Diane Parkes speaks to a farm couple who have turned their hand to making crisps.
Staffordshire farmer Anthony Froggatt has launched a new brand of crisps which are 100 per cent local.
Just Crisps use potatoes grown at the family farm in Hill Ridware, near Rugeley, they are fried in rapeseed oil grown, cold-pressed and filtered at the farm – and then produced, bagged and boxed in a purpose-built factory on the site.
It may sound like a market garden process but Anthony is determined his crisps are top -notch – and he is convinced they will be a huge success.
The launch, just a few weeks ago, follows the farm’s success selling rapeseed oil and dressings under the brand Just Oil.
Both have represented a new business direction for 750-acre Wade Lane Farm which has been in the family for four generations.
And they were unexpected directions brought on partly by the devastating foot-and-mouth epidemic which decimated livestock numbers 10 years ago.
At that time the farm, which had been bought by Anthony’s great grandfather more than 80 years ago, was a mix of arable and livestock.
But this came to a sudden halt when the entire flock of 1,600 sheep had to be slaughtered.
The family made the decision not to re-stock and instead concentrated their efforts on the arable produce. But Anthony was also keen to find new markets.
“I was actually considering biodiesel and was looking into filtering procedures. Then at Christmas in 2005, I was reading an article about top 10 foods that were going up. At number five was cold-pressed extra virgin rapeseed oil.”
It was a light bulb moment for Anthony who suddenly saw a culinary outlet for his fields of waving yellow rapeseed.
Initially the business was small.
“We bought in some bottles and caps, bought a clean room, which is pretty much a 40ft refrigerated articulated container, and began cold pressing the oil.
“We were literally bottling it, capping it, labelling it, putting it in boxes and then going round local farm shops asking if they would stock it on a sale or return basis. Before we knew it the phones started ringing with them asking for more.”
Anthony knew he was on to a winner and decided to expand. With the help of a grant from Heart of England Fine Foods (HEFF), he was able to look at marketing his product to a wider public.
“We worked with Alpha Design and Marketing from Shrewsbury and they helped up to rebrand and relaunch in February 2008,” he says.
“And it just went from there. We won the HEFF Diamond Award for Taste. It is very unusual for that category to be won by an oil.”
It had taken more than two years of research and investment but Anthony saw Just Oil taking off. He soon