Pork scratchings revival prompting posh pig-out
They have been the preserve of spit-and-sawdust pubs for decades but humble pork scratchings are now flying off the shelves of trendy bars and also upmarket department stores.
A number of theories surround the beginnings of the pork scratching but the common consensus is that this region is the epicentre of the industry, worth around £30 million a year in the UK.
The most popular theory is that in the 1800s, families would keep and rear their own pigs at home, and when it came to slaughter, the economics of the time dictated that nothing should go to waste, so people began to deep fry the rind to eat.
A rival view is that in the early 19th century, pork scratchings came as the production of meat was industrialised, and using a deep fryer was an efficient way to make use of scraps from the slaughterhouse.
Whichever tale carries most weight among the historians, or pub armchair experts, the hard pork scratching is a long-standing symbol of snacking close to home.
At RayGray Snacks in Rugeley, managing director Graham Jebb says the snacks are enjoying a resurgence in popularity, shown through the launch of his designer version of the delicacy – Mr Trotter's.
The father of two, who lives in Telford, said: "Scratchings are having a major resurgence. The business was a level playing field but now people might not be able to go out and buy a meal, they want a treat.
And we're tying to bring them to a wider audience."
Scott Guthrie, spokesman for Midlands Snacks, which makes pork scratchings and has 30 staff in Wolverhampton, said the firm sold 600 tons of pork scratchings every year across the UK, including to pubs, supermarkets and butchers. He added: "There is something of a pork scratching revival with many celebrities proclaiming their love for them – Chris Evans, Cameron Diaz, Al Murray and Kate Moss amongst others.
"Nicole Sherzinger was even publicly introduced to the traditional pub ritual of a pint and a packet of pork scratchings by X Factor winner James Arthur."
RayGray Snacks now employs 22 staff and its profits have grown every year since its beginnings 17 years ago. The business produces all three varied types of the miniature delicacy – ranging from the hard scratching most familiar to the West Midlands and Staffordshire, to the puffy, dry Pork Crunch more common in America, and even the softer version of the fatty rind, Mr Trotter's, which is now 15 months off the production line.
It is already being stocked in Selfridges, Fortnum & Mason, Harvey Nichols, John Lewis and even the farm shop at Chatsworth House.
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