I’ve been aware of the Opies brand for several years, having bought and really enjoyed a number of their preserved fruit products during that period. What I didn’t know was that this family-run business has been going since 1880, making it one of the oldest private family-owned food companies in the UK.
In 1880, young Cornishman Bennett Opie set off to make his fortune in London with just a few pounds in his pocket. He started out by selling eggs and bacon, and gradually expanded his business, with the help of his two brothers. In 1912 he was joined by his son William, at which time he founded Bennett Opie Limited. When supplies of fresh eggs were limited during the first world war, William recognised the opportunity to manufacture and supply liquid eggs to the bakery trade. Later, he decided to diversify into preserving cherries, keen to provide a less expensive alternative to popular but pricy French brands. At that point, in 1929, the company relocated to Sittingbourne, Kent – the heart of Kent’s cherry-growing region. The site is close to natural springs; the water from which is still used by Opies today. This move marked the start of Opie’s growing range in preserves and pickles. William’s sons Tony and Derek continued to build the business through the second world war and their efforts were rewarded with a Royal Warrant in 1962 (though Opies doesn’t hold one currently).
Today, Opies is run by Bennett’s great grandsons, Philip and William, who divide the company’s focus between their traditional products, such as pickled walnuts and cocktail cherries, and creating new products in line with modern trends. I’ve been assured that the next eager generation of Opies is waiting in the wings!
Learning more about Opies, I’m particularly happy to learn about their commitment to reducing their carbon footprint. As well as recycling all water used in their production cooling processes, 90% of their packaging is recyclable and they recycle cardboard and other materials used in the manufacturing process. Their delivery vehicles are selected with a view to minimising emissions and they always maximise loads to reduce unnecessary journeys. They also focus strongly on sourcing ingredients locally.
Indeed, when I asked whether traditional recipes for their longer-standing products had changed over the years, they explained that they strive to keep flavours and textures traditional, but have tweaked recipes over the years as more natural (and local) alternatives to original ingredients become available. Of course, they run regular quality and tasting checks on all the lines they produce.
Inspiration for new product lines comes from global travel, food exhibitions and suggestions by their trusted suppliers. It can be a challenge launching new products – obtaining listings and shelf space is tough and it’s always hard to predict exactly what consumers will love; a new recipe for spiced pears in vinegar didn’t catch on and supermarkets just didn’t get the idea of a ginger spread with 60% ginger.
However, there’s plenty of love for both their traditional and new product ranges and I have been enjoying working my way through a selection of alcohol-preserved fruit, pickled quail eggs, fruit compotes, cocktail cherries and gherkins, a variety of pickled vegetables and relishes and their recently launched hickory barbeque sauce, which is naturally smoked in a traditional smokehouse. That gives a far lovelier flavour than the artificial smoke flavourings used by some brands.
Loosely inspired by Ben Spalding’s 30 Ingredient Salad, I decided to create my own “cacophony of colours, textures and tastes” (as I described it) using some of my Opies samples and some additional salad ingredients from the supermarket.
I used Opies Rhubarb & Redcurrant Compote, Opies Pickled Baby Beetroot, Comte cheese, Opies Pickled Quails Eggs, Salami, English Honey, Opies English Cucumber Relish, Toasted Pumpkin Seeds, an Cox’ Orange Pippin apple and Greek basil leaves.
The ingredients were the kind of selection we might enjoy for a cold lunch, the sort of buffet you might set up as a coffee table picnic on a sunny afternoon. The only difference here was in presenting all the elements together as a single pretty plate. I was delighted with the result, even though it wasn’t a patch on Spalding’s incredible feast for the senses!
Opies is generously offering the same selection they sent me (above) to one Kavey Eats reader. The prize includes free delivery within the UK.
HOW TO ENTER
You can enter the competition in 3 ways:
Entry 1 – Blog Comment
Leave a comment below, sharing your suggestions for an incredible salad featuring one or more Opies products.
Entry 3 – Twitter
Follow @Kaveyfollow on Twitter. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter! Then tweet the (exact) sentence below.
I’d love to win delicious @BennettOpie treats from Kavey Eats! http://goo.gl/ou85CQ #KaveyEatsOpies
(Please do not add my twitter handle into the tweet; I track entries using the competition hash tag. And you don’t need to leave a blog comment about your tweet either, thanks!)
RULES & DETAILS
- The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 15th November 2013.
- Kavey Eats reserves the right to alter the closing date of the competition. Changes to the closing date, if they occur, will be shown on this page.
- The winners will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator.
- Entry instructions form part of the terms and conditions.
- Where prizes are to be provided by a third party, Kavey Eats accepts no responsibility for the acts or defaults of that third party.
- The prize is a set of Opies products, as shown above, with free delivery within the UK.
- The prize cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
- The prize is offered and provided by Bennett Opie Limited.
- If one or more of the items is out of stock, Bennett Opie Limited reserve the right to substitute a similar item from their range, of same or higher value.
- One blog entry per person only. One Twitter entry per person only. One Facebook entry per person only. You do not have to enter all three ways for your entries to be valid.
- For Twitter entries, winners must be following @Kavey at the time of notification. For Facebook entries, winners must Like the Kavey Eats Facebook page at time of notification.
- Blog comment entries must provide a valid email address for contacting the winner.
- The winners will be notified by email, Twitter or Facebook. If no response is received within 7 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.
Kavey Eats received a sample set of products from Bennett Opie Limited.