A Scot is set to bring a taste of Romania to UK supermarkets after his firm on a Transylvanian hillside was granted a “gold standard” food safety award allowing him to export his goods.
Jim Turnbull, from Paisley, set up a factory in the Romanian countryside six years ago, making traditional local jams and chutneys as well as elderflower cordials, which he sells within Romania and at small farmers’ markets in England.
But now his firm, Pivnita Bunicii, which translates as “Grandma’s Cellar”, has been awarded the Global Food Safety standard by the British Retail Consortium, which will see him able to forge deals with larger British supermarkets.
This will allow many customers to taste typical foods from the former communist nation for the first time.
“When people from Romania came to taste our products, the most common reaction we had was: Wow, this is just like my grandma used to make,” Turnbull explained. “And when we took them to England, we found that people were saying the same.”
As well as selling his wares to major retailers in Britain, Turnbull hopes to start producing cheeses made using local traditional methods which he could also export to the UK.
His products are already sold in large supermarkets within Romania, while elderflower cordial is exported in bulk to the upmarket British drinks company Bottlegreen.
A handful of Pivnita Bunicii’s products, including Transylvanian wildflower honey, are sold at the gift shop in Prince Charles’s private residence, Highgrove House, after the royal made a personal visit to Turnbull’s farm and manufacturing facilities in 2012.
Turnbull said he plans to brand his products as Transylvanian, rather than simply Romanian, due to the poor impression of the country that is sometimes given in parts of the UK media.
He said: “A lot of people in the UK, wrongly, think Romanians are just thieving crooks – it is so negative, which is why we have tended to promote ourselves as Transylvanian.”
The company is based in the Saxon village of Saschiz, where with eight permanent staff, it is the largest private sector employer in the area.
During the elderflower harvesting season, the firm can employ up to 1,500 local seasonal workers.
“We think it is very important to be a social enterprise,” said Turnbull. “We employ local people and are using traditional ways of making products which people remember their grandparents using.”
David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, which is the BRC’s sister organisation north of the border, said: “The BRC Global Standard is internationally recognised and based on best practices for the production of food – using a rigorous audit process and very specific requirements to manage food safety and quality.
“Achievement of the BRC Global Standard is recognised by retailers as demonstrating that the company is operating to high standards and is often seen as a start point when considering potential suppliers.”