Pooling an English dream and local know-how, one enterprising couple has started producing charcuterie on Lewis and is now supplying 35 outlets with the eventual aim of taking on young people as the business grows.
Brian Whitington – originally from London but “a Lewis man all along – I just didn’t know it” – recently married Scottish wife Melinda who has lived in Stornoway for a number of years after moving from Glasgow with the duo setting up Hebridean Charcuterie in the Lewis capital.
“We found each other later in life,” Mrs Whitington told The Press and Journal, adding: “It has been his dream for a number of years and when I came along he persuaded me to come on board.”
The couple secured grants worth more than £3,000 from Business Gateway to allow them to start the business selling their first product, “wild & free salami”, in March.
It packs a punch
Made with local free-range pork produced on crofts, as well as venison and goose meat, the products help to keep deer and geese – which can cause damage to the land if left unchecked – under control on the island.
It is believed the charcuterie business – the culinary art of preparing products such as salami and cured meats – is the first of its kind in the Outer Hebrides.
“Our salami is quite a gamey flavour, it is quite bold, there are no two ways about it,” Mrs Whitington said, adding: “It packs a punch.
“We are mainly selling through stockists, shops, a couple of supermarkets and delis in Stornoway, and we are approaching restaurants and hotels.”
One of the couple’s long-term aims is to be able to offer jobs to young people on the island to encourage them to stay – a situation Mrs Whitington concedes is tricky.
“We are quite keen to offer young people opportunities where we can,” she said, adding: “It is part of the challenges of the islands to retain our young people and build skills in the community.”
Business Gateway helped the Whitingtons develop their business plan which resulted in an award of £1,250 through the Outer Hebrides Young Entrepreneurs Fund, provided by Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
This supported investment in a mincer, slicer, sausage stuffer and fridges, allowing the business to meet professional requirements.
Always wanted to start own business
“I always wanted to start my own business, and I felt I had the skills and expertise to launch the first charcuterie in the Outer Hebrides, using meats from crofters and wild animals,” said Mr Whittington.
Additionally, through Business Gateway Mr and Mrs Whitington were awarded a further grant of £2,331 in the guise of Western Isles Council’s Covid-19 Economic Recovery Grant Scheme.
This gave them the ability to buy an additional fridge and cool boxes to transport meat for production.
“We had to overcome several hurdles including converting what was once an unused garage at the back of our house into a salami kitchen at the height of the Covid crisis,” added Mrs Whitington.
“We’ve also met lots of lovely people active in the local food supply chain along the way.”
The couple have trialled an aromatically spiced sheep meat salami which they hope to formally launch later in the year.
Mr Whitington said: “As the first charcuterie business of our kind in the Outer Hebrides, we aim to stock up to 50 local businesses with our locally produced wild and free salami.
“We are also proud of our no-plastic packaging, electric vehicle transport and ultra-energy-efficient equipment, ensuring our impact on the environment is minimal.”