How PGI brought borough back from the brink

A decade ago Melton in rural Leicestershire was in decline with rocketing unemployment and minimal prospects of improvement.

The local mine was closing, an RAF base was long gone and remaining industries such as farming needed fewer staff.

Today food based industry is booming and has grown throughout the recession as local producers make full use of EU Protected Food Name status for Melton Mowbray Pork Pies and Stilton Cheese.

“It took years of effort and court battles to ensure these two products could only come from Melton and even more effort to grow the businesses,” recalled Dr Matthew O’Callaghan, a local councillor and protected names consultant.

Speaking to Armagh Bramley Apple growers he recalled that “We were at risk of having neither pies nor cheese made in Melton as manufacturers elsewhere started to use these names. Now we have more producers in Melton, selling at a premium price nationwide right thought the recession.

“You can do the same with Armagh Bramley Apples and need to do so as today one can drive through the county and see little mention of your product. Go for a meal in local hotels and restaurants and see no mention of the product. Indeed consume and greatly enjoy this wonderful apple without even knowing what it is or where it is from!

“In Melton signage tells visitors they are entering the home of Melton Mowbray Pork Pies and Stilton Cheese. Products easily available locally and with lots of fun happenings linked to them such as the British Pork Pie Championships. Princes, politicians and personalities being used shamelessly to promote our very own cheese and pies!

“All great fun that brings an annual £70 million of tourist spend into a small borough, population 25, 552. A borough with near full employment in plants large and small producing premium products sold UK wide.

“From my experience working with dozens of EU Protected Food Names I see no reason why Armagh Bramley Apples cannot enjoy similar success.

“But the effort must come from growers and garner decisive support from the local community and various layers of government. Backing from processors, bakers, cider makers, retailers and restaurateurs will grow as your premium product starts to add to their income as well as yours.

“Having worked in the food business on the continent and in the Americas I can assure you Armagh Bramley Apples not only have a unique name, they have numerous unique characteristics.

“An intense flavour, low sugar and high malic acid content in an apple that stores well to retain texture and flavour during cooking. An apple with many uses, including producing a cider with a tremendous taste.

“Apples grown by families in this business for centuries in an area of great beauty within 90 mins drive of two million consumers. Consumers, who also seek away day and short break destinations offering the chance to see their food being produced.

“Opportunity beckons, urgently, not just for growers, but for the people of the County Armagh to make full use of the Armagh Bramley Apple in growing their economy.”

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