Farmers go from protestors to canny business people
A NEW range of lamb-ready meals, produced in North Wales, has been given the thumbs up by some of the UK’s top food buyers.
Eight North Wales sheep farmers soon hope to be closing out deals after the success of initial trials with their partner processor, Roberts of Port Dinorwic.
If they succeed, they will have achieved a remarkable transition from fed-up farmers to canny businessmen, having been at the centre of the 2015 supermarket protests against low lamb prices.
As well as returning greater margins back into farming, by having greater control over the supply chain, they hope the venture will also help reverse the trend of declining lamb consumption in Britain.
At this summer’s Royal Welsh Show their business, Ffermydd Teuluol - Family Farms, unveiled four ready-meal products – and a new brand logo.
Three were meatball-in-sauce dishes developed in collaboration with Roberts of Port Dinorwic, a major regional processor of meat products with a 10-acre site on the Menai Strait.
“We were all producing high-quality lamb,” said group spokesman Michael Jones, who farms at Llandygai, near Bangor.
“But, to increase the volume of sales, we needed to consider how best to add value, so we investigated the processing options and market opportunities.
“Now, thanks to working with this hugely successful local company, we are optimistic about the potential to expand out our lamb flocks.
“We would also hope to provide new opportunities for other top-quality PGI lamb producers throughout Wales.”
Ffermydd Teuluol first got together last year with support from Farming Connect’s Agrisgôp programme.
Agrisgôp leader Aaron Hughes said a key motivation was falling UK lamb consumption and the fear that this would make many farms unviable.
With Agrisgôp’s involvement, the group embarked on 12 months of consumer research to better understand the mechanics of retailing PGI Welsh Lamb.
Members met retailers and processors, identifying a need for easy lamb meals that would appeal to modern consumers
With help from the Food Technology Centre at Coleg Menai, Llangefni, Ffermydd Teuluol created a lamb burger product.
This was followed by three meatball products, developed with guidance from Miriam Williams, director of Roberts of Port Dinorwic, which supplies pubs, restaurants and leisure groups throughout the UK: “That initial support through Agrisgôp was pivotal to our progress,” said Michael.
“Aaron signposted us to other support organisations and business experts which then gave us the confidence and knowledge to produce our own business plan.
“It also enabled us to tap into other subsidised Farming Connect support services such as technical advice and nutrient management planning.”
Other support was also forthcoming: rural regeneration group Conwy Cynhaliol provided grant aid for pre-commercial market research, while Cywain, the food marketing support agency, advised on branding, packaging and test trading.
Getting a contract price to trim lamb was perhaps the most important step of all, as it enabled the group to work out its margins with.retailers.
For this, their involvement with Roberts of Port Dinorwic was crucial.
Miriam Williams said trials of the Ffermydd Teuluol meatball products was highly promising.
“It’s still early days,” she said. “But we are already having a hugely positive reaction to our trials of this new range of pre-cooked meals from a number of UK buyers.”
Framed by the Carneddau range, near Tal-y-Cafn, are, from left (back) Arwyn Evans, Foelcathau; Emyr Owen, Bodrach; Elwyn Evans, Treiddon; Euros Williams, Llethr; and (front): Euros Owen, Llwydfaen; Barry Wanklyn, Pantllin Mawr; Trystan Sion, Ty’n Y Coed; and Michael Jones, Ffridd
● Michael leads the 2015 protests and, with Euros Williams and Euros Owen, promoting Ffermydd Teuluol’s lamb meatball meals at this year’s Royal Welsh Show