
- Kadode Kampot Pepper on Twitter
- Kadode Kampot Pepper on Facebook
- Marjorie Shaffer, Pepper, A History of the World’s Most Influential Spice
- Michel Roux Jr
- Kampot Pepper Farmers’ Association
- Specialty & Fine Food Fair
- Great Taste Awards
Thanks for Listening
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Transcript of the Show
Michael Winters: Well it’s actually kah-doe-day. A lot of pronunciation is, it’s all about the tone; so kah-doe-day, which in Khmer means “gift from the earth”.
Catherine Moran: Hello, and welcome to episode 33 of The Artisan Food & Drink Business Show, the show where artisan producers tell their brand story and share the secrets of their success. I’m your host, Catherine Moran.
This episode of the show features Michael Winters from Kadodē Kampot Pepper, which produces a range of peppercorns including black, white, red and long red peppercorns.
Kadodē is the brand name for these peppers and Kampot is a province in the south west of Cambodia.
Kadodē Kampot pepper has to be tasted to be believed. You’d be forgiven for thinking, as I did, “what’s so exciting about peppercorns; pepper is pepper is pepper, isn’t it?” Well, no, we’re not talking “foodstuff as commodity” here; mass-produced unspecialised and undistinguished, rather, we’re talking a whole new level of flavour. The Kadodē Kampot peppers are a taste sensation, a true culinary revelation. Believe me when I say that these peppers are intoxicatingly delicious.
This concept of “foodstuff as commodity” is one of the challenges that Michael has had to overcome when introducing Kadodē Kampot peppers into the UK market, a market that’s naive to the long and acclaimed history of Kampot pepper. That challenge poses fundamental questions about how to position such an ingredient in such a market. Without wanting to pre-empt Michael too much, let me quote him here by saying “pepper is the new salt”.
A quick side note before we hear from Michael. If you listened to the last episode of the show, you might be wondering which company won the prize at the Galway food-tech Start-up Weekend, an event that featured on the last episode, episode #032. I’ll let you know the winner as well about a temporary change I’m going to make to the schedule of the podcast at the end of the show.
Let’s now hear from Michael.
Catherine Moran: Michael Winters from Kadodē Kampot Pepper, welcome to the Artisan Food and Drink Business Show.
Michael Winters: Thank you very much.
Catherine Moran: It is absolutely wonderful to have the opportunity to sit down beside you and talk high end pepper, and you have embarked on some fascinating voyages of discovery — culinary discovery — and have brought Kadodē Kampot pepper into the UK. But before we delve into that, would you mind giving us a very quick background, a little bit of background on what you did beforehand?
Michael Winters: Well, the events that got me to the point here, today, go back to 2008 when I took a career break. I’d never done so before and I’d set myself the task of going around Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos in a sort of anti-clockwise motion.
I’d set myself this sort of pyrrhic task of doing it all over land. I’d always envisaged going to Cambodia at some point, but I decided that I would fly into Thailand, because I went to Australia first of all, flew to Thailand, and then went straight to the Temples at Angkor Wat, which Cambodia is seemingly most famous for.
When I was on the flight over there, a lady from Australia sat next to me. We got talking and it turned out that here son-in-law had a guesthouse in a place called Kampot by the river. So she gave me his card. When I had been to Siem Reap, where Angkor Wat and all the temples are, I then made a beeline for Kampot and found this sleepy place on the river and quickly noticed that it was famous for its local pepper and also Kampot pepper crab, and various dishes using this local delicacy.
A few years before I had been in Kerala for Christmas and that’s when I actually discovered pepper could be completely a different dimension in the world’s only pepper exchange in a place called Cochin. So when I discovered, or, inverted commas discovered the Kampot pepper, I discovered another dimension, the fact that you could have it fresh; and there was black, and I got introduced to red.
I didn’t even know at the time that there was white available. I enjoyed my little trip to Kampot, so I vowed that I would do my trip around Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and I would come back again. I did at the end of my trip and stocked up on a load of this wonderful pepper, but just merely as a consumer.
