A wine by any other name… The official new name for English Sparking Wine

nyetimberFrance has Champagne, Italy has Prosecco and Spain has Cava… but with the meteoric rise of the reputation of English Sparking Wine there has been a struggle as to what to call it. It seems English Winemakers now how have a solution… or do they?

When you think about Champagne or Prosecco they conjure up images of sophistication, high society and celebration. However, the new official name for English Sparking Wine, as backed by the UK Vineyard Association somehow seems to miss the same mark.

The association are suggesting that UK winemakers begin using the term ‘British Fizz’ on their bottles in order to differentiate it from it’s more established French, Italian and Spanish rivals. But, not everyone is convinced by the new name… myself included.

British Fizz. It just does not seem to have the right resonance. To me it suggests more alco-pop than a refined premium product. That being said, it is easier to criticise that create and I cannot really think of anything too much better.

If you have any bright ideas please comment below.

– James

New Collective of British manufacturers – Initial signs are promising

A new collective of British manufacturers have just met to discuss how they can take more control of the future of the ailing sector. The results were very positive.

Earlier this week the MD of MSE UK, Alex Henderson (a British manufacturer of medical equipment), and I organised a meeting with manufacturers to discuss how we might influence change in the sectors at this time of political upheaval.

Firstly, we were overwhelmed by the response to our invitation to attend (or our call to arms, if you will).  In attendance for the round table event we representatives from, what seemed like, every conceivable sub-sector of British manufacturing and from all over the country.

A far larger number of manufactures contacted me in response to the invitations apologising for not being able to attend but wishing to know the outcome. For those interested, here is a brief summary of the action points to come out of the meeting:

It was clear that, as a collective of manufacturers, our specific priorities differ. That being said, there was consensus that it was an over-arching cultural change in attitude towards British manufacturing that was required. This included in change in consumer buying habits, political rhetoric and in education. It was also clear that we were all keen for the net result of any activities undertaken by the group resulted in increased sales for UK manufacturers both domestically and through export.

There was further consensus that what was required was a well-funded ‘marketing organisation’ rather than a lobby group per-se. There was reference to the activities of the organisations such as the Milk Marketing Board and the Meat Marketing Board who managed to successfully change British consumer culture in the mid-20th century, the legacy of which remains to this day. It was recognised that the formation of a ‘Manufacturing Marketing Board’ would take considerable resource and infrastructure as well as requiring a long-term view but would be a worthwhile exercise.

There was some concerns raised by the group about the number of differing organisations that exist claiming to be working in the name of British manufacturing. It was agreed that there needed to be some push to combine the associated efforts of these dispersed groups. However, it was also acknowledged that the differing priorities of these organisations, the commercial nature of some and the egos of those involved may frustrate a call to arms under one banner.

Ultimately, it was considered that the formation of a formal organisation at this point was currently beyond the reach of the group. That being said we have agreed to a number of first steps in an attempt to put the group in a more powerful position to do so:

  • A Statement of Intent, or mission statement, will be drafted and agreed by those present by the end of the year. Alex Henderson will offer a first draft for consideration.
  • It was clear that, within the room, we have a powerful reach to other manufacturers and other collectives. With that in mind we will reach out to others from within our own networks in order achieve significant backing for the Statement from industry. This could be in the form a 38 degrees campaign. This will begin early in the New Year.
  • Given significant backing a collective approach to government will be made as well as to other manufacturing representative bodies.
  • James Bradshaw will organise some method for ongoing collaboration for the group which will allow for group input ‘virtually’. This could be a forum or another such online collaboration tool.

Personally, I believe that yesterday we achieved consensus on a path to move forward. We certainly had enough passion in the room to make me optimistic that such enthusiasm will be contagious as we approach others.

If you were unable to join us for the meeting but would still like to be involved please contact us directly.


Can battered UK manufacturers keep up with post Brexit demand?

banksyUK manufacturing is on the cusp of a revival say insiders but is an industry that has suffered 50 years of gradual depletion up to it?

The emerging renaissance in UK manufacturing has been driven by the rising cost of overseas production, particularly in China, and an increased need for flexibility in supply chains. And now that the UK has voted to leave the European Union, optimists believe demand for local manufacturing will grow. However, the manufacturing industry has been decimated since the 1970s and 1980s.

