How Michael Winters from Kadodē Kampot Pepper is Managing a Portfolio of Gourmet Products
On this episode of the show Michael Winters from Kadodē Kampot Pepper describes how he is managing a portfolio of award-winning gourmet foods from the Kampot region of Cambodia, including:
- white peppercorns
- black peppercorns
- red peppercorns
- long red peppercorns (a world first)
- palmyra palm sugar
- an additive-free flower of sea salt
What You’ll Hear About in this Episode
Michael describes how his products have attracted attention from culinary thought leaders like Michael Roux Jr., Yotam Ottolenghi and Anthony Bourdain. It’s darn easy, though, or it seems darn easy, to influence the influencers if your product quality is unsurpassed.
Michael talks about the importance of product sampling and how sampling can be a great way of getting customers to spread the word about your products. He also talks about distribution, and why it is so important to be choosy about your distribution partner.
This episode of the show is the second part of my conversation with Michael Winters. To get the full story of this amazing Cambodian food brand I suggest you listen to the first part, which is #034: Kadodē Kampot Pepper: Bursting onto the Market From a Standing Start, before you listen to this episode.
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Get the Show Transcript
If audio isn’t your thing, you can download a transcript of the show here: Ep #034: Kadodē Kampot Pepper: Managing a Portfolio of Gourmet Products.
You can also find the full transcript of the show at the end of this post.
Very Sound Bites from Michael Winters
Check out the chart below for some direct quotes from Michael during the show.
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Links Mentioned in the Show
- Kadode Kampot Pepper website
- Kadode Kampot Pepper on Twitter
- Kadode Kampot Pepper on Facebook
- Lemongrass Restaurant — the only Cambodian restaurant in the UK
- The Food Assembly blog
- A review of The Food Assembly in The Guardian by Joanne O’Connell
- The Telegraph Food and Drink Section
- Maldon Salt Company
- Halen Mon
- Cornish Sea Salt Co
- Hebridean Sea Salt
- Isle of Skye Sea Salt Company
Thanks for Listening
Thanks for listening to the show. If you are a food or drink producer who would like to come on the show (there’s no charge) to talk about your products, or if you are an industry professional who would like to talk about your services, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me by using the Contact Form on this website or by tweeting me @FoodDrinkShow.
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Transcript of the Show
Catherine: Hello, and welcome to episode 34 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 is the second part of my conversation with Michael Winters from Kadodē Kampot Pepper. To get the full story of this amazing Cambodian food brand I suggest you listen to the first part, which is episode #33, before you listen to this episode.
Kadodē means “gift from the earth” in Khmer and products in the brand include a range of peppers — white, black, red and a long red pepper. Kadodē’s long red pepper is the only long red pepper produced in the world, and less than one ton will be produced this year. But there are other products too, a sensational palmyra palm sugar and a hand-harvested, unrefined, additive-free flower of salt. All natural products, minimally processed: true gifts from the earth.
On the show Michael describes about how he has introduced these products to the UK market and how he is essentially managing a portfolio of gourmet products. He talks about the importance of product sampling and how sampling can get people experimenting and therefore spread the word and create a sort of grass roots buzz about the products.
In a lesson in influencing the influencers, Michael describes how he has had great success introducing his products to the likes of Michel Roux Jr., Yotam Ottolenghi and Ramael Scully. When culinary thought leaders like these guys talk about their love of a particular product the rest of us sit up and take notice.
Michael also talks about a bête noire of artisan food and drink: distribution, and why it is so important to be choosy about your distribution partner.
Let’s now get on with the show and hear from Michael Winters from Kadodē Kampot Pepper.
Catherine Moran: So let’s move on now and talk about your role with Kadodē Kampot Pepper in the UK. What is your sort of official title?
Michael Winters: Pepperman. Yeah that’s what…
Catherine Moran: You’re the official Pepperman. That’s wonderful.
