Red tape puts jam maker in sticky spot

By Freddie Dawson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Trading standards

Label confusion has cost Clippy’s Apples thousands of pounds
Label confusion has cost Clippy’s Apples thousands of pounds
A Cheshire jam manufacturer could lose thousands of pounds of new business because EU regulations have left it without a legal name for its product.

Clippy’s Apples, a manufacturer of apple preserves based in Sale, was told by its local Trading Standards office it could not call its apple-spread a jam because it did not meet ingredient requirements.

The firm spent thousands of pounds switching labels from jam to conserve, only to be told by Trading Standards that the term conserve was not specific enough.

Paul Gorman, Clippy’s Apples' md, told FoodManufacture.co.uk:"It's extremely frustrating when we are trying to be an innovative firm and, with others, to pull the country out of recession, to find that these ridiculous rules are holding back business and restricting wealth creation."

Find a solution

Co-owner Michelle McKenna said: “What we’re doing now is we’re trying to work with[Trading Standards] and our local MP, who is being very supportive, to find a solution.”

Under EU regulations, products labelled as jams must have at least 60% sugar. This was due to concerns about firms replacing sugar with cheaper setting agents, said Owen Warnock partner at law firm, Eversheds.

Reduced-sugar jams cannot contain more than 50% sugar, he added.

But because apples have a high citric and malic acid content, they require less sugar to set than other fruits such as strawberries. Clippy’s apple conserve is made with a sugar content of 51- 54%, said McKenna.

However, because it is a niche product, apple jam was not considered when regulators set the minimum sugar content – leaving it in a legal grey area, Warnock told FoodManufacture.co.uk.

The firm was unwilling to add unnecessary sugar simply to take it to the minimum threshold for a jam. It was also unwilling to cut sugar and use sugar-substitutes to help it set in order to fit into the reduced-sugar category, said McKenna.“A quirk of the product has made it into a fascinating piece of jam history,”she added.

Workable solution

Warnock believed that the product could still be called a conserve, provided it added a more accurate description.“With a bit of ingenuity in the way they phrase it, I’m sure they could come up with a workable solution,”he said.

“For example they could find a snappier way to say ‘Apple conserve made in a traditional jam fashion’.”

France and Germany have reduced the threshold for reduced-sugar jams to include those with a content less than 55%, said Warnock. He added that if the grey area between 50-60% sugar was a sufficient barrier to trade, the UK might consider similar action.

In addition to conserves Clippy’s also makes a range of apple jellies, chutneys and relishes.

The firm estimates it produces about 650,000 jars of the conserve a year. But, if it finds a way to meet the listings requirement, it expects production to rise significantly.

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1 comment

More EU nonsense!

Posted by Mary Fisher,

This is ridiculous. I make all our jams and marmalades (not for sale these days) with less than 50% sugar. They don't go mouldy and taste far better than the ultra-sweet commercial stuff.

I hope the company finds an acceptable way round this nonsense. We would have had similar expenses if we'd followed the labelling law when we sold honey. Thousands of labels with the imperial weight before the metric one would have been scrapped.

People who make these laws know nothing about the realities of life.

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