Then I went back two years later, but I’d been planning it for some time. I thought, on this occasion, I’m going to find the best there is of this pepper because I introduced it to friends and they thought it was wonderful.
So, went back to Kampot and Kep, which is spelled “K-E-P” but it’s pronounced kipe, in Khmer, and that was originally a French summer resort when it was part of the French Protectorate, and that’s where I’d sampled the local, the best examples of the crab. The people I was staying with, and I was asking people around the locality, “Who would be the best producers of the pepper” and then, lo and behold, it turns out that there is a place called FarmLink, which was about 100 meters from where I was staying. It was that close.
Catherine Moran: That close, yeah.
Michael Winters: I went down to it on a bicycle. You could go, you could just cycle in there. There were some nets outside and what looked like some vines on the left. It turns out that was where all the pepper that’s produced on the local plantations that they work with… was processed there. I walked in and it blew me away because they were sorting pepper in the rooms off to the side with masks, and gloves, and tweezers and they allowed you to taste the pepper in front of them. That’s when I was introduced to the white. The smell was intoxicating, but the colour and the vibrancy of the black, the red, and the white was amazing so I filled my boots, really. I bought like a kilo of each to take back.
I also looked in to FarmLink and found out that they were a collective that helped the farmers go back to the land in the early 2000’s and then helped resurrect the industry, and all the farmers own their own land, and all that sort of thing, so the ethos was there. But I was still just a consumer, and I distributed this amongst myself and friends.
Then it just got to a point where we all, collectively, ran out and I just genuinely just sent a cursory email to FarmLink to say, “I know you’re a French-Khmer company, would you so happen to have a distributor in France or in the UK?” They wrote back to me and said, “Unfortunately, no, we don’t have a distributor in the UK at the moment. However, we have been considering wanting to engage with a partner for the UK market. Would you be interested?”
I almost immediately went back and said, “No thanks, I just want to buy some pepper.” I just then decided to have a think about it and a dialogue began from there.
Catherine Moran: Right. Wow. Gosh. What a lucky email to have written.
You’re a pepper expert. Would you give us a quick overview of the history of pepper?
Michael Winters: In Cambodia?
Catherine Moran: Yeah.
Michael Winters: The very first mention is by a Chinese trader… part of the Angkor period, so Angkor Wat. There was a traditional trading relationship with China and he was something to do with the court. I can’t pronounce his name properly; it’s something like Tchéou Ta Kouan. We might have to check that afterwards, but that was the very first mention in writing. The received wisdom of when pepper first came to Kampot is to do with trade. The Dutch and the English and Spanish and Portuguese were all trying to establish trading stations across the world.
In a place called Aceh in Indonesia, the Sultan of Aceh was having some problems with the Dutch. This is the received wisdom. I’ve actually approached … There’s a very good American woman called Marjorie Shaffer who wrote an entertaining book, well I thought it was entertaining, on the history of pepper. I sent her a message because the received wisdom is that the Sultan actually did not want the Dutch to get their hands on his peppers. Supposedly he burnt most of his pepper vines but then shipped some vines over to Kampot and that’s where they were planted. That’s the late 1870’s.
Catherine Moran: Oh, right, so relatively recently?
Michael Winters: Yeah, in that respect. Then it became a French protectorate and the French, with their gastronomic endeavours, spotted a unique phenomenon here. It grew perfectly. It produced amazing peppers so it was very well known, and still is, well known in French circles. They definitely have a history of it. Quite a lot of the well-known French chefs operating in the UK are familiar with it. Michel Roux Jr. actually purchased 2 kilos of the red. Did a very special duck dish with it that we never heard of, but he was very familiar with the peppercorns.
At one point, there were about a million pepper poles. You can imagine it was a product that was exported throughout the French empire. What happened was when the Khmer Rouge took over in ‘75, immediately all production of anything other than rice was stopped. The crops were decimated, the soil was untended — it wasn’t renewed or rejuvenated. Not only that as well, very particularly the Kampot region is… when it got to ‘79 that was also one of the final strongholds, or their last stands, were a lot around there, because the Khmer Rouge retreated into the mountains.
