What We Learned from The Speakers at The Foodie Bugle Lectures

The Foodie Bugle Lectures at The Royal Oak Pub in Leighterton, near Tetbury, brought together an enthusiastic crowd of foodies from a wide variety of backgrounds, ranging from retailing to artisanal food production, design, marketing, PR, the media and restaurants. As usual our speakers taught us a great deal about how they created their businesses from scratch, and developed them into brands that are recognised for their excellence and expertise.

We ate and drank the fruits of that expertise at lunch. The Royal Oak Chefs prepared terrines, fresh breads, preserves, pies, pates, Scotch eggs and hams using the region’s best raw ingredients. Guests enjoyed a selection of Bath Ales and wines procured by The Oxford Wine Company and Thomas Panton Wines. Paul Whitbread, the owner of The Royal Oak, and his wife Antonia were our genial hosts.

Here is a brief summary of a few of the things we learned from the lecturers.

Tom Russell, Marketing Manager of Shipton Mill

The mill at Shipton Moyne Wood has been producing flour since the time of the Domesday Book. It is now regarded as one of the leading producers of stoneground and roller milled organic flours in Britain, producing 126 different types of flours for shops, bakeries, restaurants and hotels all over the country. They also run bread making courses at Frampton Mill.

Tom talked through the great changes that have occurred in bread production in Britain, in particular the Chorleywood method of industrial break making. The renaissance in demand for artisan bread that has been growing steadily over the last few years has brought about a revival in interest for different flours and provenance of good ingredients in general.

He believes that not growing too fast as a business, keeping a very close eye on Gross Profit, not selling to supermarkets, not over-spending on branding and packaging, focusing on core products and providing an excellent service have all been key to the success of the Shipton Mill brand.

His advice to aspiring food entrepreneurs is that passion, belief in the product and understanding the market are very important requirements. Grouping together with like-minded artisans, sharing resources, producing a small but excellent range and choosing suppliers that give you the longest number of credit days were also good bits of advice shared.

Ben Lambourne, co-founder of Pong Cheese

Pong Cheese is a cheese retailer and wholesaler. The business was created by two friends from Bath. Matt March-Smith has been in Internet marketing for the last 12 years running several digital marketing agencies in London, helping brands such as Waitrose, Jamie Oliver and Oli launch into the online space; Ben was a chef and cheese expert for over 10 years, and his CV includes serving cheese in the Houses of Parliament.

Ben thought up the idea of creating a business that sold both continental and British cheeses online because he wanted to showcase the huge variety of artisan cheeses that are now being created. He views the internet as a faceless, non-judgemental way that consumers can buy good cheese, whereas some specialist cheese shops can seem intimidating.

Pong sends out boxes of cheeses across the country, anything from one single cheese to monthly cheese boxes and towers of cheese wheels for weddings. The company specialises in washed rind cheeses, and in small, packaged cheeses, so there is no cutting involved and no waste. In addition a range of branded condiments and biscuits has been added to the offer.

Phil Woods, assistant cheesemaker at Simon Weaver Cheeses, Cotswold Organic Dairy

Phil Woods retired from his job as a primary school teacher and entered the world of cheesemaking after he discovered that there was a creamery in his village. The Weavers have been farming in the Cotswolds for the past three generations, and in the South West of England since before 1570. They produce award winning brie cheeses as well as mozzarella, feta and hard Gloucester cheeses on their organic farm in Gloucestershire. Phil explained in detail how 10 000 litres of organic milk are turned into 2000 kg of cheese every week.

Artisan cheese making is definitely not a job for the week: strong arms and muslces are required to stir, cut, lift, drain, turn and pierce the curds, whey and cheese wheels at various stages in their production.

This talk was an entertaining and educational masterclass in how a small, rural creamery can produce an interesting variety of award winning cheeses – the would-be cheesemakers in the room were riveted.

Richard Dempster, Sales Director and co-founder of Bath Ales

Bath Ales is an independent brewery founded in 1995. The co-founders all come from a brewing background. The company employs 250 people, brews 13 different ales, they have created a bottling plant and a brewery shop as well as owning 10 different pubs in and around the Bath and Bristol area.

Richard talked us through the growth trajectory of the business, from its very humble beginnings when three brewer friends got together to make regional cask ales, right through to setting up their own brewery, buying one pub a year every year and expanding the bottling plant. The business moved site several times as the company expanded and more investments were made.

The company now supplies cafes, pubs, restaurants, hotels and supermarkets {both Waitrose and Sainsbury’s}. Future projects include building a 100 barrel brewery and a new bottling plant, as well as creating more craft style brews to meet demand for more hoppy, flavoured beers and to carry on the pub expansion.

The company looks for pubs in good street locations with excellent footfall, and then refurbishes them, introducing a wide variety of beers and excellent food in order to create a foodie destination.

Fact of the day: the company logo of the hare was designed to make the band look female friendly. “Do not alienate 50% of the market!” Richard told us.

The next Foodie Bugles Lectures will be taking place at The School of Artisan Food on 1st August 2013. Click here for details.

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