If nothing else, gaining Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) has made Cornish pasties the talk of the town in the past couple of weeks. And it’s not just any old Cornish pasty that can be named so. For example, it has to be ’D’-shaped with a side crimp. The chunky filling, cooked in the pastry, must be made with uncooked minced or roughly cut chunks of beef (not less than 12.5%), swede, potato, onion with a light seasoning. Most importantly, it has to have been made in Cornwall.
For many Cornish pasty retailers in the rest of the UK, this won’t cause huge concern, as they can still be baked-off outside Cornwall. However, every manufacturer of ’Cornish pasties’ will be affected, whether it be the need to change the name and/or packaging or their product; and, if a genuine Cornish pasty, it will now be required to feature the PGI stamp on-pack.
A number of craft bakers outside Cornwall already have more generic names for their Cornish-style pasties, such as ’traditional pasty’ and, in Greenhalgh’s case, a Lancashire pasty. Meanwhile Cornish firm Pengenna Pasties, which makes top-crimped pasties, said it has always marketed them as ’traditional’ pasties rather than Cornish, so the PGI announcement won’t affect them.
However, the largest bakery retailer in the country, Greggs, currently sells over 10 million not-Cornish-made Cornish pasties a year, so the decision by the European Commission must be something of a headache. A spokesperson for Greggs said it had applied to Defra under the requirements of Article 13.3 of Council Regulation (EC) 510/06 for a transition period to allow the business to comply with the PGI requirements. A spokesperson for the Cornish Pasty Association told British Baker there will be a transition period, likely to be between one and five years, for all manufacturers, retailers and supermarkets to ensure they are complying with the legislation, due to be set in the coming weeks. One name Greggs is considering is ’the pasty formerly known as Cornish’, but no decision has been made yet. Lancashire craft bakery Waterfields has also confirmed it will be changing the name of its Cornish pasty, but did not say what it will be called.
Impact on multiples
Among the major multiples, some will be affected by the decision more than others. Waitrose said all its Cornish pasties are already prepared and baked in Cornwall, while a Morrisons spokesperson said it does sell some side-crimped Cornish-made pasties, and that all the pasties it sells made outside Cornwall, or made in Cornwall but crimped on top, will be renamed. Sainsbury’s said all its counter pasty products are from Cornish suppliers, "so [it] will be carrying the PGI logo shortly". "In pre-pack, all lines are from Cornish suppliers apart from ’mini Cornish pasties’, and I believe the supplier is changing the packaging to reflect the recent PGI status," said a spokesperson for the retailer. Tesco said all its Finest and standard Cornish pasties were made in Cornwall, while Asda said all its own-brand ’Chosen by You’ Cornish pasties were also made in Cornwall.
Despite the Cornish pasty’s newly awarded status, the age-old argument over who, or rather which county, came up with the product is likely to rumble on. Devon-based Chunk of Cornwall controversially triumphed in the Cornish pasty category at the first British Pie Awards in 2009. It now simply calls its winning pasty a "steak pasty" and claims the pasty "from now on to be known as Cornish" originated in the Middle East, and came to Plymouth, Devon, in the mid-1500s, around 200 years before mining began in Cornwall. "This not a quality issue but purely commercial. Large multi-million-pound pasty companies have shoved this through as protectionism," reads a statement on its website. And according to a recent article in The Telegraph, another pasty-maker in Devon said European bureaucrats could go to hell.
On the flip-side, Andy Valentine, Ginsters’ head of brand marketing, said the firm had been celebrating the PGI decision, but that a surprising number of consumers seemed to think it wouldn’t be able to call them Cornish pasties any more, as they didn’t realise they were made in Cornwall. PGI status will at least set the record straight.