Butchers' Fair: A grand day out

The return of MTJ’s Butchers’ Fair was a great success, with hundreds of butchers descending on Bolton Arena for the event’s northern premier last Sunday 
(1 October).

Following the same formula as the Butchers’ Fair Spring, which took place at Newbury in April, the event gave independent retailers from across the Midlands, the north of England and even Scotland the chance to meet fellow butchers and suppliers, enter competitions and get ideas and inspiration for their businesses.

“It was absolutely superb — very well put together,” said Adrian Jackson of Boxleys of Wombourne, who travelled up from the Midlands for the event. “It was very interesting to meet bakers too and learn about their industry. It’s very enjoyable to walk around and talk to people about innovations and equipment.”

Visitors were spoilt for choice, with 27 exhibitors covering all aspects of butchery, from the latest ingredients products to new technology, meat suppliers and trade associations. As in Newbury, Butchers’ Fair was co-located with sister event Bakers’ Fair, giving butchers interested in expanding into baked good products the opportunity to see some of the latest innovations in the bakery sector. There were also live demonstrations, presentations and competitions for both butchers and bakers.

Ed Bedington, editor of MTJ, said: “It was a great day. Butchers from across the region came along, with some travelling from far and wide to be with us. The exhibitors attracted lots of attention and the quality of entries to the competitions was outstanding.”

Superb suppliers

On entering the fair, butchers were greeted with the aroma of the new Kumar’s Curries & Bumbus from Verstegen Spices & Sauces, which were being served up on-site for visitors to sample. The curries, three of which recently won gold stars at the Great Taste Awards 2011, were a big hit with bakers and butchers alike and the stand had a queue for most of the day. Renowned Malaysian chef Suresh Kumar, who developed the sauces and flew over from Rotterdam in the Netherlands to be at the event, said: “We have had a really good reaction; everyone says that the whole premises smells of our curry and we have had a big queue. It has been a really positive experience and we are happy with the people coming through.”

Other ingredients exhibitors included Dalziel, Innovative Food Ingredients and the MRC – the Flava people. MRC senior national account manager Andrew Williams said: “It 
has been a good day, it has given us the opportunity to show butchers our new flavours and get some feedback. It has also been interesting to meet the bakers and get their views on our products.”

Equipment Exhibitors

There were a number of companies exhibiting equipment for butchers including Bäro 
Lighting UK, Bizerba, Enterpack, Silesia Grills Systems, Tasty Trotter and J&N Food Equipment. The show was the first outing for J&N Food Equipment’s PR250, a new accurate portion weight and automatic sausage feeder with an attachment that produces automatically linked sausages at about 100 per minute. J&N Food Equipment’s Ian Jones said he was very pleased with the amount of interest and enquiries he received. “The show has been good today. Absolutely.”

The National Federation for Meat and Food Traders (NFMT) and Eblex, the organisation for the beef and lamb sector, were on hand to offer help and support to butchers in the trade. Laura Bishop, Eblex marketing manager, said: “This is our first year at the show and we are enjoying it very much. We are talking to independent butchers about Quality Standard Mark beef and lamb and we have had a lot of interest and have signed up some new members already. I hope we’ll be back next year!”

Another first-time exhibitor was Mylocalbutcher.co.uk, a new web portal which allows butchers to market their products online without the expense of setting up their own website. The site’s developer, Andrew Woodall, is currently recruiting butchers for the site and said the show was a great opportunity to meet butchers and demonstrate the portal. “We have done a lot of demonstrating and have had over 100 people say they are going to sign up,” he said. “We only booked to exhibit on Thursday and the show has surpassed our expectations!”

Live entertainment

Butchers got the chance to take a break from touring the exhibits, during the demonstrations and presentations that were held on the show’s stage throughout the day. Mike Windrow of Dalziel demonstrated how to make the most of Kumar’s Curries & Bumbus, while Simon Nicholson, the Manchester Rusk Company’s in-house Q Guild butcher, showed some innovative ways of presenting products to increase profitability. Russell Allen, of Aubrey Allen, was also on hand to give advice to butchers looking to step into the foodservice sector and discuss what chefs really look for in a supplier.

More live entertainment was provided by the return of the butchers vs bakers competition, at which butchers had reigned triumphant in Newbury in the spring. The competition was less serious this time round, taking a Generation Game theme, with an audience vote. Butchers John Mettrick of JW Mettrick & Son in Derbyshire and Brindon Addy of J Brindon Addy in West Yorkshire were pitted against Lee Batterbee and Richard Patterson, bakers at Bradwell Butchery, with the butchers trying their hand at cake-making and the bakers getting to grips with sausage-making.

It was a close call, but the final audience vote saw the butchers lose to the bakers by a small margin, despite being praised for their “fantastic first attempt” at cake decoration.

The fair also played host to two prestigious MTJ competitions — the first ever National 
Pie Making Competition and the well-established Champion of Champions sausage competition. The competitions were judged live and the trophies for both events were given out at the end of the day by actress and former ’Allo ’Allo star Vicki Michelle, who was a big hit with the audience. 

Looking forward 

Overall, butchers agreed the event was a 
grand day out. Steve Vaughan of Vaughan’s Family Butchers in north Wales said: “It has been very good, very interesting. It’s nice 
to come here and meet new people and 
see old faces. I will definitely be back 
next year.” 

Allan Bennett of Allan Bennett butchers in Codsall, who came to the show with his son, added: “We have had a brilliant day and have met some lovely people. It’s days like this that show why our trade is so fantastic.”

Ed Bedington said the Butchers’ Fair would return again next year. “Both of our Butchers’ Fairs — in Newbury in the spring and Bolton in the autumn — have been a great success, demonstrating that butchers really value this sort of event,” he said. “We shall bring them back to the south and north in 2012, and build on the success of this year to make them even bigger and better.”