A wholesale initiative to stamp pride into Cornish crops.
In Cornwall, we are lucky. Blessed by a favourable climate, an early season and plenty of passionate food growers, there is every reason why we should be able to chomp and munch our way through a staggering variety of fresh, local and seasonal supply of salad, vegetable and fruit.
Yet, what should be isn’t always born out in fact. “The reality is,” says Mark Oughtred, Brand Development Manager for Growfair, “10 years ago there were many more local growers in Cornwall than there are today. Poor financial returns, often below their break even costs, had left local growers very disillusioned and in the likelihood of becoming a rare breed unless something could be done to change things.”
With this in mind, wholesalers Bristol Fruit Sales (BFS), with 50 years of experience and 20 years in Bodmin, launched Growfair in April 2008. “There was a gap in the market for a strong, and easily recognisable, ‘fresh produce’ brand that the customer can relate to as being genuinely Cornish and authentically in season,” Mark explains. Starting with 12 growers, the scheme has quickly grown. It currently supports a portfolio of 25, producing 30 different products so far.
Put simply, ‘Growfair – Pride of Cornwall’ is an initiative to make fresh, local produce into a premium brand. The creation of uniform ‘Growfair’ brand packaging across many different varieties of local fruit, vegetables and salad crops, promotes the value of Cornish produce. It is both reassuring to the customer, and enables the wholesaler to command better prices for the growers.
David Wallis farms at Ludgvan overlooking St. Michael’s Mount. He said, “Growing is a job you put your heart and soul into, and having it promoted under Growfair is something I’m proud to say I’m a part of”. A third generation farmer, David grows the most fantastic crop of Cornish potatoes with varieties including Rocket, Minerva, Riviera and Arrow.
The growers buy their own ‘Growfair’ packaging direct from the manufacturer in Scorrier who delivers it to them and doesn’t make restrictions on minimum orders. “We also send the boxes back to the growers so that they can be reused as much as possible,” adds Mark, “and in order to reduce costs, food miles and CO2 emissions, Growfair produce is collected directly from local farms on the backhauls of our daily delivery runs to our customers. To ensure freshness we aim to turn produce round from the grower to the customer within 24 hours.”
In less than two years the success of Growfair is proving that this straightforward and simple idea was right on the money. Growfair now delivers locally grown vegetable, fruit and salad crops throughout the year to top hotels, restaurants, pubs and retailers right across the county. The other good news is that BFS lorries bringing exotic produce into the county no longer need to return empty. Growfair produce is now been taken up-country and thus their market is widened.
Just outside Wadebridge, Ian Backway’s 50 acres are ideally suited for brassica crops and he grows a wide variety of cabbages, cauliflowers, onions and leeks. He said, “Whenever someone goes out of their way to support farming it should be encouraged. Growfair is all about bringing the best product, sourced locally, to people who will really appreciate it, and I am proud to be part of that.”
The end of 2009 rounded off nicely with Growfair Pride of Cornwall brand winning a prestigious national award at the BBC Radio 4 Food & Farming Awards in London. The award for ‘Best Retail Initiative’ (which includes wholesalers), was presented by Their Royal Highnesses, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall amongst other celebrity ‘foodies’. To have beaten off the likes of Co-op and over 100 other entries across the whole of the UK is a ringing endorsement.
BFS Joint Managing Director Nick Matthews says, “Winning such an award reflects the hard work and commitment that our growers and the Bristol Fruit Sales team have put in to create a brand we can all be very proud of.”
For Further information:
Growfair-Pride of Cornwall, 2-5 Callywith Gate Industrial Estate, Launceston Road, Bodmin, Cornwall, PL31 2RQ
Tel: 01208 77911