The dust of the British Grand Prix may have finally settled, but for one Northamptonshire cheesemaker, the speed of business growth shows no sign of slowing down just yet
Hamm Tun Fine Foods at Hannington, run by husband and wife team Gary and Rachael Bradshaw, whose Cobblers Nibble cheese won the title of Artisan Local Savoury Product of the Year’ (sponsored by Whitworth Bros Ltd Flour Millers) in 2014/15 have gone from strength to strength since winning the award.
The cheese, which was named following a social media poll, enjoyed its first public outing only months earlier at a meeting of the county’s networking food group, Made In Northamptonshire, and saw a swift rise to local stardom, as Gary explained:
“I’d always loved cheese and when I got a bit fed up with my job in computers, I just decided it was time to turn my passion into a business and so when we were invited to launch the cheese at the meeting in December 2013, we jumped at the chance!” said Gary.
“We met our first customer at that event and while things continued to build from there, winning the award not even a year later was another complete surprise, as well as validation that our risk and our hard work had been worthwhile” added Gary.
So aside from the personal boost to their confidence, what was the immediate professional impact of taking the title?
“Until then we’d been emailing potential stockists without much luck, I suppose because we had no real pedigree, so I can only describe the awards evening as the perfect, unplanned marketing event!” revealed Gary.
“The number of pubs, restaurants and shops which approached us that night wanting to stock us was incredible and we’d have worked for months trying to get that level of interest, something that continued for weeks as the news of our win spread further” he added.
With the need to meet the increasing demands of his expanding customer base, February 2016 saw the company make a ‘mountain to Mohammed’ move, setting up in purpose-built facilities on Newlands Farm, the dairy whose Friesian herd has provided its milk from day one.
That means that the white stuff travels no more than 50 metres from field to vat, yet even the current premises are proving to be a bit of a squeeze; “I doubled my production rate when I moved here but the exponential rate of growth means I’m now having to extend the ageing room and ideally, I’d like to increase my current production days from two to five so that I can meet current demand” explained Gary.
“I’ve also taken on a worker part time but I’d hope to increase his hours too” he added.
This time last year, Hamm Tun found national glory when it was featured on the BBC’s Countryfile, which resulted not only in its website crashing, such was the interest it prompted, but also in Gary receiving the equivalent of his pre-Christmas, December rush for the next four months!
Last month, the firm’s three cheeses – the Cobblers Nibble, his gorgonzola-style Northamptonshire Blue and his most recent, Little Bertie, which he describes as a camembert with a blue vein and which is titled after the nickname Gary was given by his former colleagues - formed the cheeseboard served in the VIP lounge at the British Grand Prix (they’re a regular fixture on the circuit’s menu) while the Prince of Wales also tucked into them on a visit to Althorp, at an event hosted by his sons.
So with the firm’s latest Awards win last November, when the Blue took the title of its predecessor, and recently securing its first order from a national distributor, it’s hardly surprising that Gary says they owe much to the competition: “We can’t express what a vital part the Awards have played in raising our profile and in giving us the stamp of approval we needed to establish ourselves as a premier cheesemaker to rival any other” said Gary.
“Indeed, knowing that Prince Charles has tasted our cheese, and the likes of Jackie Stewart and Damon Hill sampled it at Silverstone has been great but we’re still most proud of the fact that, at one local restaurant, our Blue outsells Stilton.
“Now that’s something that puts a cheesy grin on our faces!” enthused Gary.
For more information on Hamm Tun’s award-winning cheeses, including details of local stockists, call Gary on 07701 089513.
Meanwhile for more information on the Carlsberg UK Northamptonshire Food and Drink Awards, including how to enter the remaining categories, please visit www.northamptonshirefoodanddrink.co.uk while you can also follow the Awards on twitter at @foodawardsHQ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/foodawards