Ruthin food company partners with local cider makers and brewers

ONE of Wales’ most popular and successful independent food companies hopes to link up with micro breweries locally and nationwide to develop new products.

The Patchwork Traditional Food Company – Ruthin-based makers of the famous Patchwork Paté – have already developed links with local producers and are looking to spread their wings.

Company founder Margaret Carter, who at 70 still has not found time to fully retire yet, said: “All the time we are trying to re-invent ourselves.”

Margaret is to be an inspirational keynote speaker at a food conference on March 4, at the Wild Pheasant in Llangollen, organised by rural regeneration agency Cadwyn Clwyd and Northern Marches Cymru, which will attract food producers and related businesses.

The event is paid for through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) through the Welsh Government’s Rural Development Plan and is part of a three-year plan to revitalise rural communities and their economies in the county, and is open to food producers and businesses from across North East Wales.

It starts at 6pm with a free buffet and as well as Margaret Carter, other key speakers will include Alison Sawyer, of Asda, Martin Jardine from the Food Technology Centre, and Tansy Rogerson, from Bodnant Food Centre.

Cadwyn Clwyd Agri-Food Officer Robert Price said: “This is a wonderful opportunity for food producers from across the area to learn how to take the next step up into finding new markets for their products.

“North East Wales has some of the richest and most diverse food and it really is the garden of Wales so it has everything going for it and this conference aims to help our producers find new customers.”

Patchwork, started by Margaret in her home in 1982, has already linked up with Steve Hughes who makes the award-winning Rosies Cider at Llandegla.

“We are trying to explore new ways into the market by making bespoke products,” said Margaret. “I want to go national and make products with micro breweries all over the country.

“We work with a vineyard in Oxford making patés and chutneys for them. The reason I think it will work is that these breweries have a dedicated following, a ‘community’ which follows the taste of that particular brewery.”

Locally that includes breweries like Bragdy’r Nant who brew Mwnci Nel at Conwy and Llangollen Brewery at The Abbey Grange.

But it’s not just ale, honey is on the menu and thanks to Margaret’s love of Twitter another business opportunity has opened.

“I find Twitter of enormous value in finding new business opportunities and concepts. Hilltop Honey (from Newtown) had Twittered that they had sold out 70 pints of ale brewed with honey.

“I Twittered and owner Scott Davies got in touch and we are going to make a product containing Hilltop Honey,” said Margaret. “As a company we are very creative. We supply Airlines for their First and Business Class seats with our products and we will do anything as long as it is within our ethos.”

Caroline Dawson, Local Food Officer for Northern Marches Cymru, added: “Patchwork is the perfect example of a local company that started from humble beginnings and is now global in its reach.

“They never rest on their laurels, they are always looking to do something different and something new while remaining true to the original concept of producing a really excellent product with its roots in the local area.”

As a company that has received over 80 awards for products and business, Patchwork may have grown from a kitchen table enterprise to a factory-based business employing about 30, but it still boasts that it produces its food in small batches, without artificial colouring, additives or preservatives, to Margaret’s original recipes.

Patchwork is currently perfecting a business model, showing production, marketing, delivery and other costs, which it can present to would-be food partners to show exactly how the link up will work, so that its sales team can take it nationwide.

“Because our product is untarnished at all levels and we have a longevity in this business, there is a respect for us out there,” she said.

Throughout her life Margaret has been passionate about the value of having mentors, in her work and private life, and if anyone asks for her help and advice, she never refuses.

She helps with advice to a group of 35 women entrepreneurs who meet in Patchwork’s Ruthin offices once a month and she personally mentors about half a dozen. “Only a handful are in food, there are women in photography, forestry, all kinds of things. If I’m asked I always say yes and I never charge because my mentors never charged me.”

Margaret also helps the Princes Trust and the Welsh Assembly Government’s role model programme, Dynamo and runs a group for young entrepreneurs from the ages of 12 to 20.

“I’m passionate about helping young people. They get boxed in from the academic side at school but they seem to get very little guidance about how to be a person.

“When I’m giving advice I tend to be very normal and tell it warts and all. A lot try and be inspirational and say it’s all good, but it’s not. What we look for is attitude. After all when people apply for a job the chances are they will all have pretty much the same CV and qualifications, what is important is who they are, attitude is everything.

“My advice to someone starting in business is never, never lie, and never, never, let a customer down.”

Patchwork, which produces everything from paté to ice cream, can be found at

Anyone interested in attending the conference, which includes a free buffet, should contact Robert Price on 01824 705802 or

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