Michael Winters: Yeah. Well I call myself that. Yeah. We’re not a big company, co-founded by two people. And we work with a small number of people so my title is anything and everything. Anything that needs doing and everything that needs doing is down to me.
Catherine Moran: But you are the voice of that particular pepper in the UK aren’t you?
Michael Winters: Yes, yeah. We’re not just a distributor or an importer. We’re here to develop all farming products as much as we can and also evangelise about the pepper and the country and the farming because we have a real affinity with Cambodia.
I think that’s something that… I fell in love with the country when I was there in 2008 and I have a real affinity with it. The people are wonderful and you think… it’s like this holistic thing where we’re concerned about promoting the product as well as the country as well, as there’s lots of great cultural aspects. There are a lot of great other food products. But it’s pretty unknown, really.
So I personally feel a responsibility to try and project the most positive elements that its got going for it. Look, it’s got problems. We all know that. If you work there, there are issues but there are lots of great people trying to do really good things with some amazing products. So if we can be a part of that by introducing those elements to the UK… I mean, there literally is one Cambodian restaurant in the whole of the UK.
Catherine Moran: Just one?
Michael Winters: One in Camden, yeah.
Catherine Moran: Do you mean one genuine, or just …
Michael Winters: Well, it is run by Cambodians. Yeah. But they have been in the country for over 20-odd years. But it’s amazing isn’t it, that we have lots of Vietnamese restaurants and Thai restaurants?
Catherine Moran: Yeah. It’s an undiscovered country and cuisine probably really, isn’t it?
Michael Winters: Yeah. There’s similarities because it’s all the same landmass, Thailand and Vietnam…
Catherine Moran: Yeah. Next door to each other.
Michael Winters: …they border each other. Yes. And there are similarities. But they do have distinct elements, but maybe it’s up to us to help bring those aspects to people, maybe so…
Catherine Moran: Right. So what would be some typical business activities that you undertake on a day-to-day basis?
Michael Winters: Well a lot of last year was about making contacts, samplings. So we do a hell of a lot of samplings with people. We sell on line through our website. We’ve also dipped our toe in the water with Amazon and maybe some other digital channels. We’re obviously working with some food producers, because we sell larger amounts, the one-kilo amounts, to restaurants or food producers. It’s relatively select so we want to work with the right sort of partners.
A lot of connections that were made last year are beginning to come to fruition. We might also… I think we might be about to join The Food Assembly. There are a few set up. Because we’re based in London, it’s a good way to introduce ourselves to people interested in food and locality. We’re never going to be in supermarkets because it’s not a volume crop. So we’ve had some good meetings with multiples and high end specialist retailers. And I would say we’ve worked with quite a number of… we’re keen to work with, rather than customers, with restaurants — it does seem to be more of a collaboration.
Catherine Moran: Right.
Michael Winters: Because it’s a journey for them in terms of experimenting with the flavours of these, and aroma of these peppercorns. And yeah, we’re sort of meticulous in who we choose to work with on that front. But then, we get some interesting approaches from angles that we’ve not thought of. For instance, like charcuterie specialists, crisp manufacturers, distillers. So yeah, the obvious channels that we’ve thought, they’re actually being opened up by different people. For instance, at a couple of exhibitions last year we got approached by a lot of chocolatiers.
Catherine Moran: Yeah.
Michael Winters: Because the red seems like it could be… because it has a sweet and smoky element to it.
Catherine Moran: And visually very attractive as well. It’s very striking.
Michael Winters: Yes it is. And then, also, a new pepper that we’re introducing, a long pepper. People even say how it smells cacao-ish like. So yeah, there could be elements there. I mean, obviously salted caramel’s been the big thing. I don’t know why… maybe pepper and chocolate… There’s quite a lot of chilli in some high end chocolate
Catherine Moran: Oh, yeah. Well it’s been all the rage for quite a few years, hasn’t it? It’s interesting that even though it’s terribly early days for you, you’re now getting people approaching you and wanting to put your product in their products, and use your products as an ingredient. That’s a real thumbs up really, isn’t it?
