March 9 2014 Latest news:
Ben Woods, Business writer
Saturday, January 25, 2014
Some have it on toast, in a baked potato, or as the perfect accompaniment to an English breakfast.
But few have eaten baked beans produced in Great Britain – until now.
One Norfolk company is hoping to capitalise on the nation’s love of the humble canned vegetable with its unique twist on baked beans in tomato sauce.
Diss-based Hodmedod’s have turned their back on the navy bean – sourced outside the UK and traditionally used by Heinz and Branson – in favour of the home-grown fava bean.
And this month, directors Nick Saltmarsh and Josiah Meldrum will discover whether there is an appetite for their new creation when they launch their canned products, which include: Baked British Beans, British Fava Beans in water, and spiced beans British Vaal Dhal.
Mr Saltmarsh said he does not expect to compete with the food-giant Heinz, which sells 1.5 million cans of baked beans a day, but is hoping that the fava bean will capture people’s imagination.
“We don’t really have any preconceptions of becoming a serious competitor to Heinz that has market dominance,” he said. “Our ambition is to provide an alternative which is a little bit different.
“The beans are more substantial, and quite meaty really, compared to the more tender Heinz bean. We hope to create a very humble small market that, over time, may grow as more people are introduced to them. The product is for people that are interested in eating British, and we see it being a little bit like hummous. People never used to eat it, but now its a popular item in the supermarkets.”
Fava beans are one of the oldest cultivated crops in the UK, eaten as far back as the Iron Age.
But while 500,000 tonnes is grown across the country each year, the majority is exported to the Mediterranean, North Africa and the Middle East.
Mr Saltmarsh said the fava bean fell out of favour in this country when Britain became more prosperous and other sources of protein became more readily available, such as meat and milk. But he is determined to get the beans back on the British menu, and even has plans to launch other less well-known crops, including quinoa, spelt grains and baby kidney beans.
“We launched our first products over a year ago,” he said. “These were packets of whole dried fava beans and split fava beans which you can cook from dry. But we realised that these were quite a niche product, so we were very keen to develop a new range of products that would make the beans more marketable, which is why we developed the canned range.”
Mr Saltmarsh said the firm’s next step was to inject more cash into the business so it can grow, either through a bank loan, venture capital or crowdfunding – an internet-based platform where a number of people can invest in an idea or business model.