The taste of Yorkshire is becoming renowned across the world
PUBLISHED: 00:00 12 August 2013
Our food and drink consultant Annie Stirk discovers there is a real hunger for Yorkshire cuisine abroad
It seems the Chinese have fallen in love with the notion of a traditional Yorkshire afternoon tea including Barnsley scones. Haywood and Padgett, fresh from showcasing its products at a Chinese trade fair this month are on the brink of securing deals with two firms. And it’s not just scones that are making overseas buyer’s mouths water. ‘The export market is very active in Yorkshire and has increased over the last decade,’ said Stephen Noblett, food and drink specialist for UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) Yorkshire and Humber.
‘We have organised trade missions to Iceland, France, Belgium and Spain over the last few years and with the government pushing to double exports by 2015, many more companies are looking to sell their products abroad. We’ve seen everything from Ilkley Brewery beers served at a British Embassy reception in New York to fish from Chilled Fresh Fish in Grimsby going to Vietnam; there’s never been a better time to export from Yorkshire.’
Hayward and Padgett which already supplies supermarket giants such as Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury, has over the space of just two years, begun selling scones in deals worth £50,000 to Japan and more to Australia, Spain, France and Portugal. This month, at the International Trade fair in Guangzhou near Hong Kong, the company attracted hundreds of fascinated Chinese visitors keen to taste its traditional teatime treat. ‘We took along our “tea box”, which has the whole package – scones, cream, tea etc – so we could introduce the Chinese to this English tradition,’ said Lee Ingram, senior account manager and buyer at Haywood and Padgett. ‘This is the first time we’ve looked to push our products into hotels and restaurants rather than retail and it has been very successful. One Hong Kong company has already shown a keen interest and it is a Selfridge’s-equivalent with 30-plus stores across China. We’ve also had interest from Kuala Lumpur – it’s all very exciting.’
Lee said it has also been interesting learning how other countries use our traditional fare. ‘British products have got a strong identity abroad, but that said they like to do things their own way. For example our Japanese customers prefer a much smaller scone and like to serve them with ice-cream.’ he said.
If selling tea to China seems ambitious then exporting Yorkshire cheese to one of world’s greatest cheese making countries could present even more of a challenge. But the Wensleydale Creamery in Hawes won contracts to sell cheese to the French in 2009 and now has an export business worth more than £2 million. The company’s success has encouraged other cheese companies to sell further afield.
Award-winning Shepherd’s Purse Cheeses, based in Thirsk, has begun selling eight of its cheeses to Switzerland, despite the fact that at least 400 cheeses are already made there. The company has also had interest from the Far East and America. ‘There’s a growing number of people travelling to Britain and Yorkshire who are enjoying the food here – and they want a slice of it at home,’ says director Caroline Bell. ‘Yorkshire food has a growing brand and this really helps us abroad, we’re definitely looking to expand our export market further.’
The British Premium Sausage Co in Bradford has also joined this culinary jet set, with its sausages, bacon and burgers now going to 14 countries including Malta, Qatar and the Falklands. ‘It’s been an incredible 18 months,’ said managing director Ian Cundell. ‘With our exports creating £500,000 of new business for us in the last year and accounting for one third of our total sales, we’re a bit battered – but obviously very pleased.’ Ian, who has just started selling into Greece and is about to export meatballs to Malta for the first time, said his best-selling product is the Yorkshire Premium Sausage. ‘The brand name indicates they’ve been given that British stamp of approval. They’ve also gone down very well with ex-pats and soldiers serving in Germany and the Falkland Islands.’
Indeed, it’s not just sausages that have proved popular with the armed forces. Breads, bakes, sponges and slices from Huddersfield’s ProperMaid bakery earned their stripes in February when they were chosen as one of the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes’ (NAAFI) ‘best of British’ foods to feed the troops in Germany and the Falklands. Serving soldiers at these bases will now be offered a much-missed taste of home, with more than 12 of ProperMaid’s ‘traditional cakes with a twist’ – including Dandelion & Burdock Cake (inspired by Huddersfield’s most famous export) and Sticky Ginger & Fudge Cake, based on the traditional Yorkshire Parkin. Nick Spencer, head of food and beverage at NAAFI, said: ‘We’re all about providing a taste of home and access to products that servicemen and women would not necessarily be able to purchase.’
Fruit and herb vinegar manufacturers Womersley, based in Leeds, has also won an export deal with Denmark. Its gourmet vinegar range – which includes unusual flavours such as Golden Raspberry & Apache Chilli, Strawberry & Mint, Lime, Black Pepper & Lavender – are now being exported to four countries, with a plan to add at least three new markets to the portfolio by the end of the year. ‘After we won three golds at the Guild of Fine Food Awards in 2012, and our raspberry vinegar was voted one of the top 50 foods in Britain, the rest of the world began to take our tiny Yorkshire-based business seriously,’ said Womersley’s Wendy Preston. ‘Export has seen our company increase annual turnover by 25 per cent in just the first six months.’
Wendy puts the company’s success down to its ‘great products and great reputation’ but added that ‘plain Yorkshire speaking’ has helped too. ‘People don’t just buy in to a product they buy into the passion and drive and honesty of the people who make it all happen. Yorkshire charm is definitely the secret,’ she said.
Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, agreed and said food and drink was one of the drivers that won over the organisers of the Tour de France. ‘As a county, we are a source of some of the finest food and drink in Europe, and more and more menus feature Yorkshire in their descriptions because it has become synonymous with quality,’ he said. ‘Meat, cheese, rhubarb, beer, pickles and sauces are just some of the foods making culinary waves, and the taste of Yorkshire is going global with good reason.’