Now is the time for action, food
and drink industry told
New research into the state of the Cornish food and drink
industry has resulted in a call to action for the region's
producers and processors. The study has revealed that a wealth
of opportunities exists for business development and growth
if they are explored and exploited without delay.
The results of the research project, called 'Prospects
and prosperities: exploring the potential of the Cornish food
and drink industry', were unveiled today at the Royal
Cornwall Show in Wadebridge by Objective One gateway project
Cornwall Taste of the West and Exeter University's Centre
for Rural Research, which jointly carried out the research.
It is thought to be the first regional food and drink review
of its kind in the UK, and goes into unprecedented detail.
As well as investigating the state of food production and
processing in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, the study
- a partnership project between Cornwall Taste of the West
and Cornwall Agricultural Council - also examines existing
and emerging UK markets and cross matches the two, revealing
the gaps and matches between national consumer demand and
According to Ruth Huxley, who oversaw the research as market
intelligence manager for Cornwall Taste of the West, there
are considerable opportunities for businesses prepared to
think laterally. "Many of the markets that Cornwall is
renowned for such as potatoes, cauliflowers, red meat and
cream, have been revealed as some of the most difficult in
the industry. The nation's tastes are becoming increasingly
cosmopolitan, and Cornwall needs to do more to ensure the
food it produces matches the buying trends of consumers. The
results of this research are priceless in terms of providing
clear and undisputable signposts to where the opportunities
lie, but only if we grasp the nettle and begin to take positive
One of the key findings of the research is the scope for
developing the food processing sector in Cornwall. At the
moment, primary foods produced in the area are often processed
elsewhere, whilst local processors are using raw ingredients
from outside Cornwall, often because they have outgrown the
local supply capability. The recommendation is for food producers
and processors to become more aligned, so that together they
can meet consumer demand for convenience food better. As the
huge demand for processed foods looks unlikely to reverse,
primary producers should also consider gaining a foothold
in the processing sector themselves, which will combat the
decline in demand for raw ingredients and ensure a share of
the most profitable part of the food chain is kept in the
A need to invest in specific projects for certain food industry
sectors has also been revealed. For example, poultry meat
consumption in the UK is almost double that of beef and five
times that of lamb. Currently an estimated £9m of poultry
meat is imported into Cornwall each year just to satisfy local
demand, so if Cornwall had its own hatchery, much more of
this demand could be met from within the region, which means
that up to £9m would be ploughed back into the local
Overall, the research concludes that there are many viable
opportunities for the development and growth of the Cornish
food industry, but if these are not acted upon it will not
be able to sustain itself and meet the needs of the market
place in the long term.
The research overview recommends two principles for future
growth and prosperity. The first is to raise public awareness,
particularly of the origin of ingredients in ready prepared
foods. One of the anomalies revealed by the research is that
the products marketed most aggressively as Cornish often contain
few locally grown raw ingredients, whilst genuine Cornish
produce is largely bought up by big processors or retailers
and manufactured into a mass produced food which makes little
of ingredient origin.
The second principle is to ensure the food produced in the
region matches consumer buying trends. This may mean, for
example, making better use of Cornwall's mild and temperate
climate to grow crops that satisfy the growing consumer demand
for more exotic fruit and vegetables which is currently supplied
by imported goods. This would require horticultural producers
to consider growing different crops, or to increase their
capacity for growing under glass. Alternatively, the area's
already famous dairy produce is crying out to be made into
ready prepared desserts - a market growing at 5% each year
and worth over £1 billion and as yet virtually unexplored
by Cornwall's dairy industry.
"The research reveals a critical need for more awareness
of changing trends," says David Rodda, senior agricultural
co-ordinator for the Cornwall Agricultural Council. "Food
producers need to keep pace with change in order to meet their
potential and it's just as important to let people know
what's on offer. But in the long run, there's no
reason why Cornwall shouldn't be anticipating and even
setting trends in consumer eating habits."
The 'Prospects and prosperities' summary and the
full reports are available free to any businesses based in
Cornwall or the Isles of Scilly online via www.cornwalltasteofthewest.co.uk
or call Ruth Huxley on 01579 349363 to order a hard copy (businesses
outside the region will be charged £30 for each report
or £50 for both). Ruth Huxley is also available to discuss
the implications of the findings with individual businesses,
as part of Cornwall Taste of the West's free market intelligence
To view the results of the research project, click on each
of the three documents listed below:
and Prosperities: exploring the potential of the Cornish food
and drink industry
Review of the UK Food Market
Study of Food Production, Distribution and Processing in Cornwall
and the Isles of Scilly
A list of key research findings is attached.
Cornwall Taste of the West is a £3 million
Objective One umbrella project, funded by the European Agricultural
Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF), the Department for Environment,
Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and private matched funding.
It is part of the Taste of the West regional food group. Cornwall
Taste of the West's four year project includes a trade
development programme and a marketing grant scheme, available
to small and medium sized food businesses that produce, sell
or process foods in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
Exeter University's Centre for Rural
Research (CRR), building on the established reputation of
the former Agricultural Economics Unit, represents a new focus
for a wide range of rural studies. Headed by Professor Michael
Winter, newly appointed Professor of Rural Policy, its remit
is to develop a broad research programme that enhances the
regional profile of the university. Professor Winter can be
contacted on 01392 263837 (email: D.M.Winter@exeter.ac.uk).
