A talent for marketing

Steak and chocolate sausages may not be everyone's favourite recipe or indeed a best seller but for John Brown it proved to be a low cost promotion for his retail shop A E Brown and Son in the Main Street, Turriff.

Not only did the beef with cocoa powder and chocolate pieces win a Diamond Award in the Scottish Federation's 'Make it With Meat Awards' in Perth but publicity was achieved world wide as far as Hamilton in Canada and certainly UK national media including radio and TV.

John is not concerned that he gets very few requests for the recipe now as the sausage was intended to be a bit of a "tongue-in-cheek" presentation to help celebrate the Millennium May Day in Turriff. "Some people ate it for breakfast with eggs and bacon but I am not sure I could face that myself," says John. However, he has been told that 'JB's Steak and Chocolate Sausage' makes an excellent barbeque item. A couple of years later John produced the Pork and Irn Bru sausage which achieved almost as much publicity, partly because the Irn Bru is a Scottish energy drink and sometimes used to cure a hangover. So those believing in a hearty breakfast the morning after could combine both cures with the AE Brown sausage.

These exotic foods are typical of John's ability to introduce new products and concepts which has been a mainstay of the retail shop since he took it over in 1987 from his late father Tom Brown. The shop was opened in 1957 by John's grandfather Alex, the 'A' in 'A E Brown'. When John took over the shop, it had just been moved to larger and more modern premises at 14 Main Street. It was in 1990 that John entered his first competition winning a bronze award. Since then no fewer than 49 have been won for product development, innovation, quality and shop displays mainly in Scottish Federation competitions.

In 1992 he won the 'Verstegan Trophy' from Egon Ronay for being runner up in the best new product category and, in 1997, won six gold medals for new products in 'Make it with Meat' Awards and two gold and three silver medals in the 'Slavakto International Awards' in Holland. AE Brown has two full time butchers - John and Cameron Taylor - and three part-timers. Currently, the best sellers in the fresh sausage range are the Pork Stilton and Apple sauce and, at Christmas, the Wild Boar with Port and Cranberries. These have remained popular with customers since their introduction over 12 years ago. Another popular product is the shop's steak pies with 200 to 300 sold weekly. In May last year, John made a special Cow Pie, reminiscent of the ones eaten by that other famous Scottish creation Desperate Dan in the Beano.

This pie was placed in the shop window for locals to guess its weight. The winner got a £50 voucher. John donated £65 to the Turra Coo Sculpture project, most appropriate for a Turriff butcher.

The Turra Coo story.

The Turra Coo celebrates the famous white milking cow taken in 1913 from Lendrum farmer Robert Paterson after he refused to stamp his employee's national insurance cards. Local farmers complained that the new national insurance contributions for their workers, who rarely went sick and introduced by Prime minister David Lloyd George, were too high. The bailiffs were sent to Lendrum to seize goods worth £22 but, as no one would help the bailiffs carry out the order, they took one of Robert's cows.

On the day of the auction locals, bedecked in ribbon and painted with the words 'Lendrum to Leeks', pelted the auction with eggs, soot, neeps, cabbages and kale stumps. The cow was eventually sold to Alexander Craig for £7 and was immediately bought back the locals for farmer Paterson. The cow died six years later of bovine tuberculosis

Turriff life.

Unlike much of Britain, agriculture remains a vital part of local life with Turriff boasting, per head of population, the biggest agricultural show in the UK. It attracts no fewer than 40,000 visitors. outnumbering the town's 5,000 inhabitants.Scheduled to start at the start of the holiday season and located close to castles, distilleries and several historical sites, the show provides a big boost to the fortunes of local traders including A E Brown. John expects to help maintain trade again this year with publicity from winning competition entries. He is already planning recipes for the Federation's annual awards.