Opinion and comment from Food and Drink leaders.
Phil Acock is Managing Director and the third generation of his family to run Fourayes - the largest grower and processor of fruit in the UK, and the largest grower and processor of English Bramley apples. Incorporated in 1953, Fourayes evolved through farm gate sales and operated one of the country’s first (and most successful) ‘Pick Your Own’ operations.
In 1963 Fourayes peeled its very first Bramley apple, and never looked back. Fourayes created the natural dip solution to prevent apple flesh browning that is now the industry standard, and leads the way in growing Bramley apples for long-term storage (delivering fresh Bramley apple for processing all year round). Fourayes also has category-leading brands such as Seriously Saucy, Plumptious mincemeat, and amazing Utterly Fruity that allows fresh Bramley apple pieces, Beetroot pieces, even carrot pieces to be used in Bakery and other applications where it was previously not possible to do so.
Today English Bramley apples are still grown on Fourayes farm. Fourayes is the largest buyer of Bramley apples for processing in the UK and also processes a wide range of fruits that can be found in delicious pies, pastries, cakes, desserts and the like in retail across the UK and into Europe.
One Business Success
- At Fourayes we operate at the highest level with ‘blue-chip’ professionalism across our growing, manufacturing, process controls, our people and our highly experienced management team. And yet we are still a firm with family values - able to be entrepreneurial and to make speedy, effective decisions. One result of these values is our alliance with Puratos, the international food group with products and services available in more than 100 countries globally. Puratos aims to be ‘reliable partners in innovation’ and it’s our innovative Utterly Fruity that Puratos is working with us to distribute extensively. Look out for Utterly Fruity apple or Utterly Fruity Beetroot in a tasty treat near you! We have also invested over £2m building a unique sustainable water management plant that will take Fourayes into the future in an environmentally optimised way.
Two sector challenges
- Let’s start with Codling moth. This little creature can devastate apple crops so, with innovation and an environmentally aware attitude, we’ve introduced pheromone ‘spoilers’ throughout our orchards. These tiny units disrupt the moth’s breeding habits in the immediate vicinity of the trees without harming the moths themselves. In fact, our challenge is to continue to produce high quality, safe products in an environmentally supportive way despite being attacked on all sides by pests and diseases. Damaging pesticides and herbicides are, quite rightfully, history but our ‘Bug Hotels’ in every orchard have brought in a huge range of beneficial creatures, including various types of pollinator, for a high quality, safe future.
- Over the next five years the biggest challenge for us all, in food terms, will be food security. We need, as a country, to be working towards ensuring that at least 70% of the food we eat comes from our own shores; instead of the current 46% reliance on imported food (UK Food Security Report 2021). Recent events have more than shown that self-reliance is reliability.
Three sector forecasts
If I were to make three wishes for the future - our future here at Fourayes, and the future of the United Kingdom’s food, my choice would be simple.
- First and foremost I wish that within 10 years we will be growing 70% of everything we eat in this country. That means optimised land management, new levels of efficiency and integrated farming.
- Secondly I wish for fair pricing in food across the food chain. For too long we have undervalued the food we grow and produce. It’s time that our food is fairly valued whether that’s the milk we drink or the fruit and vegetables we eat, or that go into tasty meals and dishes. After all, without food we cease to exist. That’s how vital it is!
- That brings me to my third wish. Perhaps it’s an even more challenging one than the previous two: it’s that all of us, from schools through to food shoppers start to gain a greater appreciation of the food we eat - from nutrition through to great tastes. After all, food is not just essential, it’s one of the greatest pleasures I know.