Michael Winters: So one thing we found that’s very useful for us is sampling. Because whenever we get in front of people, if people are a bit reticent prior to speaking with us, then we just do a sort of an aroma and tasting session. And when they smell the peppercorns, because they’re very distinct at each stage of the grind. So, there’s one aroma when they’re the whole corns, then there’s a coarse grind, and then is a fine grind, there are different elements, just in terms of the aroma, there.
Catherine Moran: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Michael Winters: And especially because they are so distinct between all three of them, people start to realise there’s a lot more complexity to them. And then they taste them, or we do a lot of mini sampling. So we’ll send people some five gram samples. We’ve done that quite a bit with out online sales. So, if someone orders say some black pepper, we’ll send them some red and white and say, have you considered these? Because, I think, and I would’ve been the same a few years ago, the default setting is black pepper, black pepper, black pepper. And one thing that we’ve been keen to do is, I mean obviously it’s better for numbers, but we try and sell it in a trickle.
Because then if they can compare and contrast they realise that the black is the fiery one with a lot of heat, but then it’s got some floral elements. The red, oh this is a bit interesting, it’s sort of smokey and sweet. And then the white is like this zesty, this aroma that…
Catherine Moran: It’s very spirited, the white.
Michael Winters: Yeah it is… well it’s actually, it’s very subtle but it has the longest length in terms of heat as well.
Catherine Moran: Okay. So how would you describe the differences between the three peppers?
Michael Winters: So the black is, when you taste it first of all, it’s quite fiery, there’s plenty of heat there and length. But it then becomes a little bit more “florally”. People have said hints of cedar and eucalyptus. I’m not that sophisticated in terms of my palate. But it becomes very subtle. You have to recalibrate your cooking with the black because you really don’t need to use anywhere near what you would normally use. I would say at least half.
Catherine Moran: Right.
Michael Winters: Yeah, because the flavour is just there. It does linger, and in cooking, I used to over-season. Far too much heat there. It’s very versatile, though. You can use it on anything. I mean, as an initial testing, I always like to use any of the pepper on things like a cheese on toast or a fried egg or something very simple. Whites of eggs are always good as receptors for flavours. A lot of chefs do that a lot of time.
And the red, the red is smokey, sweet, a lot of people seem to use it on pork. There is definite heat there, but there is a hint of sweetness.
Catherine Moran: Mmm.
Michael Winters: And there’s still a lot of floral element to it. Versatile once again, but yet very, very, distinct from the black straight away. You’ll notice the difference between the two if you’ve had them separately.
Catherine Moran: Yeah.
Michael Winters: And then the white, as I indicated before, the aroma of it is very, very zesty. The only way to describe it is cross between lemon and lime. And you get that zestiness with the flavour, but that has the longest length. It’s brilliant with, I think it’s very versatile, but it’s brilliant particularly with seafood.
Catherine Moran: Right.
Michael Winters: It’s fantastic. Funnily enough, as well, we had someone that infused some vodka with it. Was using it for their Bloody Mary’s. And they would infuse the vodka with the white, and then they’d do a garnish with the red. [Laughs]
Catherine Moran: [Laughs] Yeah, very classy.
Michael Winters: And it was very nice. I must admit.
Catherine Moran: Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah, yeah.
Michael Winters: But it is very… all three are very versatile. We have people that give us feedback and tell about these flavour combinations and I’d never have thought of them and very interesting. Like the red on savoury porridges, and things like that.
Catherine Moran: Yeah, yeah, mmm.
Michael Winters: But, yeah there are lots of weird and wonderful flavour combinations people seem to be coming up with.
Catherine Moran: Yeah. I can imagine. And that’s just going to grow, isn’t it? As they become more well known in this country. You have had some fantastic PR for the peppers. Do you employ a PR agency?
