Tag Archives for Cornwall

Look after the nippers

View of the beach from New Polzeath.Image via Wikipedia

It is not often in Cornwall that you are hoping it will rain but when you are a lucky entrepreneur, you arrive in time for a heat-wave.  On one day I hoped for a little rain to clear the car park and the beach so I could enjoy peace and quiet.  It is amazing how many people come down to the beach on hot and sunny days.  Numbers are up but many visitors to Cornwall are spending their money in the supermarkets and cutting back on going out for meals.  This is not good for the many passive equity companies in Cornwall that are in the catering tradesuch as Dobles, many with second and third generations at the helm.  Let us hope that they do not fulfill the old adage of clogs to clogs in three generations.  Hope they all have a good business plan.  You could spend your holiday seeking out active equity companies funded by Finance Cornwall but it is more fun to taste the delights of local producers (nearly all passive equity companies) such as Rodda’s Cornish Clotted Cream and St Austell Brewery.  There is also the onerous task of seeking out the best Cornish pasty.  Try starting with the forty members of the Cornish Pasty Association.

As in the Lake District, there is a tension between the locals who make their money from the visitors, and the incomers who are seeking a paradise of peace and quiet with incomes funded by public sector or large company pensions.  The remains of the tin mines remind us all that Cornwall was a very important industrial area and a wealth creator.  It is only comparatively recently that it has become a holiday and retirement county.  I stayed in the village of St Agnes, on the north coast, which was split by plans to bring in the popular Beach Break Festival from Polzeath to the farm which used to host the Surfers Against Sewage Ball.  The local bakery expected to sell £20,000 worth of pasties to the 10,000 festival goers.  Local campsites would have been full.  But others were concerned with disruption to their paradise.

The West Briton reported that “the three-day event featuring top national bands should have filled the farm fields with revellers. But that all changed when Cornwall Council’s planning committee members ignored their officers’ recommendation for approval and threw out the application”.  The locals blamed recently retired in-comers with time to spare and cash to produce detailed reports (always remember the bats and newts) and then bussed in the protesters to attend the planning meeting.  To add salt to the local’s wounds, one of the incomers was then elected to the local council!

You can see both points of view but as I was woken by the sound of a beach party one night, I turned over and dreamed of times long ago when I would have been “moon-walking”! (I wish. Ed).  Even in Cambridge we manage with May Week and Strawberry Fair although I gather that the Jesus College Ball had to finish early.

One evening I was lucky enough to be down at Trevaunance Cove when the Nippers Club of St Agnes Surf Club ( 7-12 years old, boys and girls) had a training evening.  It was very special to see nearly fifty kids and their supervisors set out for a distant cove. The nippers take their training very seriously and are taught great respect of the sea and how to help each other.  The purpose of the training is to provide volunteers for the surf club, people willing to risk their lives to save others.  It is them against the elements and such a very different atmosphere from watching nippers play football, tennis or rugby with parents urging their children on from the sidelines.  Which sport prepares people best for the business world where team work and leadership are such valuable skills?

So the message from Cornwall is “Please do come and stay.  We understand that times are tough but do make sure that some of your money is spent with local firms”.  To those who wish to move to paradise, remember that Cornwall is for all.  Although sometimes festivities for the young can be disruptive, it is not for long and one day those youngster will be the next older visitors to Cornwall and bring their children.  And you will feel safer in paradise guarded by one of those nippers who has grown up and may even have enjoyed a beach party or two!

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Crimping 50,000 pasties a day

BUDE, UNITED KINGDOM - SEPTEMBER 09:  A Pengen...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Proper Cornish Food Company is part of the Cornish Cluster which makes food sourced whenever possible from local farmers in Cornwall and sells across Europe.  The pasties are made in Bodmin and command a premium price.  Each pasty is crimped by hand; expert crimpers can manage three or four per minute.  I wonder when someone will develop a machine to crimp a pasty?  I am sure someone has the skills in Cornwall.

