Norfolk Waitrose customers complained when a newly opened store in North Walsham stocked Cornish crab in its chiller cabinet instead of the iconic local brand Cromer crab.
Cromer crab was sourced and processed in North Norfolk by Young’s Seafood until the frozen foods firm announced a review of the site’s operations in September 2011. The factory door closed for the final time on August 3 2012.
Following a high-profile campaign to ‘Keep it Cromer’, which attracted support from the likes of Stephen Fry and Alan Titchmarsh and a petition signed by thousands, Young’s pledged to keep the brand in Cromer.
Waitrose takes pride in its policy to stock local produce, but says supply issues prevented it from sourcing local produce in this instance.
Ashley Broad, branch manager at Waitrose in North Walsham, told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “Waitrose was the first supermarket to stock dressed Cromer Crab in 1992 so we were deeply saddened when the Cromer Crab Company closed earlier this year.
“Unfortunately we have not been able to find another company in the area that can cook and prepare Cromer crab to the technical standards that we require, however we remain extremely keen to offer what is a fantastic product to our customers again in the future and would encourage any interested parties to get in touch with us.”
Now that Young’s has relocated its seafood production to Grimsby, what remains of local crab production is a cottage industry, which is insufficient to supply a supermarket the size of Waitrose.
No-one locally can supply
Councillor Tom FitzPatrick, portfolio member for business enterprise and economic development at North Norfolk District Council, told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “Now that the Cromer crab factory has closed, there’s no-one locally that can supply sufficient capacity to satisfy the likes of Waitrose. What’s left after the Young’s factory closure is a cottage industry supplying local people.”
FitzPatrick said the current local supply came from local fishermen and these smaller single operators could not guarantee continuity or size of supply.
He said: “The crab fishermen sell the totality of their catch locally on a small scale. But the big stores want a larger, guaranteed supply and to know it’s supplied according to their standards. It’s not that there’s a lack of willingness to take local supply, it’s the fact that we need a larger organisation to pull the smaller parts together.”
Young’s was unavailable for comment at the time of going to press.