The UK fashion industry is expected to be one of the big Brexit winners. Around 100,000 people are now employed by the UK’s clothing and textile industry. This is actually the highest number since 2007, but is still dramatically less than the early 1970s, when it provided jobs for more than 1 million people. A recent report from the UK Fashion & Textile Association (UKFT) this summer revealed a 7.6% increase in the number of UK companies manufacturing textiles and clothing over the past year. This is clearly a break from a long-standing downward trend but if Brexit does trigger a sudden rise in demand can the much depleted sector keep up?

UK factories no longer have the capacity for volume manufacturing, so meeting any boom in demand will be far from easy.


Marmite -V- Tesco – the true cost of Brexit

marmiteMarmite, the salty yeast based breakfast staple, is at the centre of an on-going row between two consumer giants. Unilever are saying that Brexit is responsible for the massive price hike of it’s products and Tesco are saying that they should not foot the bill. Tesco has since gone on to embargo affected Unilever products meaning that stocks of the Marmite are no longer appearing on shelves. However, Marmite is actually made in the UK. So why is it’s price being effected by the falling pound?

Marmite has been exclusively produced in one factory in Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire since 1902. While the exact recipe is a trade secret, its main ingredients include yeast extract, vegetables and spices and was originally produced in the town because of it’s rich brewing heritage. There were once 30 breweries in the surrounding area which supplied the waste yeast as a by-product of beer making to the Marmite factory but now the raw materials come from across the country.

The pound has fallen 17% since Britain voted to leave the EU. Some suggest that these are fantastic conditions for UK manufacturing to grow and thrive and, in any case, why should a UK produced product consisting of all UK produced ingredients suffer from such currency fluctuations. Well, the answer is simple – while the product itself is made in the UK the bottles aren’t. Like many similar products, the bottles are likely to constitute the majority of the value of the finished. Basically, the cost of the container is more expensive to produce than the content. After all, the main ingredient is slurried yeast!

Unilever are asking for 10% price increase in a number of their products and some are suggesting that the increased costs, in real terms, are unlikely to be that high. So are Unilever trying to take advantage of the current political situation? The answer has to be ‘quite possibly’. If successful are other food producers going to try something similar – almost certainly.

With the falling pound it is clear that imported goods will likely suffer a price hike but the majority of UK produced items should remain static. As consumers, in the short-term, we will certainly need to begin scrutinising the location of manufacture of goods far more rigorously in order to get the best deals. This is unless unscrupulous producers begin trying to pull a fast one.

UK manufacturing suffering but it’s too early for Remainers to gloat.

uk-manufacturing-outputs-slight-june-growthThe plunging pound is failing to boost demand for UK exports British factories suffered a worse-than-expected drop in activity after the Brexit vote.

Eagerly anticipated data released today by the Office of national Statistics (ONS) showed a sharp contraction in the manufacturing sector in July of 0.9%. This news comes despite hopes that the Brexit-hit pound might make British made good an attractive proposition for overseas buyers.

However, the figures appear to show a small 0.1% rise in overall industrial production for the same period which seems to somewhat contradict the doom and gloom.

Whatever you politics many sources are using this news as an ‘I told you so’ to underline their stance on the recent Brexit vote. However, if recent history has taught us anything it is that we should be careful not to talk ourselves into recession.

At worst todays news is a mixed message. I believe, that given the right governmental support the UK manufacturing sector could emerge from Brexit stronger than at any other point in it’s recent history, but it will be a long game. It is far too early for ‘I told you so’ and certainly far to early to worry about recession.

  • James

After nearly a century MG cars are no longer made in Britain

1280px-mg_tf_blue_frontThe last MG branded car to be built in the UK has already rolled off the production line. After 90 years of production the Chinese owners of the MG marque have decided to more production… yes, you guessed it – to China.

Shanghai-based SAIC Motor acquired Chinese automaker Nanjing Automobile in 2006 following their purchase of the MG marque and the Longbridge facility (for £53 million) just 12 month earlier.

The British-badged carmaker, first established in 1920, sold 2,300 vehicles in the UK last year. However, SAIC suggest that the move will only cost 25 jobs in the UK.

The low redundancy figure can be attributed to the fact that much of the actual manufacturing was off-shored soon after the initial 2006 deal. The production line in Longbridge, as I understand it, was mainly for screwing on the bumpers and other last fix assembly.

