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Welsh mushroom expert to compete on Aldi’s Channel 4 TV show

GARETH Griffiths-Swain from Gwynedd, North Wales, will appear on Channel 4’s ‘Aldi’s Next Big Thing’ on Tuesday 7th May, 8pm.  

The entrepreneur is founder of Fungi Foods, a startup specialising in fresh exotic mushrooms, including the Lion’s Mane variety. Not currently on offer in any UK supermarket, the large, white, shaggy mushrooms are named as such, given they resemble a lion’s mane as they grow. They contain bioactive substances that have many beneficial effects on the body, especially the brain, heart, and gut. Also known as Hericium Erinaceus, the mild flavour and meaty texture of Lion’s Mane often gets compared to lobster.

Gareth was picked from hundreds of applicants competing for a contract to stock Aldi stores nationwide and will be presenting his versatile dried version of the functional shrooms.  In dried format, it can be used in cookery or added to soups, coffee, smoothies or tea, as an easy way to consume daily.

Presented by author and broadcaster Anita Rani and Chris Bavin, of BBC’s The One Show and Eat Well for Less, the six-part series will see suppliers compete in a range of categories including dinners and baked goods, as well as exciting new category additions: party, world, and confectionery. 

Products are presented to Julie Ashfield, Managing Director of Buying at Aldi UK, who deliberates on factors such as price, packaging, shopper demand, and the ability to scale up, before shortlisting contestants down to just two.   

Finalists are then given four weeks to address any feedback, with a follow-up home visit from Anita or Chris who will report back their findings to Julie. The three then taste test the improved products, before Julie decides the winner which will appear as a Specialbuy in over 1,000 stores.   

Julie Ashfield, Managing Director of Buying at Aldi UK, says: “What’s exciting about this category is the creativity and ingenuity we see. In terms of trends, there’s gut health, menopause support, plus advances in plant-based products and functional foods and drink. We’re looking for something that ticks the box of healthy and nutritious but also has all the flavour and innovation that our customers love.”

Gareth claims mushrooms are a sustainable, versatile, and delicious food source, and it’s his mission to showcase the beautiful varieties out there.

Gareth says: I believe mushrooms have a big part to play in the future of food. There is a lot of neurological research focused on two compounds found in Lion’s Mane that help the growth of brain receptors. In doing that, they can improve memory, focus and concentration.”

The multi-category competition is part of Aldi’s ongoing commitment to support British suppliers. Last year, Aldi spent an additional £1.3 billion with British suppliers and growers, and they provide more than three quarters of all items sold in its stores.

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The supermarket has also introduced a ‘Best of British’ section to its website, which includes a wide selection of groceries from meat to dairy products and everyday essentials, in a bid to help shoppers support British businesses.

To find out if Gareth’s Lion’s Mane mushrooms made it onto Aldi’s shelves, watch Aldi’s Next Big Thing on Channel 4 on Tuesday 7th May.