Pigs, Provenance, Passion
In Episode #008 of The Artisan Food & Drink Business Show we hear again from James Swift of Trealy Farm Charcuterie Ltd, producer of artisan charcuterie made with free-range, traditional breed meat.
In the show James describes the specific pressures that the business of charcuterie puts on cash flow and how he deals with this, how he manages sales growth and how he decided on which segments of the market to supply.
By scaling up his operation James was able to increase production some twenty times. He gives insight into areas of the business to think carefully about when planning to scale up. He also explains why he has decided not to supply supermarkets.
Discussing marketing his business, James explains why, on social media, you won’t see him firing off tweets that contain the words ‘BUY NOW!’, or ‘SPECIAL OFFER!’.
He closes by reflecting on what it is about his business that keeps him awake at night as well as giving advice to people who aspire to turn their interest in charcuterie into a business.
This episode, Episode #008, is the second of a two-part series. It’s a good idea to listen to part 1 (Episode #007) before listening to this episode.
Listen Now to the Episode with Trealy Farm Charcuterie
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If audio isn’t your thing, you can download a transcript of the show here: Transcript of Episode #008. You can also find the full transcript of the show at the end of this post.
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Key Points from the Show
- Don’t fall in to the ‘little dark room’ trap. Working as an artisan food or drink producer, especially in the early days, can be a solitary thing and this may make you feel isolated. Make the effort to join local business groups or get involved in virtual meet-ups. This can help you preserve your sanity and can help you maintain perspective on the bigger business picture.
- Cash flow can make or break your business. If the majority of your customers pay on long credit terms or if your product requires maturing (e.g., charcuterie, cheese, certain alcoholic drinks) factor these timeframes into your cash flow projections.
- Be clear on your route to market model. What markets do you intend to go into? What investment will a given market require? Can you afford/how will you finance that investment?
- Keep your route to market options open. Being flexible with your route to market model will enable you to adapt and respond to changing consumer needs and to competitive threats.
- Before agreeing to supply large customers like supermarkets read the small print of the contract.
- Treat your customers the same way you would like your suppliers to treat you. Don’t let your customers down: deliver what you said you’d deliver by the time you said you’d deliver it.
- If you understand how you can control the variables of your product (e.g., adding more or less sugar or salt or fruit, ageing for longer, using a higher or lower cocoa solid content chocolate, using a different temperature) you can tweak things to create unique products.
Very Sounds Bites from James Swift
Check out the infographic below for some direct quotes from James during the show.
Thanks to James for generously giving his time to come on the show and talk about his business success. To connect with James online and to find out where you can buy his charcuterie check out the Links and Resources section next.
Links/Resources Mentioned in the Show
- Trealy Farm Charcuterie Website
- Trealy Farm Charcuterie on Twitter
- Trealy Fram Charcuterie on Facebook
- Black Mountain Smokery
- Rude Health
Thanks for Listening
Thanks for listening to the show. If you are a food or drink producer, or industry professional who would like to appear on the show (it’s free!), don’t hesitate to get in touch with me by using the Contact Form on this website or by tweeting me @FoodDrinkShow. To hear when each new episode of the show is released simply sign up for my weekly newsletter.
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— Catherine Moran, Show Host & Producer
Transcript of the Show
Catherine: Hello, and welcome to Episode #008 of The Artisan Food & Drink Business Show, the show where artisan producers tell their brand story and share the secrets of success.
Today’s show is the second part of my conversation with James Swift, of Trealy Farm Charcuterie Ltd. I’d recommend you listen that that episode, which is episode #007, before you listen to this.
In this episode James talks about how the business of charcuterie is, to use his own words, ‘a cash flow nightmare’, how he scaled up his business to increase production twenty times, his strategy for sales growth, what his sales outlets are and why he chose them, his position on supplying supermarkets, how he markets the business and what it is about his business that keeps him awake at night.
Trealy Farm Charcuterie has won a groaning-mantelpiece number of national awards including the BBC Food and Farming Best UK Food Producer, the Observer Food Monthly Best Producer, and the Waitrose Made in Britain Food Producer of the Year awards. I start off by asking James about the effect his awards have had on his sales.
