The fantasy that is Fairy Floss

ON ENTERING Paul and Genevieve Loxley’s manufacturing space I am met by a sea of black and white and pink. These three colours are everywhere: on the walls; on Paul and Genevieve’s uniform; on the checkprinted picnic baskets stacked in one corner; on the myriad tubs of floss stacked neatly on every horizontal surface.

All the tubs are identical at first glance and the fairy floss inside gives no hint of the flavour locked within – it’s a uniformly white and fluffy substance that looks as light as air.

However, when I take a sample from a random tasting tub I am hit with a taste explosion! Sweet coconut flavour floods my tongue and lingers long after the floss has dissolved. I turn to Genevieve in astonishment.

“That’s called the ‘pop’,” she explains, her bright eyes twinkling in amusement at my reaction. “We love watching our customers’ faces when they try the floss – sometimes we tell them the flavour beforehand and sometimes we don’t – and when they put it in their mouth and the flavour hits, their eyes pop.”

Spun Fairy Floss is a small Sunshine Coast business that, like its product, is going places. Although commercial production started only six months ago, the business roots go back many years.

Paul & Genevieve’s new take on an old favourite

Paul, Genevieve and their young son moved here from Sydney about 16 years ago to run an art gallery in Mooloolaba. Like many small business entrepreneurs, they’ve had their share of ups and downs: the failed gallery was followed by a successful hair accessory business, and now the fledgling Spun Fairy Floss enterprise, with many yet-to-be-explored ideas in between. The key to their endurance is that Paul’s business brain is matched by Genevieve’s passion for finding new opportunities.

“I’m a Google-maniac!” exclaims Genevieve. “I always seem to be ahead of the wave – I just know what’s going to be the next new craze.”

Not scared of grand ideas, they decided to change the way confectionery is made, starting with fairy floss.

According to Paul and Genevieve, normal fairy floss uses toxic colouring – “don’t get it on you, it takes weeks to get it off your skin” – and contains a list of ‘E’-numbered artificial colours and flavours as long as your arm.

“We wanted to produce a fairy floss with no E-numbers, no colours, no artificial flavours, no preservatives – just sugar and natural flavour,” says Paul, animatedly. “We like the purity of the white floss.”

With the aim of producing a gourmet product, they spent three years working on how to produce the flavours and improving the quality of the floss. This involved trialling different sugars and a number of machines to achieve the desired attributes, explains Genevieve.

“A beautiful floss should have no sugar crystals in it,” she says. “It should be fluffy and dissolve on your tongue and disappear. Commercial machines spit it out so fast that it comes out crystalised and stringy, so we utilise smaller machines.”

According to Paul, not all sugar is vegan as some sugar refining processes use animal bones as a filtration method. They use Bundaberg sugar, which is certified kosher and vegan.

“We don’t use organic sugar, which comes from Brazil, because it has an additive that affects our machines,” he says. “Anyway, we want to use Australian sugar and to produce an Australian product.”

The flavours, which are made by food scientists using only natural ingredients, are also certified kosher and organic. They started with the basic flavours first: strawberry and watermelon.

“Everyone equates fairy floss with strawberry,” Paul explains. “So to keep our customers happy, we started selling with half normal, half unusual flavours.

“Now we have flavours like coconut, pomegranate, liquorice, horseradish, pear, sesame, white chocolate, and ginger (it’s beautiful!).

“Chris from Pomodoras on Obi came and picked up all our ginger fairy floss the other week.”

Genevieve continues: “We also combine flavours: we’ve combined pineapple and coconut to make a pina colada flavoured floss. We’ve got champagne and strawberries, and even rum and coke.

“There are so many we haven’t spun yet because we’re so busy!”

Paul takes me into the manufacturing room and demonstrates how he makes the floss. It’s a fascinating process, with the machine conjuring up the spider web-like substance seemingly out of nowhere. At some appropriate moment, Paul collects the floss out of the machine and bundles it into a large plastic bag, from which it will be packed into the tamper-proof tubs.

Apart from straight eating, Spun Fairy Floss has a variety of uses, including cake decorating and for bonbonniere (or ‘bomboniere’, is an Italian word for “favours” or gifts given by hosts to their guests on special occasions such as weddings).

Paul and Genevieve have also supplied floss for use in cocktails at events. For example, the strawberry-flavoured floss can be put in a champagne flute, with or without strawberries in the bottom, and the champagne poured over the top so that it bubbles up. “It’s very dramatic – it definitely has a wow factor!” laughs Genevieve.

In another left-of-centre use, Paul recently used their figflavoured floss on a cheese platter for the Real Food Festival Thank You Party – I can testify that a cracker with a piece of local chevre and topped with a pinch of fig fairy floss is a delightful combination.

It seems the possibilities for this intriguing product are endless!

For more information about Spun Fairy Floss, including stockists around Australia, see www.spunfairyfloss.com.au