Food company Northern Foods has challenged a government decision that would bar the foodmaker from using the name Melton Mowbray on its pork pies, saying the rules would benefit the dominant producer in the market, reports the Bloomberg news agency.
Northern Foods, which makes around 200m pork pies a year, is asking the High Court in London to quash UK government plans to register the meat and pastry product under the European Union’s Geographical Indicator system, which ensures traditional foods and drinks such as Parma ham and Breton cider aren’t produced outside their home region.
The Leeds, England-based company claims the Melton Mowbray designation is too broad and would allow competitor Samworth Brothers Ltd., which holds 62% of the pork pie market, to use the name even though it doesn’t produce the pastries in the central England town.
The quarrel over the UK’s GBP50m (US$87m) Melton Mowbray pie market reflects a global dispute that has seen countries including Australia and the US challenge the EU’s right to restrict the use of food names.
Northern Foods argued that the Melton Mowbray designation would cover a 1,800 square-mile area in central England, well beyond the village’s limits and covering large towns such as Nottingham and Leicester. If the decision is upheld, the company may lose its contract to supply retailers such as Asda and Marks and Spencer with pork pies, lawyers for the company told the court.
The Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association, a trade group, supports the designation and is contesting Northern Foods application at the hearing. It claims that manufacturers shouldn’t be allowed to use the name, which is where the dish was invented, on pork pies that lack the right ingredients, shape and colour.
Traditional Melton Mowbray pies are made with fresh pork rather than cured, giving them a grey hue, the group says.
Northern Foods manufacturers its pork pies in Shropshire, north of Birmingham and to the West of Melton Mowbray, and in Trowbridge, which is in the southwest of England. It holds 28% of the market, according to court documents.
Samworth Brothers, which supplies supermarket chains including Tesco Plc and William Morrison Supermarkets Plc, produces its pies in Leicester, within the proposed Melton Mowbray designation, according to the documents.