A home-grown business in Ringstead is endeavouring to break into the French market by re-exporting food stuffs originally grown and imported from France.
Gae Stubbings’ one-woman country kitchen business, Good Taste, has been importing salt, herbs, spices and garlic from across The Channel for many years and has built up her business by selling her gourmet foods both in local food markets such as Creake Abbey, Drove Farm and Docking and by mail order.
Her principal product is a popular though unusual range of herb and spice-infused salts which she came across in northern France and brought back to this country where, after a lot of experimentation, she developed her own range.
The salt – known as sel gris, or grey salt – is combined with herbs such as thyme, basil, dill, rosemary, fennel and lavender flowers. The spice range includes cardamom and coriander, white and pink peppers.
She said: “The product demands quite a finely balanced mixture to get it right. You can use it in your cooking or just put onto the table and sprinkled onto food. It adds extra flavour – for example you can shake one of my mixes onto roast potatoes for an extra flavoursome taste instead of just salt and pepper. After using them many of my customers say their cooking is not the same without them.”
Sel gris is unprocessed and unrefined and is regarded by many gourmets as the premier European salt. It comes from salt pans close to Guerande on the west coast of Brittany. Here the Atlantic Ocean is exceptionally clean and rich in a complex mixture of minerals which give it its exceptional taste. Evaporation by the sun produces a crust which may be as thin as a quarter of an inch. This is raked to the side of the pan and partially allowed to dry further before storing.
Because it is a moist salt it does not suck all the moisture out of foods and because of its dampness it retains more trace minerals giving it a more complex taste.
Already Gae has UK customers well beyond Norfolk, exporting to the United States, New Zealand and Germany.
But now she is hoping to crack her toughest market yet – by re-exporting some of her products back to their country of origin, though one of her principal lines – large cloves of garlic from Provence – is not on the list. “I import it in bulk in June and August – about 300 kilos all told.” Selling the French their premier food-enhancer might just be a cheeky move too far.
“I’m exploring the market and I’ve sent samples and I’m negotiating at the moment,” she said.
“But it won’t be an easy task for French food regulations are much stricter than here.”