Michael Winters: No. [Laughs]
Catherine Moran: Oh really? So you’re doing it all yourself?
Michael Winters: Yeah. Well, we realise it’s down to us to, like we say, to evangelise and try and get things out there. But yeah we’re making inroads. It’s great. It’s quite positive. I mean, look, we’ve been very lucky in the sense that, obviously there’s the Rick Stein connection. Michel Roux, after buying it tweeted about it.
Anthony Bourdain is a fan of the pepper, and then more recently for our long pepper that we’re introducing, you’ve got Yotam Ottolenghi eulogising about it. So in that respect, that definitely helps. And then we’ve had some good support from some little features in some of the national press and food magazines and things like that.
Catherine Moran: Yeah I saw that lovely piece, was it the… it’s the called the “Bitegeist”.
Michael Winters: Well that’s in The Telegraph isn’t it?
Catherine Moran: Yeah.
Michael Winters: Yeah we’ve actually featured… only to a very small degree, but both in The Telegraph. Once in October and then once in January as well.
Catherine Moran: That’s the Carolyn Hart page?
Michael Winters: Yes. That was in the Food and Drink column. And the “Bite Geist” is something that they have “a going up and going down” and thankfully ours was going up. [Laughs]
Catherine Moran: On the up, yeah, yeah. But I think often these smaller, little snippet pieces are almost as good as the big spreads because you take it in within four or five… ten seconds, you can ingest the information. And sometimes they make more of an impact ,I think.
Michael Winters: Well I must admit, in terms of sales, the direct impacts we would then have on our online channel of trickle, because we do a special offer on the website for that. Because the whole point is we’d like people to try all three. Because then we think that they won’t just stick to traditional… they’ll experiment. But yeah, it has led to a really big spike just in the trickle of sales. So there are people obviously that are all willing to try it.
And we also do a little bit of feedback. Every time someone purchases something from us we just like to find out where they found out about us. It’s quite interesting, some of the people’s narratives of like trips from a few years ago or some would say, “oh I saw your mention in The Telegraph” or another magazine or something. And that’s quite good. But it’s interesting that there are people that have visited in the past but not found what they see to be the right calibre of Kampot pepper until now.
Catherine Moran: Talking about the online sales, obviously somebody will place an order and then the product is sent out to them in the post, in the mail. How do you otherwise handle distribution?
Michael Winters: We haven’t used a distributor until now because we’re very keen to… if we work with a distributor, we want to be really partnered with them we don’t really just want to be a product of a few thousand, because at the moment what we found is trying to raise the profile… Pepper is still regarded effectively as a commodity. It hasn’t had the same thing that’s happened to the gourmet sea salt so… I believe there’s a good quote from, and I’ll sort of paraphrase it, from the CEO of Maldon and he said one of the biggest single factors in their success most recently was when Delia Smith kept banging on about it every week on her programme. And now, you have obviously, you have some wonderful producers from… so you’ve got Maldon, got Halen Mon, you’ve got Cornish, you’ve got Hebridean, Isle of Skye…
Catherine Moran: These are all salts of course? Yeah.
Michael Winters: Yeah they’re all salts, but salts, gourmet sea salt now is an aspirational product. People aren’t prepared to have the iodised salt we used to have as kids. They want something more. And also, for instance, as well, you’ve got the more exotic salts from France like the fleur de sels and stuff. But pepper is still lumped in with all the other spices. And really, as far as we’re concerned, it’s the other key condiment, as it were.
Catherine Moran: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Michael Winters: And because it’s used, maybe not as much, but in a hell of a lot of cooking on a daily basis.
Catherine Moran: Well arguably it’s healthier for you as well isn’t it?
Michael Winters: Yeah, yeah. I mean in terms of the biology for instance, we were talking to a potential customer who is exploring anti-carcinogen elements in certain peppers, particularly long pepper is what they’re researching at the moment. But it’s been used in Ayurveda obviously for thousands of years, so it will be very interesting to get a chemical breakdown. A lot of, traditionally, in India for instance, have used it for your digestive tract and in some sort of elixirs and things like that. But it would be good to do some extensive research as to potential health benefits there. Yeah. I think it would be very difficult to take too much pepper as opposed to taking too much salt in food.