So, the reality is that, if you have bought a new MG in the last 10 years. Its claim to be ‘Made in Britain’ might be considered to be illegitimate.

Ultimately, the latest news is the final nail in the coffin for the manufacture of these iconic British sports cars in the UK.

A fully British watch movement is ‘weeks away’

I just had a quick email from Robert Loomes who informed me that his ultimate ambition of creating an entirely British made watch movement is close to fruition. This is certainly exiting news for anyone with a serious passion for watchmaking.

More details will be unveiled soon. But in the meantime here is a fabulous video about Robert and his passion for British made watches.





Do UK manufacturers want Brexit?

brexit-trade-605917With the clock ticking down towards the EU referendum, a recent survey seems to suggest that UK manufacturers anre leaning toward escaping Europe.

Leeds-based Manufacturing Futures have recently conducted a poll of business leaders from across the full spectrum of UK manufacturing companies and asked if they felt they would be better served by the UK remaining in the European Union.

The results are quite interesting – of the 900 businesses surveyed around 55% believe that they would be better off outside of the EU. That being said, 14% suggested that they could still be persuaded to change their minds either way.

Arguably, these results seem to reflect the general populations current feelings on the subject.

The UK is now the 11th largest manufacturing nation in the world and there has been much debate, from both sides, as to what leaving the EU might do to our manufacturing sector. The argument from the Remain campaign that Brixit will ultimately stifle free trade with Europe and so hinder our already fragile manufacturing output does not, it appears, seem to be concerning the sector too much at this point.

However, with just one week to go it is clear that many in manufacturing, like the rest of the population, can still be pushed either way.

Share your views on this debate in our comments section.

British Wine versus English Wine: The Potential PR Disaster

biddendenBritish wine is a distinct and very different product to English wine. If you have tried ‘British’ wine it tends to be sweet, sickly and (even to a wine philistine like me) quite clearly a poor quality product. By contrast, English wine is now being hailed as some of the finest being produced in the world and the sparkling wine is being seen to consistently outstrip Champagne in international competitions.

I was reading an article this morning from a New Zealand news site with the headline ‘The ‘British’ wine made from imported grapes’. It took the view that there is widespread confusion between the two products, especially in the international market. I tend to agree but would go further and say that this confusion, as the popularity of English wine grows,  is likely to be extremely damaging.

British wine is made from imported grapes, or worse, a sort of grape syrup, which is then fermented in the UK, it is not made from the grapes that are grown in British vineyards.  The practice is legal and widespread in the £240m discount wine industry, and cheap wine brands have become increasingly popular in recent years.

Tesco, Asda and Lidl are among those selling ‘British’ wines made from cheap grapes grown and pressed abroad. They are then labeled as being a British product. I suppose, in reality, this process is no different to importing cotton and making a T-shirt in the UK so it is hard to call this labeling disingenuous, as some suggest. However, the result is that English wine is very likely to get tarred with the same brush as British wine in the minds of many.

So, in short, the English wine industry, in my opinion face a ticking time bomb of a PR problem here. My advice to the English wine industry would not be at attacking the ‘British’ wine makers, as some have taken to doing. But rather attempting to rebrand their own product to make it clearly more distinct. They should get together and as a collective invest in the future of thier industry.

– James


New Made in Britain Mark proposed for Jewellery

The National Association of Jewellers (NAJ) has proposed plans to launch a ‘Made in Britain’ mark, what they say, is an initiative to drive jewellery sales.

Hallmarking item made of gold and silver is a common practice and has been since around 1300. It is currently undertaken by the 4 British assay offices in Birmingham, Sheffield, Edinburgh and London.


                               The 4 British Assay Hallmarks In use today.

However, this practice of Hallmarking is an effort to determine the metal content of the product rather than, as many believe, a verification of where the product was made.

The NAJ hope that a ‘Made in Britain’ mark will not only help to boost sales to overseas markets, but it will also provide provenance to jewellery pieces in the future.

If the plans go ahead, the mark will be owned by the NAJ and then licenced to its members at which point they will have an entitlement to utelise the stamp. There are, as yet, no suggestions of how the final mark might look.

The project is currently in the early stages of development, with the NAJ currently researching regulatory restrictions and feasibility of the mark. Mush will also depend on the markets appetite for such a service and their ability to see the potential it could offer in boosted sales.

In our opinion, for what it is worth, any effort to clearly mark goods as made in Britain can only been a good thing.

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