The company was founded in 1988 by three Cornish men, Phil Ugdale and brothers, Dave and Chris Pauling.   The pasties are based on a Pauling family recipe.  Phil is now CEO and Chris is Operations Director.  No sign of Dave on the Proper People page of the site but there must have been romance at Proper in the past (and hopefully now and in the future) as Chris met Jane Flowerdue and married her.  Jane is Marketing Director.

Helen Dunne writes in Business Truth that Proper Cornish Food was started in 1988 and was not incorporated until 1999.  The early years were spent on the less than romantic quest to keep the suppliers happy whilst all the time expanding and investing to keep up with the demands of new regulations.  Four year spent funded by the goodwill and generosity of the creditors must have concentrated the mind.  It is one source of funding but it is not normally recommended to take creditors to an Individual Voluntary Arrangement.

The benefit will be that the founders probably kept more of the equity but if they had raised VC funding, brought in expertise, by now they could have sold out and be enjoying their pasties by the surf.

Proper Cornish Food had an interesting website and no pictures of a pastie on the home page, just a picture of the sea and a video of potatoe farming.  Another brochure site I hear Grant Dain, internet marketing Cambridge, say?

Proper Cornish Food is a member of The Cornish Pasty Association.  A Cornish pasty is crimped on the side and never on top.  More detail on the website where there are plenty of pictures of pasties!

PS. The picture of the pasties is from Zemanta and is from Pengenna Pasties of Bude; another business needing an updated website!  Must try the pasties when next in Cornwall.

I wonder if either of these companies supplies my cousin’s company, Doble Quality Foods, suppliers to the catering trade in Cornwall and South Devon?

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Cornish salt seller

S1033635Image by gribso via Flickr

Is Cornish Sea Salt another Cornwall Cluster life-style company or has founder Tony Fraser raised outside capital?  He certainly has two non-executive directors and has got off to good start with turnover in the first year, £250,000.  Energy costs must be significant to boil off all the water unless they have established themselves next to a cold store, like the one owned by my cousin’s family, suppliers to the catering trade in Cornwall and South Devon -Doble Quality Foods, which generates excess heat.

Cornish Sea Salt has plans to expand and it is all about getting the price points right and the packaging to attract the customers.  From the photos on the website, the packaging looks very good and would make fantastic presents.  But there is no “shop” on the site.

I bought Welsh sea salt for a Christmas present last year and now I have find an outlet for Cornish Sea Salt near Cambridge.

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Did a pasty make it better to work in a tin mine than an office?

An old postcard of a Cornish pastyImage via WikipediaDriving down to stay with my cousins, owners of Doble Quality Foods – suppliers to the Catering Trade in Cornwall and South Devon – I always look forward to my first pasty from the St Agnes bakery.  Tasty, very tasty as they say and so are their butter buns.

Whilst St Agnes Bakery supplies the locals in St Agnes, Rowe’s of Penryn has been baking since 1949 and supply Doble Quality Foods and many others with a range of products.  Rowe’s has a good website and tells of how the the miners used to hold the pastie by the crust side so not to put their dirty hands on their lunch.  The problem office workers have with pasties is the crumbs getting into the computer’s keyboard – no shaking get them out!

“But the growth really began after Bill’s marriage to Phyllis Wallace in 1963.The combination of his baking and her selling skills and drive led to many more shops in neighbouring towns during the 1960s and 70s.”  But if Phyllis was so important to the growth of the business why is there only an obituary about Bill on the website?  It is all a bit like the Cambridge Cluster with the emphasis on the technology and not the key skill of selling!

I wonder if Phyllis owned any shares in the business or was a director?  The world has changed a bit since those days but fortunately for us the Cornish pastie is still the best food for a bracing day on the Cornish coast and thank goodness we do not have to go down the mines to enjoy one!  They did not have a business plan resource in those days.