So even when people started to return to their land, one aspect of returning to the land is that you have to de-mine the land prior to beginning planting anything. That costs quite a lot of money. There’s still a number of deaths each year from unexploded ordinance left over from the conflicts of the civil war in the Vietnamese war because of the bombing that happened in Laos, in Cambodia. What you had then was a scenario whereby you’re talking a few thousands poles left.
Catherine Moran: In the whole of the country?
Michael Winters: Yes. If we fast forward now, fast forward from 2000 to 2015, they’re still only producing… last year was the biggest crop in 40 years. This is in totality, 40 tons of pepper. If you compare that to Vietnam who produced over 150,000 tons last year, they almost grow it as a mono crop.
Catherine Moran: It’s almost like a commodity?
Michael Winters: Well it is. That’s not to say that there aren’t little pockets of really good Vietnamese pepper. There’s an island called Phu Quoc, which is Vietnamese, but the territory is being questioned — who owns it? — for years
Catherine Moran: Which one did you say that?
Michael Winters: Phu Quoc Island, which is not that far from Kampot. It’s off the Southern tip of Cambodia and Vietnam, sort of in between the two. That produces some amazing pepper, but the vast majority of Vietnamese pepper is not… is just relatively tasteless, mass produced.
So, the scarcity of Kampot pepper is one factor. In order for it to be produced, it can never be massed produced (because of the PGI [protected geographic indication] status), it has to be grown in a particular region in Kampot and Kep and it has to be done in a particular manner. So it will never be a volume crop and the fact that obviously it’s not a cash crop —it takes 5 years like we said before — before you even have the ability to harvest pepper. It’s not a quick fix, but if you want the levels of quality, then it has to be maintained by hand. It’s very labour intensive in that respect.
Catherine Moran: What sort of geographical area is this grown in? Literally, surface area, miles, hundreds of miles?
Michael Winters: No, it wouldn’t be hundreds of miles. Maybe 50 miles? Maybe.
Catherine Moran: Tiny, actually.
Michael Winters: It’s not enormous, no.
Catherine Moran: So, you said that FarmLink is a collective, and it’s a French-based?
Michael Winters: Yeah, originally it goes back to the early 2000’s so, with Cambodia standing still for over 25 years because of, obviously, what happened with the Khmer Rouge, and then effectively a country that stood still for a long period of time even though they had elections in ’98. What had happened is, most joined the Khmer Rouge. Every other sort of agricultural production was almost non-existent apart from rice production. Farmers left the land and the vines were left untended. It went from about a million pepper poles to maybe just a few thousand, and that could be just in a few acres, effectively.
There was a gentleman called Jerome Benezech, a Frenchman who was living over there, and in the early 2000’s he realised that there was this amazing local product, but there was no market for it. I think, effectively, it was equivalent to obtaining 50 cents to a dollar a kilo for this pepper. What Jerome started to do was encourage farmers to go back to the land to farm in the most natural way possible. Then, as they encouraged more and more farmers to go back to the land, they effectively said, “We will try and find you foreign markets and try and obtain funding.” As much assistance as they could possibly give. I think it was quite a few ex-pats that started up with Jerome, but all the farmers own their own land. FarmLink was to be the sort of conduit to process pepper.
Then, in about 2005, FarmLink was formally set up. From that point, they started working with a small number of farmers and it built and built. So, to encourage farmers to go back to the land they, and still to this day, they give interest-free loans for any equipment they might need. They process all their pepper. They found lots of foreign markets for them. They were instrumental in obtaining Protected Geographical Indication status for it, which they obtained in, I think it was 2011. It is one of only two food products in the whole of Cambodia. Kampot pepper and Kampong Speu palmyra sugar — they are the only two products.
Catherine Moran: Right.
