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Environment secretary: UK food firms must sell more to China

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The Sunday Times, 18/01/15

By Tim Shipman, Political Editor

LIZ TRUSS, the environment secretary, has called on food firms to put the Union Jack on their packaging as part of a renewed push to convince the public to “Buy British”.
During a trip to China where she was promoting British food, Truss said foreign customers wanted to buy products that celebrated British heritage, and urged UK coffee firms, brewers and dairy producers to show greater patriotism at home and see off foreign rivals.
In an interview with The Sunday Times, the minister said: “What I want to see is more British flags on our products, not just overseas but here in Britain, because we need to have the same pride in our country that’s evident elsewhere in the world.
“I would love to see more prominent British branding on our products. I want British consumers to know when they’re buying high-quality British products.”
She also said home-grown coffee companies should stop aping American brands and instead do more to promote themselves as British.
“Costa are challenging Starbucks in Beijing. They’re using much more British branding in China. They sell English cakes with the coffee,” she said. “What I want them to do is use more of that British branding. I think the British brand works well in Britain, too.
“Breweries I speak to put the Union Jack on their bottle tops because it sells in the US. In China as well it’s extremely popular.” 
Truss also wants to see more British food specialities apply for protected status from Brussels. Producers of cheddar cheese and Melton Mowbray pork pies are among 62 groups in the UK whose historic methods are protected from copycat products elsewhere, but France has more than 200.
Birmingham’s balti curry makers are awaiting a decision on whether they have secured that status.
Truss visited Beijing and Shanghai last week with a dozen British food businesses to help secure deals worth £800m. She signed a memorandum of understanding with Yhd.com, China’s second- biggest online food retailer, which receives 10m hits each day and recently sold 2m litres of milk in just 51 seconds. Truss helped secure sales for pig farmers to sell trotters to China, where they are considered to be something of a delicacy, as well as tea grown in Cornwall, and Yorkshire Tea, which is blended in Harrogate.
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