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The Cake Tin bakes the eggs from the farm

Eggs laid by free-range chickens, who found a ...Image via WikipediaThe Cake Tin was “cracked open” from St. Ewe Free Range Eggs by Rebecca Morris starting in their farm kitchen.  The cakes have been so successful that baking has moved to farm buildings converted by husband Andy.

The cakes are supplied to the Catering Trade in Cornwall and South Devon by Doble Quality Foods or you can always go direct but why miss a smile from a Doble Quality Foods driver!

St. Ewe has been producing egss for 25 years and the chickens are free to range during the day with eggs collected twice a day.

So a fascinating story of how one family in the Cornish Cluster is diversifying to keep bring us the best food.  It must all be done with a helpful bank manager.  I wonder if the banks are offering fixed rate loans for ten years at the special rates now available.

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Cornwall and Devon members of Taste of the West

With happy memories of a wonderful family Christmas with the proprietors of Doble Quality Foods, Suppliers to the Catering Trade in Cornwall and South Devon, I am enthused to look at some of their suppliers.

This cluster of food manufacturers is quite different from companies in the Cambridge Cluster.  They are family run and controlled companies and many in their second and earlier generations.  It is interesting to think about the equity structures of each business as they pass down the generations.  All the companies are closely linked to the farming world which has similar problems of passing down ownership of the business.

Whilst Cambridge Cluster companies have ideas which they hope to sell to the world, the products of the Cornish Cluster companies are mainly for local consumption and rely on the customers coming to the South West of England.  Transport links have improved over the years but avoid travel on change-over Saturdays in the very busy summer school holidays.  The development of Newquay Airport (remember to pay the local tax or you cannot get out) has made it more accessible.  You can always take the Cornish Riviera and sleep on the way down in your bunk.  It is better for returning to London as you do not have to worry about getting off at your station.

There is a market for the people from the South West who are now scattered round the world and want a Taste of the West for a celebration when the cost of the goods is dwarfed by the cost of transport – but who cares for a precious moment!  Logistics can be difficult as it is not good for perishable food to be stuck or lost in transit for a few days.

Cornwall needs to develop other industries and to do so will require a business plan resource.

Of course, the ego of Rich Stein will insist that he put Cornwall on the gormet map and it was just gormand before him.  At least you can be sure of a warm and generous welcome from the members of Taste of the West whereas Jasper Gerard, writing in his Your Table is Ready on “Padstein”, comments about the “accusation of arrogance that sniffs the air”.  Gerard also comments that Stein “fired the first shot in the Cornish food revolution” – not sure if the people of Kernow agree with that.

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Fudges need a skirt!

A heavily iced Christmas cakeImage via WikipediaDriving back from Cornwall, I called in at the farm shop on the Cambridge Road, just north of Royston.  The prices are not exactly Aldi but the goods are of high quality and the staff welcoming.  The cafe was busy with ladies enjoying afternoon tea and the wrinklies spending their time looking for bargains.

I found mine; a half-price Fudges Christmas Cake (nb the picture on the right is from Zemanta and is not the cake under post) reduced from £15.50 to a price competing with the other fruit cakes on offer.  The cake comes in a lovely box and I enjoyed reading the label about Percy Fudge who opened his first craft bakery in the heart of rural Dorset in 1926.

A couple of hungry friends came round to welcome me back to Cambridge and looked longingly at the cake.  I was surprised when I managed to extract it from the box to find that the icing and almond mix just covered the top leaving a very bare side.  Perhaps they should either finish the side or provide a “skirt” to show off the cake.  It needed a strong arm and a sharp knife to cut through the top layer of icing.  The cake tasted good as do so many products from members of Taste of the West, who Champion the South West’s exceptional food identity.  I wish the PR was as good as the food; what does food identity mean?  Why not The best food from Cornwall, Devon and Dorset.  The Taste of the West needs to take a look at the Huffington Post website and start using video.

