Two Welsh artisan food businesses are collaborating to create new opportunities for their products and increase the health benefits for customers.
Brecon-based Cradoc’s Savoury Biscuits is using rapeseed oil produced by Pembrokeshire Gold in Manorbier as part of its drive to lower the saturated fat content of its crackers.
A premium product producer, Cradoc’s recipes are packed with wheat, oats, fresh vegetables and fruits, seeds, herbs, and spices. The crackers are sold online and at independent retailers, delis and farm shops.
Allie Thomas, who founded the bakery 12 years ago with her daughter Ella, was looking for an alternative to butter for the Cradoc’s range.
The company is a member of the Fine Food Cluster initiative. Facilitated by Cywain, the Cluster fosters connections between businesses in the sector and offers members the opportunity to receive business advice, attend events, and network with other Welsh companies.
Allie said: “As members of the Food & Drink Wales Fine Food Cluster, we have attended a set of category insight programmes on creating healthier foods, and where there is the opportunity to increase new product development. We began looking at how we could tweak our biscuit recipes to replace butter, high in saturated fat, with healthier beneficial alternatives.”
That opportunity came about when Allie was introduced to rapeseed grower Harry Thomas of Pembrokeshire Gold – which began selling its cold pressed oil 18 months ago.
Allie said: “We were introduced by fellow Fine Food Cluster member Pembrokeshire Chilli Farm, who grow the chillis that Pembrokeshire Gold use in their delicious chilli oil. Harry at Pembrokeshire Gold sent us some samples, and the colour and flavour of the oil were beautiful. Also, cold pressed rapeseed is high in Omega 3 and 6, high phenolic compounds and vitamin E; it has amazing health benefits equal to olive oil, and it can stand the heat of baking - so we decided to switch up 20% of our current rapeseed ingredient to Pembrokeshire Gold cold pressed product."
Harry Thomas of Pembrokeshire Gold said he was excited to work with Cradoc’s. He said: “Meeting Allie and the Cradoc’s team has been great, and it’s wonderful to be able to supply our oil as a raw material to another Welsh business.”
Harry is the third generation of his family to run Park Farm, where - in addition to oilseed rape – he grows wheat, barley and beans. In 2021 an on-farm crushing facility was created to produce Pembrokeshire Gold Extra Virgin Cold Pressed Rapeseed Oil.
The collaboration has been welcomed by the Welsh Government’s Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths who said: “The Food & Drink Wales cluster groups were created to encourage and facilitate collaboration and cooperation between Welsh food and drink enterprises.
“It’s great to see Cradoc’s Savoury Biscuits and Pembrokeshire Gold working together. This is yet another successful alliance achieved through cluster membership which is to the benefit of both producers, customers and environmental sustainability.”
A relatively new company, Pembrokeshire Gold launched its first bottles of Extra Virgin Cold Pressed Rapeseed Oil in January 2022. Now the business produces over 1,000 litres a month which is bottled at the farm and sold through the Pembrokeshire Gold website, independent retailers, farm shops and delis. Infused oils are also produced, as are larger sizes for catering and manufacturing customers. Pembrokeshire Gold has also gone on to achieve SALSA accreditation in only three months, which will open new opportunities for the business.
Harry said: “Pembrokeshire Gold’s Welsh cold pressed rapeseed oil and infused oils are truly field to fork – and we are the only company in Wales that grow, harvest, press and bottle on farm. This puts sustainable production at the heart of Pembrokeshire Gold’ with a passion for the environment on our carbon-negative family farm. In a further commitment to the environment, we also choose not to use any single-use plastic in our packaging.”
Cold pressed rapeseed oil is a versatile oil which can be used in several cooking methods. Cold pressed rapeseed oil contains less saturated fat than other cooking oils, including olive oil and coconut oil. High in unsaturated fats – particularly mono-unsaturated fats - rapeseed oil is also a good source of vitamin E.
Rapeseeds are planted in the autumn and in the spring produce very distinctive bright yellow flowers, which go on to produce the pods which are harvested in the summer. The rapeseed is gently cleaned and dried before being placed in a screw press to extract the oil. Unlike the refining process, cold pressing does not require additional heat and solvents to be added. The oil is then filtered and stored in vats for bottling.
Since its launch, Pembrokeshire Gold has received business support from Cywain and the Fine Food Cluster and has attended events such as last year’s Royal Welsh Show and, more recently, the Farm Shop & Deli Show at the NEC in Birmingham.
Harry said: “We have had fantastic support, and we have been able to participate in events that we would not have been able to attend on our own. As a new member of the Fine Food Cluster, meeting other Welsh producers and discussing ideas has been invaluable.”
Cradoc’s has grown from a kitchen table-top enterprise to an award-winning company which exports to countries including America, Italy, Ireland, Qatar, Spain and the UAE.
Allie explained: “The catalyst was cheese. We are crazy for cheese in our family, but the biscuits were not good enough. We were eating artisan cheese with mass-produced crackers, and we thought it would be better to have Welsh biscuits made with care and local ingredients.”
The Cradoc’s range includes varieties such as Spinach & Celery Seed, Chilli Ginger & Garlic, and the ‘market game-changing’ Beetroot & Garlic cracker, which has a distinctive pink colour.
The company now employs an eight-strong baking team – including apprentices - at its SALSA-accredited bakery, with plans to shortly take over an adjoining unit to produce gluten-free products.
But the connection with Pembrokeshire Gold is not limited to oil, as Allie is looking into the possibility of incorporating the rapeseed itself into Cradoc’s Crackers.
Allie said: “When we were both at the Farm Shop & Deli and Food & Drink Expo in Birmingham, Pembrokeshire Gold had some of the seeds used to produce the oil. The mash is usually a by-product fed to livestock, but it has flavour and fibre, and I want to test it to see if it can be used in biscuits to increase mineral content and reduce waste.”
Being part of the Fine Food Cluster and showcasing under Food & Drink Wales at events, Allie said, has helped Cradoc’s raise its profile and access information and training.
“As Cluster members, we are part of a team; we are not isolated. We’ve had so much assistance from other people there who have been in our position and are where we are going.
“Food & Drink Wales is a massively influential marketing campaign, and we’ve had food and drink buyers from all over the world say that when they step onto the red carpet of the stand at events, they know they are in Wales and there will be quality food and drink.”
Kate Rees, South Wales Fine Food Development Manager, said: "The Fine Food Cluster was established to support Welsh Food and Drink Producers through collaboration and knowledge sharing. To see our cluster members working together to enhance their businesses is fantastic, and we couldn't be more pleased to support Pembrokeshire Gold and Cradoc’s and their amazing products."