Massive growth for Crickhowell food business
In 1995, Jo and Jonathan Carthew invested all of their savings into starting a smokery business in Crickhowell. Jo admits, they knew nothing about food: “We just loved it.” Their first month’s turnover was £143. Now, Black Mountains Smokery employs six permanent staff and up to 10 temporary workers in peak periods. They send out more than 750 gift packs and hampers full of smoked goods and Welsh produce on their busiest days.
“It was hard when we started,” said Jo, “We fitted out the unit (on the Elvicta Industrial Estate) ourselves, with our two-year-old passing us the rivets. But we knew we would produce a good, consistent, honest product that people would want to buy.”
Black Mountains Smokery started by smoking Scottish salmon, chicken, duck, haddock and trout. They soon progressed to smoking Blaenafon Cheddar and Cashell’s Welsh Dragon Sausages and later, stocking other local goods like Cradoc’s Crackers, bespoke Brecon Chocolate, local pickles and Trealy Farm charcuterie. They also commission smoke for local cheesemakers and Welsh Venison.
“We have branched out, and added value with Welsh goods but our core product range has stayed the same. If you are a food business, you have got to produce something that you are proud of, and we continue to do that. That is the secret of our success and what has kept us going all these years,” said Jo.
However, the business they have now is very different to the one Jonathan and Jo envisaged two decades ago: “We thought we would end up selling most of our salmon mail order and to local hotels, pubs and shops. What we didn’t realise was that people don’t just buy to eat it themselves, they buy for other people. Once we got into the gift market, things really took off.” Black Mountains Smokery now sells 40 per cent of its product in the three weeks leading up to Christmas!
Of course, you can still buy Black Mountains Smoked Foods at their Smokery Shop all year round on Elvicta, at Cashell’s, Beacons Farm Shop and Grenfells. You can also enjoy them in dishes prepared at The Bear, The Dragon, Gliffaes, Latte Da, Book-ish Café and from Prickly Pear Catering.
So, they are selling locally, but could they use more local ingredients? “If we could get our salmon from the River Usk or the coastline of Wales we would do so, not least because it would reduce distribution costs and our environmental footprint. But we need suppliers who can provide a consistent supply of consistently sized ingredients, otherwise they won’t smoke evenly. And we need them to be able to scale up for that massive demand in the run-up to Christmas. We are, always on the lookout for new local produce to put in our hampers, because sending out a taste of Wales is very important to us.”
Article and photographs by Tim Jones, As You See It Media
Black Mountains SmokeryProducer, Shop
- Uses Local Produce
|Address||Leslie House, Elvicta Estate, Crickhowell NP8 1DF|
|You can buy or eat this food here|