UK shoppers ‘cannot yet tell poor charcuterie from good’
British artisan charcuterie can “wipe the floor” with many factory-made Continental products, but consumers don’t understand why the Brits cost more in the shops, one specialist producer has told FFD.
James Simpson of Somerset Charcuterie – whose clients range from farm shops to Harrods – said as interest in all things local flattens out, craft producers will have to work harder to explain their price premium.
“There is space for really good quality British charcuterie,” he said, “but the consumer cannot yet really distinguish between the poor, the good and the exceptional.
“In Spain, you can go into supermarkets and see everything from £8 per kilo chorizo to £40 per kilo chorizo – and shoppers there completely understand the difference.
“I don’t think we have that here. Consumers might make a choice based on price, and make an assumption [about the quality], but there is definitely a need for more education.”
He added: “It would be wrong to say that British products can compete with the very best from Spain or Italy,” he said, “but I think we could wipe the floor with some of their cheaper ones.”
Farm-based Somerset Charcuterie, co-owned by Simpson and butcher Andy Venn, processes around a tonne of pork each a week to make its air-dried hams and salamis.
It pays a premium for outdoor- and woodland-reared pigs from small-scale local farmers, including ‘Tangalitzas’ – a cross-between rare-breed Tamworth and Mangalitza pigs. Andy Venn said: “We could buy a lot cheaper, but the quality of the meat affects everything, especially with things like coppa and lonza that are just rolled in salt.”
The firm also shuns processing aids that would speed up the cure or increase shelf life, and has resisted using a cost-efficient automatic filler/linker for large salamis, believing this could over-compress the meat.
Interviewed for FFD’s January-February edition, Simpson said the business was currently focusing on higher-end foodservice clients, where – provided chefs knew they could sell the product at a good margin – quality is the first consideration.