What difference do you think those awards made to your sales?
James: It’s interesting, I mean, there’s something there around … There’s a few things there, that feed in. In a way, very, very little. Stupendously little. Now, you can say that’s because we didn’t use them very much and we didn’t use them in any kind of aggressive marketing way, but they’re there and people know about them and we have them in the signature line of our addresses, I mean, of our emails rather, and on our website and stuff.
The first thing that those awards were about were about us feeling good about ourselves because when you work in the artisan food business and you’re in a little dark room and unfortunately, you are in a little dark room quite a lot of the time by yourself or with not very many other people, then you can go a little bit stir crazy. Or at least you don’t necessarily have perspective and it was great for us to think ‘hey, we are doing something right’.
I know that I think this tastes good and I know that I think finally we’ve cracked this long running fermentation issue that would bore the socks off anyone but to actually, to get someone giving that sort of feedback, that’s great, personally. So that’s the first thing that happened.
Looking a bit more broadly, has it affected sales? Yeah, people like chefs and so on, they can look at that. It’s interesting because of the way we’ve graduated with sales is very much towards the restaurant market. Which is not to say that we haven’t … I’ve been doing Usk Farmers’ Market just down the road here for ten years. I was doing it before the business even properly started. We carry on selling to shops and so on and so forth but restaurants, hotels, that kind of trade and maybe foodservice a bit more now is really important and central for us and that’s just the way the cookie’s crumbled for us. There’s reasons for that.
It’s not clear. One of the things is that for us, I mean charcuterie as a business is very difficult on cash flow so there’s no good us having twenty thousand people turn up tomorrow and say ‘Can you make me … I’ll buy … All of us will buy a kilo each of salami next week’. Sorry, boys, girls whatever, we can’t do that. We can’t make it in time. The amount of money we’d need to have as capital to buy the meat, to make it. It’s a cash flow nightmare, charcuterie is, because you buy the meat, you make the product however many months later, and it can be quite a few. You have a product, you then sell it, you get paid a couple of months later if it’s a restaurant or whatever or six weeks or whatever. By the end of that you’ve really got to draw a breath with your cash flow.
It’s been really important, and this is getting to another area but it does relate, to manage the sales of the business. They have to be gradual, incremental, and consistent. It’s a very difficult thing to do, as I say. You’ve got to constantly be thinking about what amount of product we’re going to have at two months’ time alongside what we have at the moment, in three months’ time. When people phone up, it’s like, ‘Well, we haven’t got that but we have got this but if you come back in two months, yes, we can make you that’.
It’s not necessarily been directly important in sales. It’s been very good at keeping our spirits up. It’s been very good for our reputation but I think we all … we’ve never really pushed it for direct sales because having loads of sales tomorrow is not the way we can operate.
Catherine: It’s interesting. I hadn’t thought of it that way but talking about your sales streams, you clearly do farmers’ markets, you do some of the big food shows. I saw you at Ludlow recently.
James: Absolutely. Ludlow, Abergavenny, two central dates on the calendar. Yeah.
Catherine: And then all of your other sale streams like the pubs, restaurants, sales to delis as well?
James: Yes, to a certain extent. One of the things here is that when we were building a new production unit we had to decide what we wanted to do. What I decided I wanted to do was produce as much charcuterie as possible and make that easy. Then you’ve got the whole other area, and artisan businesses really have to understand that’s it a whole other area, of slicing and packing and making beautiful, and packaging those products.
If you want to get in to high levels of that, and of course that’s what delis and shops usually want. Some do take our whole pieces of air-dried ham and slice them themselves, and whole salamis. But, the market is very much really about a pretty packet with a nice label on. Nothing wrong with that but if we had gone into that on any kind of substantial scale, for a start, our investment would have had to nearly doubled. You’re looking at something like modified atmosphere packaging or something like that. Those machines are serious bits of kit, serious amounts of space, not just for the machinery and the people but also for tedious things like the fact that when you buy packaging you can’t just buy fifty, you’ve got to buy fifty thousand or something like that.