Michael Winters: Jerome was featured, funnily enough, in a Rick Stein Far Eastern Odyssey programme. It is the first episode of that where he goes and meets some pepper farmers and Jerome is on it. But Jerome had taken it only so far. He thought he had taken it as far as it could go, and by that time, great, I think he has got the numbers working directly with FarmLink to maybe 30 or 40, but then wanted to pass the baton on to someone else. That’s when two brothers came called the Lesieur brothers. FarmLink since then has developed into working with 120+ farmers, who all still own their own land. It’s not about land grabbing, it’s about working in partnership with the farmers.
Because of the Protected Geographical Indication status, and the Kampot Pepper Farmer’s Association certified Kampot pepper, it all has to be farmed in exactly the same natural way. So FarmLink are meticulously making sure that is followed, but at the same time, what they then bring to the processing of the pepper is the meticulous standards of cleaning, sorting, grading, but in the most natural ways possible. Because that is where a lot of pepper in the world is let down in terms of sterilisation, or mechanised sorting, or just even in the conditions where it is dried and cleaned. That level of professionalism is something that they would still struggle to this day with in Cambodia because it is still really now only coming out of the shadow of the dark days of the Khmer Rouge.
Catherine Moran: Mm-hmm (affirmative). You mention the certified status of the pepper. Before we talk a little bit more about that, I just wanted to clarify that Kampot is a province in Cambodia.
Michael Winters: That’s correct, yes.
Catherine Moran: And then Kadodē, is that really almost like a brand name?
Michael Winters: It is a brand name. It’s a brand name for the farmers as it were, because most of the pepper still is shipped abroad, because obviously it is a relatively new addition to the UK in the sense that Kadodē isn’t a brand outside Cambodia until, really, now. Effectively, for FarmLink, it is the brand of the farmers, it is their story, whereas what happens with a lot of the pepper, because its traditional markets obviously, were France and elsewhere like Japan, and Germany, which has a history of pepper trading. When it goes to those markets, it is re-packed, re-branded, and that’s something that we thought was lacking, effectively. Because Kadodē literally means “gift from the Earth”, and therefore, yeah, we thought the story just needed to be told, et cetera.
Catherine Moran: Yeah. It would be interesting to hear about some key facts about the peppers. Things like its habitat, the varieties that exist, and how they grow and, and how they’re cared for. Could you give us some insight on that?
Michael Winters: Yes, so first of all Kampot is a province in the southwest of Cambodia. It is very close to the sea, so if you’re in a pepper garden, specifically that’s what we work with, it is only farmers that work in fields of 3 to 500 vines maximum because they all tend to them by hand. But, imagine you’re stood in a field, and you’re looking in front of you towards the sea, but then behind you, you have the Phnom Voar mountain range. So you get both heat, you get quite a bit of rain as well, you get the wind off the sea, because quite a number of people who taste the products say they can taste the sea, almost. I don’t have that defined a palate. So you’ve got the sea in front of you, the mountains behind you, you’ve got this quartz, mineral-rich soil, which is obviously very important. Soil is very important.
You can understand why the French, who obviously are big on terroir for wines and just as wine are vine growers, pepper is also a vine grower. The way it is grown there is, it is grown attached to single poles and then the vine, obviously, begins to curl around it over the years.
Catherine Moran: It climbs up?
Michael Winters: It climbs up, yes.
Catherine Moran: Yes.
Michael Winters: It takes at least 5 years to mature so will not get a crop until that point. It is very delicate, so it has to be protected when it is younger. It has to be protected from above with either netting above the canopy or palm leaves. It is very tender and every pole requires 5 litres of water every 3 days. Then as it begins to grow, what happens in this particular botany, the pepper that is grown in Kampot is part of the piper nigrum family, so it is the pepper we are all familiar with, that we have grown up with, but it produces black, red, and white. When it is growing, most peppercorns are green, but the red then naturally appear. It’s all cultivated by hand, so when you take the green off the vines in what is known as drupes, and then that is laid in the sun, as it dries, it hardens and then it goes black. So that’s, effectively, the black pepper we know.
Catherine Moran: Right, yes.