Catherine Moran: Yeah, yeah it’s a totally different proposition. In view of the way that sea salt really has been repositioned in terms of its marketing, and it’s now seen as an aspirational and a highly gourmet product, doesn’t that mean that there’s an opportunity there for your peppers…
Michael Winters: Yeah I agree, I agree. I mean look, very sort of banal little phrase that we use, and we use it at the exhibition as a bit of a joke, is that “pepper is the new salt”. We use that example because it is perfect in the sense that it was just regarded as a commodity. And if you look at even where it’s positioned in delis now, it’s gotten elevated status. It’s quite up front — it’s quite prominent because it’s obviously a good seller. One multiple retailer I did speak to earlier last year, and the words will probably stay with me for a long time, but I said “would you consider stocking some amazing peppercorns?”, and he said “unfortunately, it’s not a sexy enough category”. But I just thought… I took that as almost as sort of a…
Catherine Moran: A throwing down the gauntlet?
Michael Winters: …exactly yeah. A point to prove, but that’s fine. Look, the thing is there are lots of chefs, famous chefs, that don’t know about Kampot pepper. And probably think they know about pepper, but all I would say is “all right, wait ‘til you smell and try this”.
Catherine Moran: Yeah.
Michael Winters: And there are other peppers from around the world, but I think this is really up there with the best of them. And it’s the sheer versatility of it. But, as far as I’m concerned, these are everyday peppers. We just think this is the way peppers should taste. Because, you know, until I went to Kerala 2004 I probably just thought pepper is pepper is pepper, what’s the difference? What does it matter? You know? And I went to Kerala and I saw this Pepper Exchange and we were taken into the back because our driver’s friend lived in Cochin, and we got taken into the inner sanctum, and we got introduced to some wonderful peppercorns and then I realised that obviously, yeah, it meant a lot to these people, and there were lots of different types there.
Catherine Moran: Yeah. It was obviously a real eye opener.
Michael Winters: Yeah definitely.
Catherine Moran: But I think it’s a great opportunity, and it’s all going to be down, therefore, to how you position it and, literally, the words you use, the marketing messages that you use to sell it to consumers and people like chefs and retail outlets.
So, clearly, you’ve got quite a few good chefs on board, so the catering side of things is going to be important to you. And you’ve got your on line sales. And you’re looking… you’re not adverse to selling to delis and farm shops…
Michael Winters: No, no that’s what we do. Yeah we do that. We want to do a lot more. I think this year we’re going to be out on the road a lot more. Maybe food markets and… because like I said, when we get in front of people, and that might be the best way to help spread the message. Should say that, we were talking before about distribution…
Catherine Moran: Yeah.
Michael Winters: …we were approached recently by someone who’s setting up a distribution model purely for the Great Taste Award products… the high end. So, yeah, it looks like, I mean that sounds like a very good idea. So these are curated products…
Catherine Moran: Do you mean this person will be distributing only Great Taste Award winners?
Michael Winters: Yes.
Catherine Moran: Okay.
Michael Winters: But I think it’s a very select amount, so it’s almost like a curated selection. And we’re likely to feature in that and obviously can’t provide any details at the moment but… they will be approaching some multiples and high-end delis that might be able to stock obviously a curated selection.
Catherine Moran: Yeah, okay.
Michael Winters: And, because we felt that that’s the right sort of profile alongside some obviously some great calibre products, we feel that we wouldn’t get lost just in a large selection of product lines.
Catherine Moran: You’d be in good company wouldn’t you? So you’d really all benefit.
Michael Winters: Yeah I’d like to think so, yeah.
Catherine Moran: Yeah from each other.