So these are the key questions. Are you going to go into that market? Yes, fine, it’s a very good market and this also runs alongside the whole web market. Again if people come to us direct and want a web sale, we’ll send it to them but it’s not something we push because we’re not really set up for that. The other side about all that slicing and packaging, which is really why I made the decision, is because it’s quite boring to do. It’s really boring to do … to do all that stuff.
So we do a certain amount of it but we keep it under control because quite frankly, we prefer to be in production, to be in sales, to be managing the business. Lots of slicing and packing — you’re talking about lots of people not being very inspired in a great big room with … Because we don’t need to do that or we only do a certain amount of that, and yes, we do sell to shops but not a massive amount compared to the amount of restaurants. We prefer to sell whole pieces and we have a limited amount of slicing and packing or else we contract it out. That is possible. There’s a probably a bit of a gap there in the market there for people doing a bit more slicing and packing on behalf of people because that’s almost a whole business in itself I would say. That’s where we are.
Catherine: Is that the area that you would most like to develop, the restaurant market?
James: Well, that’s where we operate a lot and one of the reasons that we do operate there is probably because we’ve got really good connections there and it’s partly because we offer a broad range charcuterie products. I think we have to remain very open to where things develop. But we’re also somewhat limited by where we are.
If you want loads of MAP [modified atmosphere packaging] packing, yeah, it would be possible. For instance, if you wanted to suddenly bust open and go into web sales or something like that. None of that is to be undertaken lightly. But I think there’s something, you know we could contract it out to somebody who would do lots of lovely MAP packing but
I think you do need to have a certain amount of focus as a smaller company and I think from what I’ve just said about the packaging, I think it’s really clear that, for instance, selling to a restaurant, and selling to a shop have very, even selling the same product to those two things, have very little, or they could be having an awful lot in common but they have an awful lot not in common.
So I think as an artisan business you really want to focus on maybe a couple of area of sales. What would you say… web sales to individuals, direct sales to individuals, sales to restaurants, sales to food service, sales to supermarkets if you want to get into that, sales to shops, van distribution, direct to people’s doors, I don’t know, there are different distribution outlets. I think keeping all of those open as you grow and not closing anything down too soon is really important because who knows where your stuff might go.
The number of ideas that were completely canned over the course of the growth of the business, which at first felt quite painful, then it was like, ‘Oh, yeah, that idea’s rubbish. Fine, next’. So I think you need to keep your options open but at the same time when the crunch comes and when you put your money down, you put your money down in a way that probably relates not only to a means of production but a couple of areas or outlets of sales.
For instance, Black Mountain Smokery who are near us in Crickhowell who do smoked salmon and so on. They operate very differently to us. Similar sized business in a way, not a million miles away from dissimilar product, but they sell loads on the web. They have a very … They do a lot of direct sales, at specialist fairs and that sort of thing. Then they do a little bit to restaurants and shops but they’re focused on the web sales. Big and expensive website as I say, lots of, quite a lot of slicing and packing and very much focused at Christmas-time, not spread out during the year. That very much takes them in that direction because they’ve decided to focus on that market. We’re in a very different market.
Catherine: You mentioned supermarkets. Do you supply supermarkets?
James: No, we’ve never supplied supermarkets. Ever since we won the Waitrose food award, which is about 5 years ago now, we’ve had a sort of open invitation to supply them and we’ve never taken that up. When the crunch came, and I think they are good supermarket suppliers, inverted commas, in terms of this deal that they had, we sort of looked at it and were like, ‘Oh dear, this is complicated’. I mean, we’re at a very high level technically. We’ve got a great technical manager, that was a big step for us to get Caroline in, and she was great. So we’re not worried about that sort of thing. Not that we can’t do it but when you looked at the facts and figures it was kind of like, ‘Oh dear, this actually isn’t very profitable’. You know, it’s not very profitable and it’s sort of, ‘Oh god, you know’, yeah it ties you down in certain ways. And that’s the good supermarket stuff.
