In testament to Lance Forman’s lingering political clout an impressive array of faces danced before the assembled media to hail the quality of his firm’s London Cure Smoked Salmon. On the day the Government was set to publish its EU (withdrawal) bill – July 13 – paving the way for Brexit, the leading lights of Leave raised their voices in praise of H Forman And Son – the first food producer in the capital to have won the union’s protection for a product.
That the UK’s forthcoming departure from the union in March 2019 casts some doubt on the future status of Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) products in the UK, didn’t trouble Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who sent a boisterous video message complete with Chinese subtitles for maximum marketing potential.
Environment, Food And Rural Affairs Secretary Michael Gove also took time to bone a salmon in honour of the news.
He tried his hand at slicing some flesh too on a factory visit before loudly proclaiming that “eating is believing” when it came to London Cure.
Upbeat missives from Prime Minister Theresa May and Mayor Of London Sadiq Khan added to the general bonhommie.
It was exactly what Lance, factory owner and a former government special advisor, wanted in addition to being a positive nugget for the politicians preparing to answer difficult questions later in the day.
For Lance though it was a marketing exercise, pure and simple.
He said: “Nobody knows whether PGI status will be called into question when we leave the EU, it’s one of the things that’s up for discussion.
“I would imagine that if Britain is no longer part of PGI we will have our own scheme that mirrors it because there needs to be mutual respect.
“The reason we applied for this wasn’t to protect London. We haven’t got a huge number of people producing similar products.
“Most producers are competing at the mass market end.
“We did this for purposes of re-education. I was just getting fed up with people telling me they couldn’t remember when they’d last ordered smoked salmon in a restaurant.
“It didn’t become one of the great gourmet foods of the world because it tasted slimy and smoky.
“It still is a beautiful product if it’s done properly.
“The thing is, smoked salmon can be produced very cheaply – injected with salt water so you’re selling liquid for the price of fish
“Because it can be produced so cheaply but there is the perception it’s a luxury product, it has become the most promoted product by supermarkets, particularly around Christmas.
“Most of it puts people off or miss-educates them.”
The PGI protection recognises salmon smoked within the boroughs of Newham, Tower Hamlets and Hackney where a thriving fish preservation business was built up by the Jewish community.
H Forman And Son is the last remaining factory, having been forcibly relocated to make way for the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
The scent of a salmon
Himself the son of a seafood processor, Mr Gove said: “I grew up with the scent of smoked fish in my nostrils. “H Forman And Son is a team of craftsmen and artisans that represent the very best in British food production.
“Increasingly, across the world, people care about the provenance of what they eat.
“One of the great things about this business is its transparency. Every single salmon comes from Scottish waters. Every single process is delivered by hand, which I had the privilege of witnessing.
“Every single product that leaves here meets the highest quality standards.
“The popularity of smoked salmon has, as Lance said, increased and the quality of London Cure has, as a result, become more and more important.
“Within these three boroughs, smoked salmon is produced to a higher standard than anywhere else in the world.
“As a result, wherever you are, if you’re a restaurant entrepreneur in Shanghai, a chef in London or a consumer in the USA, if you want absolutely the best smoked salmon, you will know with absolute assurance London Cure is it.”
In spite of the Olympics
Having won PGI status and with sales deals in the offing to China Lance’s company is clearly riding high.
But the man who published Forman’s Games: The Dark Underside Of The London Olympics remains insistent the 2012 event merely held east London back.
He said: “I think the question is really whether bringing the Olympics to east London really was about regeneration?
“I would say the regeneration is happening and there are both positives and negatives associated with it.
“The claim was, the reason we were having the Games was to regenerate east London.
“That was for two reasons – firstly commercially it was in the organisers’ interest because they had to depress the value of the area as they were going to pay for it.
“More importantly they didn’t have the legal powers to purchase the land for a sporting event – they only had the powers to acquire it for regeneration purposes.
“If all that £10billion was about regeneration and not about sport, they could have done it 10 years earlier.
“The Olympics held it back by seven or eight years. Whether it is good or bad I don’t know.
“This area had 350 manufacturing businesses employing 12,000 people – it was the greatest concentration of manufacturers in London, essentially wiped out for three weeks of sport, and now it’s a park.
“It doesn’t employ many people – yes it’s surrounded by residential but it’s not a massive employer.
“It’s changing, it needs people and West Ham is certainly helping that. It will take time but its success will not be because of the Olympics but in spite of.”
H Forman And Son London Cure Smoked Salmon can be purchased at Waitrose in Canary Wharf .
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