Michael Winters: I think people would be expecting these all to be top-drawer products. And obviously, there is a premium pricing element but ours is by no means exorbitant in price. I actually think because you use a lot less, I actually think the value for money with this product is akin to what you’d spend normally. You just use twice or three times as much.
Catherine Moran: Yeah. What are the prices of your products?
Michael Winters: Black is slightly cheaper because there’s more of it. The red and the white… I mean the white is about five to ten per cent of the crop. So, in retail terms the black starts at five pounds for a forty-gram pack, the red is five-fifty, and the white’s at six pounds.
Catherine Moran: Alright. Because you can get a lot of peppercorns in forty grams.
Michael Winters: Yes you can.
Catherine Moran: Yeah. Yeah it’s quite a, it’s a nice chunky bag isn’t it?
Michael Winters: And they all come vac pac sealed. So one of the key things is that it’s vacuum sealed at a very particular, in a temperature controlled room, at a very particular moisture content. So when you open it, it is the freshest it could possibly be. It’s not being repacked in the UK like most peppercorns.
Catherine Moran: Right, okay.
Michael Winters: So it doesn’t lose moisture or freshness. You know, peppercorns have a three year shelf life.
Catherine Moran: Yeah. What was the most difficult hurdle you faced when importing peppercorns into the UK?
Michael Winters: Well we’re quite lucky in that respect because, being a French Khmer company they’d obviously already had an established market in France. So, although we made the inquiries with regard to importation and commodity codes and all those sort of things, we didn’t need to go down that route because that’s all done when it goes into France, so it fulfils all the necessary criteria.
Catherine Moran: Because it’s the EU, European Union link?
Michael Winters: Yeah, yeah. Yeah exactly. And also like I say, they are established. They’ve been doing it for a number of years over there. Because that was initially the only market they would ship to, and then they onward ship from there to the rest of Europe. So, for the Swiss and German and French customers. So then it’s just … and the fact that we don’t repack, we don’t process. So it’s just merely shipped, onward shipped to us in the UK.
Catherine Moran: So it comes from France but from Kampot into France and then out to…
Michael Winters: Yeah it’s directly shipped from Kampot to France into the warehouse, and then they sort, obviously, the necessary onward shipping for the respective customers.
Catherine Moran: Is it shipped globally?
Michael Winters: It’s shipped to Australia, it’s shipped to the States, Japan. Quite a few countries.
Catherine Moran: Okay, yeah.
Michael Winters: By sheer virtue that there isn’t a great deal of it, so there’s a finite amount. And that’s the key element as well. For instance, there hasn’t been an amazing amount of rainfall this year, so next year’s crop, maybe the yields might be slightly less than this year. So the proof will be in terms of, it’ll be interesting just to see next year. For instance, of the forty tons that were produced this year, there might be less. So, we haven’t run out yet…
Catherine Moran: Yeah.
Michael Winters: … and obviously the thing is, because we actually partnered with FarmLink is that we’re given priority…
Catherine Moran: Right.
Michael Winters: …rather than if there were just a third party customer selling elsewhere in the world.
Catherine Moran: Yeah, yeah. That’s good, that’s good you’ve got that security there. Will you be representing any other Kadodē products? Because it’s not just the Kampot pepper that comes under that label. Isn’t that correct?
Michael Winters: That’s correct, yeah. I mentioned earlier that there are only two products, food products, in Cambodia that have Protected Geographical Indication states, and another one of those is a palmyra sugar. So it’s from the Borassus flabellifer tree, which is the palmyra tree, which is part of the palm family. And it produces, from the palm flower, produces a juice as they call it… I don’t know, we might say a sap. And it produces this amazing dark brown sugar. But not sugar as we know it. So it contains no glucose, so it’s mainly… the vast majority is sucrose, fructose, some potassium, and some amino acids and minerals. It’s unbelievable. I stopped having sugar in my tea a few years ago, but if you dip your finger in it it’s very moreish. It can be used in baking or in southeast Asian cooking. I mean, I used to use some very pale, what I thought was palm sugar off of block. But this is in powder form, the smell is amazing. It’s almost molasses-like. And it’s… because of the ingredients, it’s got a very, very low glycaemic index, GI index. It’s less than thirty. But that’s something that we’re just launching.