I have to say I listened on Radio 4 to a rather epically scary programme about… it was focusing on Tesco and how suppliers sell to them… but we’ve had conversations with a couple of people, who have come to us recently and yeah, you look at the small print of the agreement you’ve got to sign and you think that is … I mean the word extortion was used on the programme last night, but yes, particularly one phrase sat in my mind as like … That somebody said, I won’t name the outfit but they were like, well sure they thought it was perfectly normal but ‘we operate a policy of margin retention’.
I was like ‘Hmm’, let’s just think through this’. So what they meant was we can, when we looked at the small print, was we can discount your products whenever we like however much we want, we’ll probably do it at least twice a year for a month and you’ll have to pay us the same margin. Which means during this period when sales will expand exponentially you won’t get any profit at all or might even make a loss or will make the most marginal profit possible. Loads of your production capacity will be used up and then the next month, because the price goes back up again and you get profit, sales might drop off entirely.
It, in all sorts of ways, made absolutely no financial sense, I won’t even go into the ethical stuff, to supply these guys at all. I just looked blankly at them and thought ‘how on Earth can you think this is a good idea for us?’ Nice giving you a cup a tea.
Catherine: The worst thing is that your product is being treated as a commodity.
James: Well, yeah. It’s just route to market and all that and loads of people … For loads of people do buy through supermarkets but that’s the problem. It’s not something that you have to adapt everything around, it’s something that somehow or other it would be better changing. So just saying, food is bought at the supermarkets, of course it is but that’s not helping anyone. It really isn’t. It’s certainly not helping suppliers. We’ll see.
They’re supposed to be nice to small suppliers — supermarkets — and I think relatively speaking, they are. God knows what happens if you’re putting a few million worth of product through them every year. Well, as I say, there’s something about that on the BBC radio 4 programme last night, what happens to you. I’m sure it works for some people.
Catherine: So what about your overheads, have they changed much since you’ve matured the business?
James: The big thing was moving into new premises four years ago and obviously that entailed a lot more overheads. Before that, we were on the farm here and the business wasn’t even paying us any rent for the premises. So that was a shock, and rates, that was a shock. Quite a big shock. That sort of thing even though that would have obviously kicked in at that stage and I suppose the way we designed the new premises, we spent a lot of time designing it, was partly to mean that we didn’t have … We were able to produce a lot more just because it was well designed and well thought out because when we first designed the unit here basically we had no idea what we were doing at all, in retrospect.
Thank god it kind of worked. You get better at workflow, the layout of things, and so I was able to think much more clearly about what the optimum unit would be. I spent a long time, 6 to 9 months, designing it, putting it together and getting all the best kit in there and stuff. So, that helped the overhead from that point of view. I think we expanded production something like twenty times with one extra member of staff when we moved.
Catherine: Wow, that’s incredible.
James: Might be slight exaggeration but it’s not far off twenty times or something like that, I think. Now, that’s not about loads of robots doing stuff. That would literally, it was just about, stuff being better. Much better. Much better organised, and spending some money on really good kit.
There is some really good kit out there and that’s always worth looking at, especially on the continent. There are still many manufacturers that make high quality stuff designed for relatively small producers. Not designed for a factory the size of a car plant or something.
Our overhead in terms of labour didn’t go up massively and I suppose one of the things that has really kicked in but has been difficult to pass on has been that the increase in basic raw materials has gone up a lot recently. Things like herbs and spices. Things like mace, which goes into (the outer shell of the nutmeg), which goes into most British regular sausages, for instance. The supply of that completely disappeared from the UK at one point. I think it was last year or the year before.
For about three months there wasn’t any. There was sort of one large stockpile of out-of-date mace in a warehouse in Newcastle and everyone had to buy that and when it was gone, it was gone. It was like, because climate changes and all the rest of it and very much increased demand from China has meant that things like sausage casings, like herbs, spices, those sorts of things, price increases have been pretty ginormous in the last 5 years or so. You’re talking about several times the cost. Forget about 4% inflation.
