Blackpool Rock companies express fears over impact from Chinese imports

A group of Blackpool Rock confectionery producers have expressed fears for the future of their industry, after witnessing an influx of Chinese imitation ranges severely impact their trade, reports Neill Barston.

David Thorp, director of Stanton & Novelty Confectioners Ltd, has joined with nine other specialist manufacturers calling on their local MPs seeking safeguarding British made produce – which is already facing considerable pressure from inflation of ingredients costs and a cost of living crisis impacting consumers.

As the confectionery manufacturer explained, the market is already a dwindling one with just 30 people having the specialist skills to craft the distinctive rock lettering that has been at the heart of the industry since its inception in the 1880s.

The group has lodged an appeal to the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), to gain protected geographical food and drink status for its class of ‘rock sticks,’ which it will hopes will stem the imports of what it believes are essentially non-genuine, inferior products flooding the market.

In their joint letter, the companies issued a plea to MPs, stating that ‘preserving the heritage and tradition of British confectionery is essential for our economy , but also for maintaining our cultural identity and pride. By championing the cause of local producers, you will not only support businesses like ours, but also uphold the values of fairness, quality and authenticity that define British craftsmanship.’

However, the group has expressed concern that its call for assistance may not be heard fully, as one of the area’s MPs, Scott Benton has been forced to quit the Conservative Party within the past month and stand down as a member of parliament, and fellow Tory, Mark Menzies, has also confirmed he has left the party, and is now an independent. He will stand down at the next election, which is anticipated within the next six months.

Another of the area’s MP’s, Ben Wallace, the former defence secretary, has also confirmed that he is due to stand down in a matter of months from the Conservative Party at the General Election, leaving just one other option for them to approach – Paul Maynard, the Member of Parliament representing Blackpool North & Cleveleys.

Speaking to Confectionery Production, David Thorp, whose company makes thousands of sticks of rock each day, said: “This is a situation we are very concerned about, and it’s only been happening this year, where Chinese rock is now being sold over the past few months. This on top of other confectionery lines they were also bringing over previously.

“Blackpool Rock is something that is intrinsically British, and is part of our heritage and it’s part of people’s nostalgic memories. So, we just wanted to make sure that people know this is going on, as it’s having a massive impact,” explained the director, who adds that he fears that of the ten small manufacturers in the Blackpool area, a number may well be put out of business from Chinese imports.

“There’s a limited amount of people, maybe totalling 30 that actually have the skills to make Blackpool Rock, with several of them at our company, including myself as one of them. Our company was founded by my grandfather in 1969, and carried on by my father, and myself for the past seven years.

“There are only two or three other places in the UK that make rock, and we just felt that we have to do something about this and so we have looked at getting a protected product status for it – we have known someone who has done something similar with Lancashire Cheese whom we have gained some advice from.”

The group of Blackpool area manufacturers including McAdams Confectionery, Hornby/Parterre Confectionery, Baxter Brothers Confectionery, Rainbow Candies, Arnolds Confectioners, Mr Confectionery T/A Marton Rock Ltd, Blackpool Rock & Novelties, and Stanton & Novelty Ltd.

Industry response`
Significantly, the British confectionery trade has been quick to back the cause of protecting the Blackpool Rock industry (a picture of the seafront of the Lancashire, UK town, above), with fellow trade customers quick to voice their support posting on Linkedin.

Jim Greenberg, owner of Union Confectionery Machinery said: “The UK needs Blackpool to continue its tradition of seaside rock production. It’s too iconic to go by the wayside, and it’s synonymous with the region. Keep fighting boys.”

Another post, from Victor Fox, of Kandy Kandy, read: “Good luck David. I only import what I can’t get made in Blackpool. Blackpool is an institution and definitely needs protecting from the importers who are trying to close it down.”

As David Thorp added, he has been encouraged by a positive show of support from customers within the UK, and has been in contact with one of the area’s remaining MPs, Paul Maynard, and remains hopeful that some positive action can be taken, having lodged its call for protected product status with Defra last week.

“It’s the heritage of our rock that makes it special, and something we don’t want to lose,” adds the director, who says that as with many other small and medium-sized enterprises, the company also had to shoulder high costs of ingredients, as well as energy prices, that have proved particularly damaging in economic terms.

As he noted, the company has been making rock for decades now, including for other British locations including Herne Bay in Kent, and hoped its measure to seek greater protection would help ensure the home-grown industry’s survival.


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