Michael Winters: The red appears naturally as well, so those corns are picked individually off the vine. When they are taken off, they then obviously harden and go over a very deep red.
Catherine Moran: They stay that colour?
Michael Winters: Yes, but they go a very deep red.
The white is something that is quite different. The white is, effectively, from the red, mature red berry, which is left on the vine longer. When it’s taken off, it is then soaked, and then it’s washed a number of times, and then the outer husk, the pericarp, comes off, which produces what is known as white pepper. When you see it, and you have seen it Catherine, it is a bit of a sort of a creamy-
Catherine Moran: -Slightly buff?
Michael Winters: Yes. So, it is not pure white.
Catherine Moran: Yes.
Michael Winters: The piper nigrum family, on a lot of pepper around the world, effectively, it should be able to produce all three. However, it doesn’t seem to be the case. Especially not the same level of quality and uniqueness because all three of these peppercorns are, not just distinct from other pepper in the world, they’re very distinct from each other in both taste and smell. That’s a very unique aspect of this botany.
Catherine Moran: Genetically, they will be the same. Is that correct?
Michael Winters: Yes. In terms of piper nigrum, there are, effectively, I’ve got a figure here for you. There are, or recorded, approximately 2,000 species so it’s naturally grown in tropical environs. Then connected to the pepper family, but not piper nigrum, you’ve got another potential 1,600 species. So there are a lot of pepper-, or pepper-related, species around the world. This is very particular, and obviously, you know, the birthplace of pepper is India. There are a lot of different types in India. Quite a lot is grown in Indonesia and places like Madagascar. You have pepper grown in Australia, you got wild Tasmanian, and a few other varieties as well. It’s grown in a lot of places and it’s amazing how different a lot of pepper is from around the world. It’s just, this particular pepper just seems to be elevated or it’s right up there with the best there is.
Catherine Moran: In terms of flavour.
Michael Winters: Oh yes, and aroma, and versatility. It certainly changed my perception of what I thought pepper was.
Catherine Moran: Yes. Is it true that it grows in subtropical, or tropical, areas around the equator? That’s the conditions that it requires?
Michael Winters: Yes.
Catherine Moran: Yes. So it’s like chocolate, cacao, in that respect?
Michael Winters: Yes.
Catherine Moran: So it’s a tropical plant, really?
Michael Winters: Yes. I’m sure that you could grow it in laboratories, but for its natural habitat, it requires that combination of factors in order for it to grow.
Catherine Moran: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Sort of heat, humidity, and probably lots of rain as well.
Michael Winters: Hopefully. Yes, rain is a good thing.
Catherine Moran: It likes rain, yes. How tall do the plants, the individual vines grow?
Michael Winters: Well, the poles probably go up to maybe 12 to 15 feet. Once a vine has matured, it potentially can produce for about 10 to 15 years.
Catherine Moran: Wow!
Michael Winters: Probably the only thing that may be stopping it is the size of the wooden poles.
Catherine Moran: Right. What happens once the peppercorns are picked off the drupe, or off the plant? What happens next?
Michael Winters: Well the farmer will then, naturally, just dry them in the sun. That’s the very first stage. What then happens is, this is where FarmLink sort of takes over, because FarmLink are very meticulous about the drying process so they’ll have a first stage drying with the farmer. Then FarmLink will come over and they will obviously assess the crop, weigh it. They make all the meticulous notes because one thing that’s a key thing about what FarmLink does is that provenance is very important. They work with 120+ farmers, so whenever they go and collect the pepper after the first stage of drying, there are meticulous records kept. One thing you’ll note with every pack of FarmLink pepper that’s vacuum packed is there is an alpha-numeric code on each pack. You can trace every pack back to the farm, the farmer, the batch, and when it was produced.
So the pepper is then taken from the farm to FarmLink, who have these specially constructed horizontal nets, which they then put the pepper out in these nets to go through a second stage of drying. That’s the next stage. Then it goes to washing in a very gentle, it’s a USP they’ve created in a sense that it is a very gentle water washing. There are no chemicals. Nothing whatsoever.