Then there’s the price of raising meat in the right way. I think the price of raising meat in the right way is also going up relatively more than the price of raising meat not in the right way. So, both of those things are being impacted by the fact that … or particularly for pigs, the price of grain is very much up. The price of beans is very much up. Again, we ask beans to be beans and not soya beans from the Amazon rainforest or what was the Amazon rainforest.
In general, the price of raw materials is going up and there is a lot of stuff going on which is in the bigger, non-artisan food market, which is kind of price fixing and it’s not reflecting the true cost of production and it’s price fixing partly by squeezing supplies and partly by selling certain goods not much above their cost price and making their money on other goods. That’s what supermarkets do, I think, quite a lot of. So you say, ‘oh you know so and so product is much cheaper over here’ or something.
I mean, there’s other things as well, with meat. The bacon’s cheaper but it’s got 40% more water in it or whatever and if you want to pay for water that’s fine. I get it out of the tap.
Catherine: So, caveat emptor?
James: Yeah. There’s a lot of stuff going on there but I think overheads in terms of raw material prices is one of the most critical things. Buying anything that’s made of steel, my god, the price is just massively increased. Just steel hooks to hang your meat on. The price of those versus six or seven years ago. Again, it’s China, it’s China. China’s bought almost the entire New Zealand supply of sheep casings (you make chipolatas out of them), for ten years ahead, that’s the sort of thing that’s happening on the international market. That used to be where all our sheep casings came from in the UK or a lot of our sheep casing came from. Yeah, there’s stuff happening out there which has pretty seismic changes and the price implications are coming into us.
Catherine: Let’s move on quickly to marketing and I wanted to ask you what your approach is to marketing your products specifically, dare I say it, the use of social media?
James: Right, okay, approach to marketing product. Well, to make our product good is the first stage or at least that we like them, at least. But I think that is really important if you really are happy with your product, you know really happy with it, then you can sell it. And there are days when I’m like, ‘oh yeah, that batch was a little bit…’, and I’m a little bit apologetic about it or also thinking it’s a funny shape or something, or it’s a little bit fatty or whatever and yeah, it’s more difficult to sell that sort of product and I prefer the honesty approach, to be quite honest. ‘It’s a little bit more fatty’. But, some people would like it that way, some people wouldn’t.
Being happy with our products is, I think, really key with us. Keeping good relationships. Again, it depends on your customer base but the chefs, these guys, are in a serious hurry, nearly all the time, you’ve got to get the goods out when you say you’re going to get them out, which is usually by yesterday, with a chef. So being really consistent with a product and being really consistent with delivery of products and being adaptable. These might sound like kind of not quite marketing but they are. We are selling ourselves largely on our products.
But how we promote ourselves… In the chef world, the good thing is, chefs move restaurants a lot and hopefully they take us with them. So there’s a kind of natural … And chefs talk to other chefs because they work such unsociable hours they never get to talk to anyone else, and hopefully, again, they talk about us or they say ‘well I made a nice something or other with Trealy Farm, whatever it is’. So there’s a kind of natural growth there and again there is something there about what I went back to about our production methods and our cash flow restraints, which is our marketing has to be of the ‘slow but steady’ approach because that’s how we can increase our production capacity. Slowly but steadily. That’s to say there’s no point in us having a massive hit.
I use Twitter in a way that is not about directly marketing, it’s just about talking about stuff that I think affects the kind of landscape of what we’re doing, so some of that people might construe as quite political. I very much see it as political with a small ‘p’. It’s just the reality of the world around us at the moment. It’s just keeping people in touch with that. It’s pictures of our products. It’s kind of where we are and what we’re doing a little bit, maybe not as much as I should do. But I think it’s also about what we’re making that’s new or kind of interesting.
Not a great deal of what would be called traditional marketing. It’s mainly about supporting the brand by saying this is the way we do things, this is the way we think about things and just repeating that message and saying we’re … Rather than ‘buy this, buy that; here’s a special offer’, that sort of thing. It’s about saying we’re quite steady and we’re quite innovative and we like to do things right and these are the issues we’re facing and this might be why the price is like this or this might be why we’re making this product rather than that product.
