Jones Popcorn makes the most of local Welsh ingredients for latest series

Tapping into the rapidly expanding trend for utilising an expanded range of local ingredients is a key feature of Welsh-based Jones Popcorn’s latest product range, writes Neill Barston.

The company’s new series snacks and is 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.

As the business explained to Confectionery Production, another part of the range under the Jones brand are iconic Welsh treats like individual slices of Bara Brith fruit loaf and twin packs of Welsh Cakes made in the Snowdonia village of Llanllechid, along with Jones Chocolate from Bala in Gwynedd.

They’re being sold by the growing Bwydydd Madryn food company which is based in Pwllheli where the company recently opened a new warehouse to cope with burgeoning demand.

Among the first stockists of the snacks is the Dylan’s chain of restaurants which has eateries in Porthaethwy, Criccieth and Llandudno.

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

Bwydydd Madryn 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”. The firm employs three other people including Geraint’s business partner, James Hughes.

Geraint said: “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. 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.

“The 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. It’s made us more resilient.

He added that the business works with 11 different food manufacturers to make its ranges, and by doing that it indirectly supports work on those sites, which he said was born of a desire to support the Welsh economy, which he said was being notably affected by its present infrastructure and wider market conditions.

“What we do is try to set up food chains which are as Welsh as we can possibly make them. 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. 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 story behind the produce and its provenance is important and we felt there was a gap for Welsh snack products. 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.”

Explaining the latest range, he added 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.

“When the hospitality industry reopens, there’ll me another new market we haven’t yet reached with the snacks. There’s nothing better with a paned than a lovely slice of Bara Brith or a yummy Welsh Cake.”

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