August 7, 2008

Coals to Newcastle?

By Chris Kelsey

IN what seems like a classic case of taking coals to Newcastle a Bridgend company is breaking the mould by selling pasties to Cornwall.

Jones Organic has been selling its traditional handmade products in the home of the pasty since July.

Around half its monthly output of 6,000 frozen organic pasties goes to Devon and Cornwall. The company also makes around 3,000 pies a month.

Jones Organic was set up by Mike Sweetman in January last year and initially operated out of the National Assembly-backed Food Centre Wales at Llandysul.

After six months of development the company launched its range of frozen organic pasties to the wholesale market.

"We try to get as many ingredients as we can from Wales and the local area, but it's difficult to guarantee that throughout year," Mr Sweetman said. "The chicken always come from Haverfordwest and recently we've been buying beef from somewhere near Bridgend.

"All our ingredients have to be 100% fully accredited organic. If we were to try to buy stuff locally from non-accredited sources it would be illegal."

Jones Organic sells its pasties to small retail bakeries, farm shops and delis. The bakers do not need their own organic licence to bake-off the pasties.

Production soon outgrew Food Centre Wales and last December construction began on the company's own dedicated organic bakery in Bridgend.

Once the new bakery was operational in April, sales expanded fromthe base in Wales to the West of England, taking the number of staff up to five.

Mr Sweetman, 35, learned to make pies and pasties at the Swansea- based Sweetmans bakery business set up by his grandfather but no longer in the family. His research convinced him there was a market for organic versions of the classic savoury favourites.

"I found that almost everyone loved pasties and pies but many consumers were suspicious about the ingredients they were made with and so didn't buy them very often," he said. "I also wanted to change the perception of organic food.

"People see organic as 'posh' or premium food. I see it as proper food made in the right way, and we're trying to make that as affordable as possible. Organic food is a mass market thing now.

"It's expensive, not because the margins are higher, but because the yields are lower at the producer's level because the farmer can only get half as much from the land."

Mr Sweetman is sanguine about the campaign by Cornish pasty makers to have the Cornish pasty name protected by the EU Commission, in the way the champagne name is protected.

"I don't think it would affect our business because we're operating in our own unique sector.

We're the only company to make frozen organic pasties, and we're very proud of our quality."

Jones Organic pasties are not sold as Cornish pasties and are made with puff pastry instead of short crust pastry. Its best- selling organic steak and vegetable pasty is heavily influenced by Welsh beef cawl, and contains chunky vegetables including leeks.

Cornish pasty makers fight for name When is a Cornish pasty not a Cornish pasty? When it's not made in Cornwall, according to the Cornish Pasty Association.

The CPA is applying for the traditional savoury to be given a protected geographical indicator (PGI) by the EU Commission and has received the support of Defra in its application.

If successful it would mean that Cornish pasties would enjoy the same status as champagne, Jersey Royal potatoes and Roquefort cheese. Only pasties made in Cornwall to a traditional Cornish recipe would be allowed to be called Cornish pasties.

The CPA says its members produce more than 86 million pasties every year, and that 13,000 people benefit directly or indirectly from their trade. "All the members source a large percentage of ingredients locally and are important providers of year-round employment," said Angie Coombs of the CPA committee.

According to the CPA, a genuine Cornish pasty has a distinctive 'D' shape and is crimped on one side, never on top. The texture of the filing is chunky, made up of uncooked minced or roughly cut chunks of beef (not less than 12.5%), swede or turnip, potato and onion and a light peppery seasoning.

The pastry casing is golden in colour, savoury, glazed with milk or egg and robust enough to retain its shape throughout the cooking and cooling process without splitting or cracking. The whole pasty is slow-baked and no flavourings or additives must be used.

Angie Coombs said: "It is unfortunate that many pasties currently sold are labelled as Cornish pasties but are made outside of Cornwall without following a traditional recipe or baking manner. These products are inferior in both quality and taste and over time will erode the reputation of the Cornish pasty with consumers."

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