The CRR undertakes research across a wide
range of rural issues. Key themes are farm economies in transition,
alternative food systems, rural identities, nature and landscape
and rural policy. For more information visit www.ex.ac.uk/crr.
The Cornwall Agricultural Council (CAC, formed
in 1989) is an apolitical grouping of 90 organisations with
interests in Cornwall's agricultural, horticultural,
food and land based industries. When Cornwall and the Isles
of Scilly were awarded Objective One status, an elected board
of eight people from its membership became the Objective One
Agricultural Task Force. This Task Force, through an Agricultural
Development Team, helps Cornish producers and processors access
Objective One funds.
For more information contact David Rodda
Telephone: 01872 322888
Fax: 01872 322841
PROSPERITIES EXPLORING THE POTENTIAL OF THE CORNISH
FOOD AND DRINK INDUSTRY
Cornish food economy
- is estimated to be worth £1bn, and accounts for at
least 12,500 jobs in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. The
relative importance of employment in agriculture, forestry
and fishing is much higher in Cornwall at 4.6% than in the
rest of the UK at 1.3%. This underlines how critical ongoing
development and growth in this sector is to the Cornwall's
economy as a whole.
- dairy produce, red meat, potatoes and other vegetables are
the focus of primary food production and are well suited to
the landscape and climate of the area.
- overall, the markets currently being catered for have limited
scope for growth and development, whilst the overriding current
consumer trends towards convenience, snacking and healthy
eating are not generally being addressed by the Cornish food
industry. These represent key areas of opportunity.
- much of our primary produce leaves Cornwall for processing
elsewhere, whilst local processors generally use products
not produced in Cornwall. For example, apples are brought
in from elsewhere for cider and juice making, whilst almost
80% of our orchards 114 hectares are non-commercial,
where apples are often left to fall from the trees and rot.
There are all sorts of partnership opportunities here for
cider and juice makers and orchard owners commercial
- around £2.5 bn of fruit and vegetables are imported
to the UK annually and this figure increases year upon year.
Cornwall's mild climate could be taken more advantage
of to produce sub-tropical fruit and vegetables, the markets
for which are currently dominated by imported produce.
- consumers trust brands, and the research reveals that very
few Cornish brands are recognised on a national scale. An
opportunity therefore exists for new brands to be developed
to help market Cornish produce nationally and inspire greater
consumer awareness and confidence in it.
this is the biggest single agricultural production sector
in Cornwall, worth over £92m. Whilst being something
of a beacon to other food sectors, there are still market
anomalies. Nationally, yogurts and chilled desserts are the
fastest growing area of the dairy industry, with 5% expansion
a year, yet production is currently not well developed in
Cornwall (likewise the development of dairy-based drinks such
as drinking yoghurts and smoothies).
Also, goat's cheese is proving very successful
as a Cornish dairy product, and whilst there are a number
of successful dairy goat operations in Cornwall, we are still
importing goat's milk to meet the needs of local goat's
cheese production. Both these show the massive scope for new,
expanded or redirected dairy operations in Cornwall.
an estimated 11,500 tonnes of Cornish beef (£5.5m) and
2,000 tonnes of Cornish lamb (£4m) are sold out of Cornwall
each year. Whilst red meat consumption is growing slightly
in the UK, the best growth area is in poultry meat
we eat twice as much poultry as beef and five times as much
poultry as lamb yet Cornish poultry production is hampered
by the lack of a hatchery in Cornwall. Currently we import
£9m of poultry meat just to meet local demand
with a hatchery that could be up to £9m potentially
invested back into Cornwall's economy.
fruit and vegetables
- over 2000 hectares of Cornwall's land is used to produce
cauliflowers, yet research shows this to be one of the worst
performing vegetables in the UK market. There is a much brighter
outlook for semi-exotic varieties of fruit and vegetables
given Cornwall's climate, and year-round consumer demand.
Despite the capital investment required, there are good returns
to be made from growing crops under glass or in polytunnels.
For example, 1% of Cornish soft fruit is grown under cover,
but yields 9% of Cornwall's total income from soft fruit
this illustrates how easily the soft fruit season could
be extended and expanded to encompass the more profitable
early and late seasons.
as much as 80% of the fresh fish landed in Cornwall is being
exported to other European countries, even though a 2002 Cornwall
Taste of the West survey indicated that locally caught fish
is one of the main items local residents would like to buy
more of but are unable to find in the shops.
- the Cornish drinks industry is quite in tune with consumer
tastes, with many fine alcoholic and non-alcoholic products
being produced. There are a number of breweries, vineyards,
cider makers, mead producers, spring water bottlers and juice
producers. However, not all are able to source their raw materials
locally and the research reveals much more scope for collaboration
between producers and processors.
For more press information please contact:
Veronica Newport at npr
Telephone: 01363 866927
Fax: 01363 866093
Mobile: 07808 063053
Objective One Partnership Office
Truro TR1 2UD
Tel: 01872 241379
Fax: 01872 241388
back to top