Catherine Moran: So just water?
Michael Winters: Well, yes. The process I can’t discuss just because it’s something that they’ve developed. The key element is that it’s processed in the most natural way possible.
Catherine Moran: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Michael Winters: What happens in a lot of them there’s heavy sterilisation of peppercorns.
Catherine Moran: Is that done chemically or-
Michael Winters: Yes, chemically. There is another factor, irradiation then is a key thing. So in order to get rid of bacteria, because you have to be careful about aerobic and anaerobic bacteria, they put them through almost like a blast oven.
The problem that you get with both those processes, the irradiation and sterilisation erodes flavour, and also there will be no moisture content left, naturally, if you put that through an oven.
There’s a third stage process that FarmLink do which is, it’s not an oven, but it’s like a final warming of the peppercorns. The thing about that process is, that is also measured because they will only pack the pepper, it has to be within a certain percentage of moisture content guidelines. It will not be vac-packed unless it fits in between those tolerances.
Catherine Moran: Okay.
Michael Winters: If it was too dry it wouldn’t be packed.
Catherine Moran: And there’s no going back once it’s too dry?
Michael Winters: No, but they’re so meticulous in managing every stage of the process that I think that very rarely happens these days.
Catherine Moran: Yes. I’ve seen video on the web of some of the peppercorns being graded with tweezers.
Michael Winters: Yes.
Catherine Moran: That’s just incredible isn’t it?
Michael Winters: Yes, it is amazing to watch. First time I saw that… about 20 or 30 graders, they all wear masks and gloves and it’s in a sterile room, but literally every single corn is picked at a extraordinarily fast pace with tweezers.
Catherine Moran: Right. Every single one?
Michael Winters: Yes, because one thing about Kampot pepper, they’re quite large peppercorns. So, if there are really small ones then they always get put to the side but also, there’s really not much extraneous matter as well. When you get a bag of peppercorns, if it’s a 40 gram bag of pepper, it’s probably 39.9 grams of pure pepper. There’s no shavings, there’s no pericarps. It’s quite uniform as well. It’s a joy to see that.
Catherine Moran: Yeah, yeah. It’s absolutely incredible, yeah. That’s great.
You were mentioning the flavour. I’ve been very lucky to have had some tastings of the 3 peppers, and they are truly extraordinary. They’re sensational, and they’re a real eye-opener in terms of the flavour and the aroma. Just absolutely wonderful. It’s all very well me saying that, and in fact it’s all very well you saying that as well, but you’ve had nearly the ultimate accolade from the Great Taste Awards people here in the UK. You won the 3-star, the much coveted 3-star for, was it the red?
Michael Winters: It was the red, yes.
Catherine Moran: The red peppercorn.
Michael Winters: I believe only 130 products out of 10,000 were awarded 3 stars in 2015.
Catherine Moran: Oh, so just last year then?
Michael Winters: Yes.
Catherine Moran: Very recently. It’s really important to point that out. That shows how extraordinary they are. What effect did that have on inquiries and sales?
Michael Winters: Well it’s interesting you should say that because immediately after, no real direct impact on sales, but if I sort of rewind a little bit to the start of the year, because it was a project 3 years in the making, we only began trading January 2015. But, a year previous to that, I’d gone to Speciality Fine Food Fair and approached the Great Taste people and just said, “Look, I’m setting up a business. In about 3 months time we go live, and I’ve been looking in to the Great Taste Awards. Would we fulfil the criteria for entering, first of all, and do you think it’s a good thing?” And they said to me, “Yeah, look, you would definitely qualify to enter.”
And the more I looked into it, and obviously I’m quite an avid food lover, and I’d seen the badges around. I didn’t really know much about then and, obviously, when you start working in a particular field, then you look in to it. I noted that this was the most prestigious of all food awards out there. So, it was always in our plans to enter because, just as you said before, it’s all very well you saying these products are excellent, but it’s the case of…
And what happened for the first 6 months of last year, I would be contacting potential retailers or people, hopefully, to buy our pepper and say, “Would you like to buy our exceptional peppercorn?” And they said, “Well you would say that, wouldn’t you?”
