Yorkshire growers launch frozen pea brand

A group of growers in Yorkshire has launched its own line of frozen peas as growers respond to growing demand from consumers for regional produce.

Swaythorpe Growers, a producer organisation with some 40 members, has named the brand Yorkshire Peas and will market and sell the product to retailers in the Yorkshire area.

Swaythorpe Growers director Ian Keyes, who is responsible for marketing, told Grower: "There is a significant number of peas and other frozen vegetables imported into the UK but we are growing and producing peas in Yorkshire and so - given the concerns about food miles and the environment in the industry at the moment - we felt that we should be trying to sell ourselves on that basis. We do as good a job of growing peas as anyone else."

He added: "Our grower business is a bit unusual for the frozen food industry in that one of the members also owns a processing factory. So we can control the whole chain - from the purchasing of the seed to controlling the land and processing the product. I don't think there's anyone else that operates in that sort of way in the UK.

"But we are under no illusion about how difficult it will be. We are in it for the long haul and we realise that it might take a significant amount of time to achieve our goals for the brand."

Keyes also told Grower that the Yorkshire Peas brand had so far been rolled out to just a small number of stores and farm shops to try it out. "We are pleased with how it's going so far," he said.

"We have contacted a number of retailers and hopefully there will be some dialogue that comes from that. We are not seeking to compete with the big brands in this industry. What we want to do is sell the product locally and then persuade a retailer to take it on."

Swaythorpe Growers, which sells peas to a number of markets including retailers, food service businesses and manufacturers, set up the Yorkshire Peas company about a year ago. Keyes said: "It came into existence as we started to formulate our plans for the brand because we felt that the Yorkshire name is something that people can trust - like Yorkshire Tea or Yorkshire Dales Ice Cream."

He added that the inspections carried out over the past year by the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) on the way in which producer organisations market themselves and share their facilities had nothing to do with their plans.

"We started to consider the project two years before everything that has happened with the RPA. But there's no doubt that there are some great benefits for us to deal directly with customers."

The organisation's members include grower Paul Temple, who is also the former vice-president of the NFU, and JE Hartley in York.

GROWING TREND FOR LOCAL PRODUCE

Other growers who have responded to the demand for regional and seasonal produce include Produce World.

Its regional brand From My Farm was set up a few years ago on the back of customer research which showed that 74 per cent of Morrisons customers wanted to buy more regional produce.

In the middle of last year, Thanet-based potato specialist the Kent Potato Company also launched a series of own-label varieties specifically for the local Kent market.

Horticultural consultant Geoff Dixon, who in HW last March urged growers to become their own marketing brands, said: "We will undoubtedly see more growers following suit. It's one way they can exert some influence on the market, which they would find difficult to do otherwise."

Growers are also increasingly looking to defend their traditions and crop origins. Forced Yorkshire Rhubarb, which is grown in the Leeds-Wakefield-Bradford triangle, gained protected designation of origin status last year.

The 75- year-old NFU Watercress Growers' Association is in the process of applying to the EU for a traditional speciality guaranteed protection status of its growing methods.


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