There is a fleur de sel, so a flower of sea salt, a very delicate salt. But the key one is a brand new pepper, which is unique to us in the world, which is a Cambodian long red pepper. And no one else in the world is producing this. I’ve seen black long peppers from India and Indonesia, but I’ve not seen anything like this.
Catherine Moran: Like the long red? Yeah.
Michael Winters: Yeah. This is pretty amazing. I mean in terms of production amounts, we’ll be struggling to have a ton of this. If we think the Kampot peppers are scarce, this stuff really is.
Catherine Moran: It’s going to be like gold dust.
Michael Winters: Well in that respect, yeah. And also I mentioned to you before, we also found a way, or Sebastian found a way, of extracting the seeds from these long peppers as well, to form a sprinkle. That’s another, that’s another product.
Catherine Moran: Another challenge.
Michael Winters: Yeah, it is another challenge to actually get that to market. I mean, let’s just worry about taking the long pepper.
Catherine Moran: That’ll be like caviar.
Michael Winters: Yes.
Catherine Moran: Pepper caviar.
Michael Winters: Pepper caviar. That’s what we sort of call it, yeah. Because it will be in very small amounts. We don’t even know how much we could produce of that because obviously it means that you’re not producing the actual pepper, or the amount of corns it would take just to produce, you know, fifty grams of seeds would be a hell of a lot. But it is amazing. It looks like a catkin. They grow vertically. Piper longum grow upwards, and then I believe it’s Piper retrofactum grow downwards. It smells a bit like stalactites and stalagmites.
These grow upwards and they have a sort of colour of strawberry. But then, when they’re dried in the sun, they go a sort of, it’s a very dark red… “reddy”-brown. And then, in terms of taste, they’re almost chili like, but when people smell them, people mention things like cacao and hops and this is another one that chocolatiers, that when we debuted the samples a few exhibitions last year, they all said this would be perfect in chocolate. So we’d be interested to see. I mean literally we had our first shipment… I was down to my last two boxes and we already had a customer using it. As I said before we do a certain amount of sampling, and as a result of James Martin on Saturday Kitchen playing the clip from Rick Stein when he was in Cambodia with Jerome Benazesh, the FarmLink founder, on the show at the time were a number of chefs and two of them, Yotam Ottolenghi and Ramael Scully obviously from…
Catherine Moran: From Nopi?
Michael Winters: … from Nopi, yeah, and Ottolenghi, yeah. And I thought to myself, well why not send them some peppercorns. So we did. We sent some samples over and then we just leave this for a while. I generally… people will come back to me in time. I mean, sometimes pepper is not something you experiment with straight away. You don’t expect them to try it immediately. And I did a follow up in January, and their test kitchen came back to me and just said obviously because of Christmas there wasn’t much activity, and then the next week I had someone from the test kitchen saying “we really like your long pepper. We want to use it in something”.
Catherine Moran: This is form Ottolenghi’s test kitchen?
Michael Winters: Yeah. So what’s transpired is, the long pepper, which is not even in the country, apart form our vac pac samples was already, or is already on the menu in a pineapple chutney which they have and serve with pork belly. It’s pretty amazing. I went to Nopi and they showed me the list of ingredients just in this dish and it’s like over twenty-one ingredients but you can definitely taste the heat from the pepper.
And what I had to do last week when we received the first shipment, I had to rush over five milligrams over to them on Friday because they were running out. So I didn’t want to let them down. So, that’s like a happy accident in that respect. But this is a really exotic pepper. I’d be very interested to see what combinations people come up with because we haven’t even got the definitive tasting and aroma notes for it yet, which are only a guide for people. So I’m sure other people will dictate to us what they think it smells like and tastes like and reminds them of. So, yeah. Things like that can only be positive for us so we’re very appreciative of that.