Catherine Moran: Yeah.
Michael Winters: So we realised that, and also because of the culture in the UK, I mean there are a small number of people out there, companies, trying to elevate better pepper than we’ve all been familiar with for years, and also introducing exotic pepper to the market. But I thought, right, well we are going from a standing start here of trying to change people’s perceptions. So, we’ll enter all 3 peppercorns, so the black, the red, and the white. We’ll enter them. So it was always part of the plan. That was February last year.
We’ll enter all three, and just, you know, fingers crossed. We knew they were amazing, but that’s not down to me, that’s down to the farmers and FarmLink, you know. Like we say, we’re just the conduit, really, and we’ll do our utmost to promote it, and work with them, and work with the farmers. But, you know, we thought it’d be great if we could get, even if we got 1 star for 1 of them, it would help leverage just approaching companies. But then it turns out we got 3 for the red, 1 for the black, and 1 for the white, and I believe that’s the first pepper that’s ever got 3 stars.
Catherine Moran: Right, yeah.
Michael Winters: Yeah, I don’t think there would have been… if there’s only 1 with 3 stars, I don’t there’s been “across the board” where all from the same family, or the same vines, where you’ve got a clean sweep.
Immediately, like I said, no direct impact on sales, but it’s great because it means that when I started, and my colleagues started to contact companies, you know, we could say, “Would you like to buy some of our award winning peppercorns?”
Catherine Moran: Of course, yes.
Michael Winters: And that definitely helped, and then when we started doing exhibitions, we did this Speciality Fine Food Fair, you know, we had a lot of people coming up to us going, “Wow, you got 3 stars.” I didn’t realise how difficult it is. I mean I’ve been speaking to a guy recently who got, he’s got award winning ice cream and he had multiple awards. Lots of 2 stars. And he said one thing that sort of irked him was that they never got 3, and he said you should be really, really pleased that you did get that.
So, yeah, it’s great. It helps us elevate it, and also introduce it to people. Also someone is going to stock a high end pepper, then that sort of validation by the industry is very, very good. So, it’s very beneficial for us, but it didn’t have a massive spike in sales, but look, we’d only been trading 8 months when the results came out in August.
Catherine Moran: Not even a year. Yeah.
Michael Winters: No.
Catherine Moran: I hope you enjoyed hearing about Kadode Kampot pepper from Michael. Don’t forget to listen to the next episode of the show to hear the second part of my conversation with Michael.
You can visit the UK Kadode website at http://www.kadodepepper.co.uk/. There’s an online shop on the website, which gives you a quick and easy way to buy some pepper have your taste buds tingled and your mind blown. Michael is on Twitter as @KADODEPepperUK and check out Facebook too at Kadode Kampot pepper UK.
All links mentioned in the show are available at the show’s website which is myartisanbusiness.com. You can also download a free transcript of the show there. To get updates on when I publish new episodes of the show, subscribe to my email list at myartisanbusiness.com and I’ll let you know when new episodes are live.
At the beginning of the show I mentioned I’d let you know who won the first ever food-tech themed Galway Start-Up Weekend that took place in Galway over the weekend of the 8th to the 10 of April. Well, the winner is a company called Scanitive, which is developing a free app that allows you to see how many teaspoons of sugar in your food and drink, as well as proposing lower-sugar alternatives. So, congratulations to Scanitive. Scanitive is on the web at www.scanitive.com.
Next, a quick word about my publishing schedule for the podcast. I’m going to be doing a crazy amount of mostly food- and drink-related travelling very soon so I’m anticipating some disruption to my usual weekly publishing schedule. Please bear with me — I’m aiming to keep disruption to the minimum.
So, that’s all for this show. You can find me on Twitter as @FoodDrinkShow so please do get in touch if you have any comments or questions.
Until next time, I’m Catherine Moran, happy cooking, happy brewing, happy fermenting and thank you for listening.