Blackpool manufactures launch petition to protect 'stick of rock' name after cheap imports threaten industry

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Manufacturers fear the imports pose a threat to the industry.

A petition has been launched to protect the name 'stick of rock' after cheap imports threatened Blackpool’s iconic treat.

Manufacturers say Blackpool rock is under "grave and immediate" threat from an influx of Chinese imports and a shortage of skilled workers.

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The resort - where almost all of the UK's sticks of rock are made - saw the number factories dwindle from around 30 to just 10 in recent years.

Blackpool's iconic rock is under "grave and immediate" threat from an influx of cheap Chinese import (Credit: SWNS)Blackpool's iconic rock is under "grave and immediate" threat from an influx of cheap Chinese import (Credit: SWNS)
Blackpool's iconic rock is under "grave and immediate" threat from an influx of cheap Chinese import (Credit: SWNS) | William Lailey / SWNS

It is feared those numbers will fall further as businesses face rocketing energy costs, forcing some to reduce manufacturing to just three or four days a week.

A petition has subsequently been launched to protect the name 'stick of rock' under the UK geographical indication (GI) protected food names (PFN) scheme.

David Thorp said they did not want to protect the name ‘Blackpool rock’ in case it made it harder to sell the product in other areas of the country.

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Mr Thorp, who runs Stanton and Novelty Confectioners which was set up by his grandad in 1969, said: “This petition is going to be a huge help for us.

“Not only will it show the government that the public support saving an industry under threat, but also helps our goal of protecting our national heritage.”

The resort saw the number factories dwindle from around 30 to just 10 in recent years (Credit: William Lailey / SWNS)The resort saw the number factories dwindle from around 30 to just 10 in recent years (Credit: William Lailey / SWNS)
The resort saw the number factories dwindle from around 30 to just 10 in recent years (Credit: William Lailey / SWNS) | William Lailey / SWNS

Sticks of Blackpool rock have been sold to visitors to the seaside resort for more than a century, since appearing in the late Victorian period.

Its origins remain unclear, but most makers believe it evolved from the popular fairground rock of the time, which was a similar shape and size.

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Over time, the sugary snack - and its assortment of colours and wording - has become synonymous with the resort.

But while the town manufacturers make thousands of sticks every day, they fear the imports pose a threat to the industry.

"It's Chinese rock that's really poor quality but it's cheaper than we can sell it for. It's having an effect on sales,” Mr Thorp said.

"There's factories that are working three day weeks, everyone is downsizing staff.

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"Companies have lost hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of orders.

"It's only 3p a stick cheaper but the wholesalers are putting big orders in.

"Back in the day, there would have been about 30 manufacturers and now there's 10. Next year, it will almost certainly be eight. It's not something that's sustainable."

David Thorp fears 'at least two' more factories in Blackpool will close down (Credit: Getty Images)David Thorp fears 'at least two' more factories in Blackpool will close down (Credit: Getty Images)
David Thorp fears 'at least two' more factories in Blackpool will close down (Credit: Getty Images) | Getty Images

Manufacturers said eight factories had closed in recent years and only 30 people in the country have the skills needed to 'letter' the rock - and most of them are in Blackpool.

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Tony Farrer, managing director of Rainbow Candies, which employs 11 staff, said he had reduced manufacturing to just four days a week due to 'astronomical' costs.

He said: "My energy bills have trebled in the last three years, I'm not paying £1,000 a week in just gas and electricity.

"It's only sustainable if you're able to charge what you need to charge for it.

"We're working a four day week on the manufacturing side. That happens over the winter months normally we're back up to five days by February.

"That doesn't look like it's going to be happening any time soon."

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