Catherine Moran: Yeah, yeah. Getting thought leaders behind your product is strategically very important. I don’t know if this is, if you would have anything to say, but I’ll ask anyway. What advice would you have for anyone thinking of importing and representing a gourmet food or drink product from a far-flung country?
Michael Winters: Well that is a very good question. See, the experience that we’ve got from the pepper, I mean it did come form a love of the product first and foremost. But it wasn’t a romanticised notion when I thought of considering the original email to say, “we are looking for a UK partner, would you be interested?” I did do a lot of research then. It is a bit like what you were saying before. I was thinking well, we’ve had this revolution in the salt industry. If this is as really as good as I think it is at that point, it’s worth exploring.
But the key thing is while I… because I’ve been there in 2008, when I went back was sort of familiar with the place but I had it in my head to find the best producer of it. And we’ve had lots of people come up to us that are potentially competitors, and just said well we don’t stock Kampot pepper because we know we can’t compete with yours or FarmLink. But I think that’s the key thing. If you are going to bring something that’s exotic, that there’s no reference point and you’re going to work with a local partner, do your homework because it’s … we were quite lucky in the sense that they already had a trading relationship.
But what we’re finding, because for instance, what this scenario’s produced is that we were then approached by a rice manufacturer from Cambodia that wants to introduce this organic rice, which has won the world’s best rice for the last three years. So, looking into that, because we’re going to be directly, even just distributing, there are a lot of I’s to dot, t’s to cross just on this side.
The cost element as well to make it work for yourselves, has got to be… we’re quite lucky in the sense that we’ve got the luxury of time and developing a new market for Kadodē because they [the rice producer] haven’t done it under their own brand. So they weren’t expecting immediately to sell in enormous quantities because you know there’s a cultural thing. You know, it doesn’t have the same history as France or Germany in the pepper context. So I’d just say do your homework. I mean, it’s only limited exposure we’ve had but, and because our process was, it was from the point I emailed them I didn’t sign a contract until fourteen months later.
Catherine Moran: Gosh, right, yeah.
Michael Winters: So we started talking in September ’12, I think. Yeah. And then we went back out to Cambodia end of December 2013, early 2014 and we obviously met up with them and we met with some farmers and we looked at the processes, and only beyond that point did we then make the decision that we were going to sign a contract and work with the guys. And they asked us to come up with what we thought, how we’d like to enter the market, and that’s one of the things that they found really interesting. That we didn’t just want to repack. They really liked the idea that you wanted to continue the narrative of the farmers’ story and FarmLink, because they’re both inextricably linked.
But yeah, I’d just say just don’t jump in. I mean it can be very difficult. Cambodia’s difficult to ship things from, certain things. For instance, it has an agreement in place called “Everything but Arms”. But try telling that to Customs and Excise, initially. And you tear your hair out finding all these duty clause exclusions. Not the most interesting things, but necessary if you don’t want to pay duty on products that you shouldn’t be paying duty on, because that can make you then uncompetitive. If you’ve done your homework and you think that the world needs to be introduced to this product, go for it. I think it’s good on you if you’re willing to do that.
Catherine Moran: Yeah, yeah. Well Michael thank you so much for your time. It was an absolutely fascinating conversation and I know that our listeners will be amazed at the stories you told. And best… basically best wishes with the future.
Michael Winters: Thank you very much. And thank you very much for having me today.
Catherine Moran: Oh, it was a pleasure.
I hope you found Michael’s account of positioning the Kadodē product range in the UK interesting and inspiring.
You can visit the UK Kadodē website at http://www.kadodepepper.co.uk/ and Michael is on Twitter as @KADODEPepperUK.
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.
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Until next time, I’m Catherine Moran, happy cooking, happy brewing, happy fermenting and thank you for listening.