So it’s getting people into a bit of a broader landscape of where artisan food is and this is why you might why to buy our product rather than another product that’s maybe mass produced or et cetera. Also how to use our products.
That’s really key, actually, that’s something always at farmers’ markets and the food festivals that we do an awful lot of because our products are unusual and a lot of the ways that people think about using air dried products for instance is just, ‘oh we’ll have a slice of air dried ham’, but, slow down. Actually, there’s a lot of really thrifty ways to use these products. These are peasant products, these are not guys who sat down with a bottle of champagne and sliced a load of bits of air-dried ham off.
No, you’re talking about a little bit of cooking chorizo going in to flavour up a big bean stew or potato casserole or paella or something like that. These products are traditionally used in thrifty ways and I think communicating that approach has… again it’s a big part of our motto, don’t worry about it yes, the price of a kilo is like this but you can make a stack of stuff that’s really cheap, taste really good with a little pack of this a little bit of that. Think about using it in this way. Think about using it in that way, so that’s also a lot of our marketing; it’s about how to use, how to use thriftily. That sort of thing.
Catherine: On twitter you are @trealyfarm?
Catherine: That’s your address?
James: Yes, @trealyfarm. It’s that simple.
Catherine: Is there anything that keeps you awake at night about the operation of your business?
James: The main thing is always keeping the quality up, keeping the consistency up. It would be mainly that. Obviously you never sleep completely easy around … are your customers all just going to disappear into thin air tomorrow in some magic sort of way, but the main area of continual improvement is that.
Fermented products are notoriously fickle. Everyone who’s made a sourdough loaf … And that’s not because they are intrinsically … can go wrong, as such. It’s just that there are so many different parameters that can change and they’re so sensitive to a little change in the water content of the meat or the water content of the flour that goes into the bread.
An artisan baker was talking to me the other day about his sourdough and how he’s got to check when the wheat was harvested because the water content has changed and what the nature of it is and he was saying, ‘this is a loaf made with this grain, and this is loaf made with that, and this a loaf made with the same grain type harvested at a different time of year’. And it was totally different.
I was very much encouraged to see a little interview with one of the great French charcutiers from Lyon a while back who’s in his seventies now and he’s like, God. He was looking at a rack of salamis and he was saying … Someone was asking him, ‘Why are you still doing this?’ And one of the reasons that he was still doing this was, he said, ‘Look at this salami here’, he said, ‘Why has this salami … Why is it exhibiting these characteristics and all the others aren’t?’ He said, ‘I don’t know. I really don’t know but I really want to find out.’ I thought, phew!, He’s still having those issues. He said, ‘After all, this is the nature particularly of fermented products’. And cheeses are exactly the same. You leave them for a few months, you sort of wrap them in one thing rather than another, it’s a totally different cheese and that’s also the beauty in how much variety you can get out of them.
But, yeah, especially when you’re selling to restaurants and you’re trying to sell a consistent product that is something with fermented products that does keep you awake a night a bit. It’s like ‘Oh, this is from a slightly different breed of pig or this is from a new farm, what are they feeding them?’, blah, blah, blah, that’s going to have an impact on the meat. There are a lot of variables. A lot of variables. So, consistency, probably.
Catherine: What advice would you have for people considering taking the plunge and setting up a business as a charcuterie maker?
James: Well a lot of people seem to be doing that recently. I think the last count was certainly 60 or 70 charcuterie businesses in the UK and that was a while ago, at least a year ago, I think that figure got bandied around. So, in the last couple of years in particular there’s been an explosion.
There’s something here about that — and this is again the influence of the supermarket — we kind of expect products to be a certain way. I had this the other day, or not the other day, a few years back, but it really stayed with me, a little kid came and we were making shepherd’s pie, we served shepherd’s pie, and he said, ‘I don’t like shepherd’s pie’. I was thinking, ‘Hey that’s really interesting, you don’t like shepherd’s pie’. I used to think ‘I like my mum’s shepherd’s pie but I don’t like my grandmother’s shepherd’s’… or whatever it was. I would have never thought of shepherd’s pie as one thing, because it wasn’t. It was completely different everywhere I went. Then there was school shepherd’s pie that was whatever, something else entirely.
