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People keener to buy local after pandemic says Snowdonia food company owner as they launch new snacks

11 Mar 2021 5 minutes Read
Maria McLean of Dylan’s restaurant and Geraint Hughes from Welsh food company Madryn.

People are keener to buy Welsh produce to boost the local economy after the pandemic, a Snowdonia-based food company have said as they launch a new range of snacks.

With large parts of the nation stuck at home watching Netflix at night, Bwyddd Madryn hopes that its new popcorn, made with ingredients from Wales, will be just as successful as the company’s Welsh cakes, crisps and chocolate.

The company, based in Pwllheli, was set up by agri-food expert Geraint Hughes in 2012 to promote and provide an outlet for Welsh produce which he describes as the “best in the world”.

He said that the pandemic had led to a backlash against globalisation with more people turning to locally-made produce.

 “Generally, the snacks market is run by multi-nationals so we wanted to bring Welsh brands together so that we can also have a slice of the market,” Geraint Hughes said.

“One consequence of the pandemic is that there seems to be a bit of a backlash against globalisation with people wanting more localisation.

“The market seems to be polarising with the bargain basement outlets doing well and locally produced, high-quality food at the other end of the spectrum proving popular too.

“The golden thread that runs through everything is our Welsh ethos – the driver for me was seeing how much was being bled out of the local economy because of the way the food industry is set up.

“What we do is try to set up food chains which are as Welsh as we can possibly make them.”

‘Very popular’

Their food is made with Welsh ingredients, with the popcorn flavoured with Halen Môn sea salt from the coastline of Anglesey and Blodyn Aur (Golden Flower) rapeseed oil from hills above Llanfihangel Glyn Myfyr in Conwy.

“I was brought up on a farm and I always had an interest in growing crops and later I led crop research at Bangor University,” Geraint Hughes said.

“The spur for establishing Bwydydd Madryn nine years ago was to have more of an influence on the food chain so we could provide an outlet for Welsh food producers.

“I realised the reality of trade is that it’s easy enough to grow something, but it’s altogether more difficult to find a route to market to sell the produce.

“When times are difficult like now with the Covid pandemic it’s important not to retreat into your shell.

“We have done the complete opposite and been proactive in speeding up the launch new products like the snacks which, I’m glad to say, are proving very popular.”

Another development was the launch of the www.blasus.cymru website to enable the company to sell directly to customers as well as through supermarkets, convenience stores and restaurants across Wales.

“The www.blasus.cymru website has taken off and the addition of the snacks to the range was a natural development for the Jones brand, which also include a popular range of crisps,” Geraint Hughes said. “It’s made us more resilient.

“Meanwhile, the Blodyn Aur oil and our Calon Lȃn range of condiments and sauces have had a boost because retail sales of food have increased in supermarkets and convenience stores over the past year.

“We work with 11 different food manufacturers to make our ranges, and by doing that we indirectly support work on those sites.”

Among their customers are the Dylan’s chain of restaurants which has eateries in Porthaethwy, Criccieth and Llandudno.

Jones o Gymru Popcorn and Chocolate

‘Strong sales’

Geraint Hughes added that when the hospitality industry reopens – expected in Easter – there’ll be another new market for the snacks.

“The story behind the produce and its provenance is important and we felt there was a gap for Welsh snack products,” he said.

“The Bara Brith and the Welsh Cakes are made locally in Dyffryn Ogwen while the chocolate comes from a company in Bala.

“As part of our mission to take Wales to the world, the Jones brand founded the Bara Brith World Championships and put a picture of a bike on our Welsh Cakes packaging in honour of Tour de France hero Geraint Thomas who loves Welsh Cakes.

“The popcorn which comes in two varieties – salty and sweet and salty is made in an artisan copper kettle and is produced with Halen Môn and Blodyn Aur oil which is used to pop the corn.

“We’ve noticed that a lot of people who do gifts and gift packages have been buying the popcorn and another reason for the strong sales is that it’s deemed to be a healthy snack.

“There’s nothing better with a paned than a lovely slice of Bara Brith or a yummy Welsh Cake.”

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