At least the Fudges’ website does not have any flash and is clear and informative although aimed at wholesalers.  Of the four directors, three are Fudges and the fourth, Brent Giles.  Did Brent marry a daughter or is he an outsider?  Is he a shareholder?The site says that the company is still owned by the Fudge family and it would be interesting to learn what business plan resource they have used to plan to keep ownership in the family.

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Improving a website for Doble Quality Foods

It is very easy to sit back and comment on other people’s websites but not so easy to make it happen.  Most web designers like lots of pictures but the top sites rely on text and very clever use of colour.

The Doble Quality Foods, (Suppliers to the Catering Tradein Cornwall and South Devon), website featured a picture of a cow with the cold store in the background and the sea.  We suggested that it concentrated on the products for sale so the latest edition of the site has a picture of fish and chips and text about the products on offer.

We suggested that the phone number is given prominence.  The main text we suggested is below and it will be interesting to see if the customers start to use the website.  So we need to start tracking the numbers and to promoting the site on-line:

Boneless,-skinless-battered.jpgDoble Quality Foods is Cornwall’s leading independent wholesale distributor of frozen and chilled food.

Try our Cornish Collection of sausages, hams, beef, chutneys, crab, fish, smoked foods, Callestick Cornish Ice Cream, Trewithen Dairy Cornish Butter and much more.

Use our chilled and frozen food, individual meals, fish & seafood, meat & poultry, vegetables, pizza and pizza products, bread products, savoury products, confectionery and ambient & chilled products.  We sell turnips so you can bake your own pasties – give your guests a special treat!
Delivery to your door.  Doble Quality Foods operates a fleet of temperature controlled vehicles with on-board temperature recording equipment and split areas for frozen and chilled foods. Current customers include local pubs, hotels, and visitor attractions as well as schools, colleges and hospitals.  We deliver to Cornwall and South Devon.

Next time we must get round to discussing the business plan resource they use.

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Forget Fifteen and head for The Beach Hut

Watergate Bay at High TideImage via WikipediaWe made a late start and so missed the exclusive breakfast at Fifteen Cornwall – there are no bookings for breakfast so you have to be an early riser which is not great for a birthday boy!Apparently Fifteen rents space from the Watergate Bay Hotel and below is the very friendly Beach Hut.

My son is an expert at queueing for restaurants as he used to manage the queue or line outside Wagamamas.  When the doors opened at ten, the son went in and I used my bulk to fill the door and hold the pushy London types back so we could be sure of a good seat for the birthday breakfast.  The son did a good job and we had the best table.

It was an excellent meal only spoilt by a brat of a young waitress who rolled her eyes when we customers wanted anything.  We asked the very pleasant manager to move her to another table. Perhaps she should go to Fifteen Cornwall for training!

I wish I had asked to buy a pot of their very tasty marmalade – I will have to go for another slice of toast and hope that the eye-roller has moved on!

Then it was off to play golf at a wonderful links short course for pitch and put.  Plenty of fun and lots of laughs.I wonder what business plan resource the Watergate Bay Hotel uses as they certainly attract the crowds.  A bit mean on the Wi-Fi which is not free to casual visitor.

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Cornish Cuisine makes a festive treat

Pommes gaufrettes and smoked salmon — “‘FISH &...Image via WikipediaThe last couple of weeks has been one of much drinking and eating, walking and kite flying.  The top of the food chain so to speak must be the tasty smoked salmon supplied by Cornish Cuisine to Doble Quality Foods, suppliers to the catering trade in Cornwall and South Devon.

I tried the half-price smoked salmon from the very helpful staff at Sainsburys but it paled, literally, by comparison to the best from Cornish Cuisine.  The latter was so good that my son and his beau were presented with a pack to return to the big smoke on London.  I just wish I could take some home but a side of salmon is even too much for me to eat even on tasty cob bread from the St Agnes Bakery

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