So everything’s been commoditised. People come up and they say, ‘Oh, you know, your chorizo is not really chorizo at all!’. Oh that’s interesting. It’s like, because they’ve got this one chorizo that they’re buying at the supermarket and if you go to Spain, every town, the chorizo is completely different from the next town and they will rant and rave about the people ten miles down the road who make chorizo in this really weird way.
We were just getting one air-dried ham in the UK for many years, Parma ham, but you go 50 miles down the road from Parma, it’s like, ‘what do you want that stuff for?!’ Because they’re very proud of their own air-dried ham, which is a different product.
It’s like 30 years ago there were apparently four types of wine in the world, in the UK: liebfraumilch, and Blue Nun, and mateus rose and Bordeaux nouveau or Beaujolais nouveau or something like that. Now everyone knows that from one year to the next, from one side of the hill to the next, you get a different wine. Forget about from one grape to the next, from one producer to the next.
So there is infinite variability again, particularly for fermented products, of all kinds, but across the range of food, so there is immense pressure from the supermarket to close us down and the whole food culture to say there’s only a premium and economy and standard of everything. That’s all there is.
So I would say take advantage of the fact that that’s not the case. Don’t be worried about having to reproduce something: work with what you’ve got and start at your feet. Start, if you know how to do something well or you’ve got a really good raw material to hand, ingredient, start with that and don’t worry too much about what other people are telling you, for a while at least.
We got loads of business advice from the start because the Welsh government is really keen on giving business advice to new businesses. Jesus, I’m really glad I didn’t follow much of that. One of the main things was ‘Don’t call your business anything to do with charcuterie. No one will ever understand that. We’ve done surveys’.
And they did do surveys. Do people know what charcuterie means? No they didn’t know what it means. Oh well, that’s fine because there isn’t a British word for it and maybe people would actually be a little interested or try to find out what it means or realise that it also means ‘bacon’ so try and work with what you’ve got, try and understand some of the science behind it because the science will give you … It might sound forbidding but it’s not forbidding because the science of many things … this is not a PhD, it’s not doing a PhD, but it’s just understanding how you can control the variables of your product and therefore how you can tweak it to be different and unique and best take advantage of whatever raw material you are operating and that could be a jam and it could be a salami it could be a cheese or whatever, and the British market at the moment is open to crazy stuff so do do crazy stuff but maybe base it on something.
Catherine: That’s very good advice. Finally, James, could you briefly describe what it’s like to do a Rude Health rant?
James: This year was pretty good and the year before that I was really pleased with it, so it’s an up and down thing. It’s lots of fun when you can get a word in edgeways past Nick [Barnard, co-founder of Rude Health] talking about the wonders of lard, which I would completely support because I think lard is a very wonderful and very much underrated thing but he was very keen on getting lots of comments in about lard this year. It was good for me. I enjoy a bit of rant and I try to keep too many of my rants out of the public sphere but it’s good to put one in there every now and again.
Catherine: Excellent, I will put a link to your rants in the notes for the show.
James: Yeah, don’t put a link to my rant from three years ago. It’s not this.
Catherine: I’ll blacklist that one then!
James: I think it may not be rubbish but it wasn’t that good.
Catherine: Okay, that’s great. Thank you very much for your time and it was absolutely fascinating talking to you.
James: Great, thanks very much.
Catherine: Thank you, James, for taking the time to come on the show, and it was fascinating to hear your thoughts on running an artisan food business.
You can follow James on Twitter, he is @trealyfarm and his website is www.trealyfarm.com. You can also download a transcript of the show for free at www.myartisanbusiness.com. I’m on Twitter as @FoodDrinkShow, so please follow me there. And, if you liked this episode with James I would very much appreciate if you would leave a review on iTunes, this will help to spread the word about the show.
So that’s it for this episode. I’m Catherine Moran, happy cooking, happy brewing, happy fermenting and thank you for listening.