I fear cheap imitation imports are putting our fabulous Blackpool Rock at severe threat

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

Blackpool Rock is under severe threat from the influx of ‘cheap imitation imports from China’, according to local manufacturers.

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

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Sammy Davis Jnr, was presented with sticks of Blackpool rock for his children when he was in Blackpool for his appearance in the C.A.D.S. Opera House concert in 1963Sammy Davis Jnr, was presented with sticks of Blackpool rock for his children when he was in Blackpool for his appearance in the C.A.D.S. Opera House concert in 1963
Sammy Davis Jnr, was presented with sticks of Blackpool rock for his children when he was in Blackpool for his appearance in the C.A.D.S. Opera House concert in 1963

But in the last couple of years eight manufacturers dedicated to making Blackpool Rock on the Fylde Coast have been forced to close - leaving just nine left.

This giant stick of candy was a rock solid record. The 500lb monster was set to enter the Guiness Book of Records as the largest rock around. Nine feet, two inches long and 14 1/2 inches thick, the rock rolled off the production line at Blackpool's Fylde Confectionery Company after a marathon cooling sessionThis giant stick of candy was a rock solid record. The 500lb monster was set to enter the Guiness Book of Records as the largest rock around. Nine feet, two inches long and 14 1/2 inches thick, the rock rolled off the production line at Blackpool's Fylde Confectionery Company after a marathon cooling session
This giant stick of candy was a rock solid record. The 500lb monster was set to enter the Guiness Book of Records as the largest rock around. Nine feet, two inches long and 14 1/2 inches thick, the rock rolled off the production line at Blackpool's Fylde Confectionery Company after a marathon cooling session | National World

There are also approximately only 30 people in the UK who have the skills needed to 'letter' sticks of Rock, almost all of them are in Blackpool. 

David Thorp, of Stanton & Novelty Ltd in Warwick Rd, Blackpool, has penned a letter on behalf of all Blackpool, Wyre & Fylde confectionery manufacturers to local MPs Scott Benton, Paul Maynard, Ben Wallace and Mark Menzies, pleading for help to protect their industry.

The world’s biggest stick of rock candy was made by Blackpool confectioners Coronation Rock in 1991. It was 19 feet long and weighed 413.6kg.The world’s biggest stick of rock candy was made by Blackpool confectioners Coronation Rock in 1991. It was 19 feet long and weighed 413.6kg.
The world’s biggest stick of rock candy was made by Blackpool confectioners Coronation Rock in 1991. It was 19 feet long and weighed 413.6kg.

Please help save our industry

In a letter signed by 12 confectionery manufacturers, Mr Thorp said: “I am reaching out to seek your support in safeguarding the status of British-made confectionery, which is currently under severe threat from the influx of cheap imitation imports, particularly from China. 

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“Our industry has been an integral part of the local economy and British tourism sector, employing hardworking individuals and contributing significantly to the cultural heritage and tradition of British confectionery. However, the rise of cheap Chinese imported imitations poses a grave and immediate challenge to our industry, jeopardising the livelihoods of our employees and the sustainability of our business. Specifically, products that are made in China but call themselves "Blackpool Rock" or similar. 

“The quality and integrity of British confectionery is unparalleled, built upon generations of craftsmanship and expertise. However, in recent months, inferior products have flooded our market, undercutting domestic producers and eroding consumer confidence in locally-made goods while giving the impression to consumers that they are buying British products.”

Amanda Holden with her Blackpool mug and rock to take home. Credit: Lucinda HerbertAmanda Holden with her Blackpool mug and rock to take home. Credit: Lucinda Herbert
Amanda Holden with her Blackpool mug and rock to take home. Credit: Lucinda Herbert

The impact of ‘cheap imitation imports’

Only nine rock factories remain on the Fylde Coast and the concerned manufacturers fear that number will fall agin by the end of the year if nothing is done.

The consortium of businesses added that Blackpool rock should be given protected status, similar to that given to Stilton cheese, Cornish clotted cream and Melton Mowbray pork pies.

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Dickinson and Morris' Melton Mowbray pork piesDickinson and Morris' Melton Mowbray pork pies
Dickinson and Morris' Melton Mowbray pork pies

“In the last few years, 8 Rock factories based in Blackpool and the surrounding borough's have regrettably been forced to cease trading, only 9 remain, and more will have no option but to close this year. There are approximately only 30 people in the UK who have the skills needed to 'letter' sticks of Rock, almost all of them are in Blackpool.”

Making a stand

The origins of rock remain unclear, but most makers believe it evolved from the popular fairground rock of the time, which was a similar shape and size, but lacked the colours and writing of today's offerings.

The town's manufacturers now make thousands of sticks every day, but in their letter to local MPs they said the "rise of cheap Chinese imported imitations" was posing a "grave and immediate challenge to our industry".

The makers said there was a need to uphold the "values of fairness, quality and authenticity"

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Maria, played by Samia Ghadie, gets her teeth round some Blackpool rock in 2002Maria, played by Samia Ghadie, gets her teeth round some Blackpool rock in 2002
Maria, played by Samia Ghadie, gets her teeth round some Blackpool rock in 2002

They said the "quality and integrity" of British confectionery was "unparalleled and built upon generations of craftsmanship and expertise", but inferior products were "undercutting domestic producers and eroding consumer confidence in locally-made goods".

They called on the MPs to "take a stand" by either supporting the makers' application to the UK geographical indication protected food names scheme or getting behind its British confectionery campaign.

Keep Fit Association national competitions at the Winter Gardens' Empress Ballroom. Margaret Slater with the KFA Blackpool 2001 rock, specially made by her company W.S. Slater and Co for the eventKeep Fit Association national competitions at the Winter Gardens' Empress Ballroom. Margaret Slater with the KFA Blackpool 2001 rock, specially made by her company W.S. Slater and Co for the event
Keep Fit Association national competitions at the Winter Gardens' Empress Ballroom. Margaret Slater with the KFA Blackpool 2001 rock, specially made by her company W.S. Slater and Co for the event

Mr Stanton said; “We urge you to take a stand on behalf of British confectionery manufacturers by advocating for the protection of our industry and its most famous product. This could include supporting our application to the UK geographical indication (GI) protected food names (PFN) scheme, or promoting our campaign for British Confectionery.

“Preserving the heritage and tradition of British confectionery is not only essential for our economy but also for maintaining our cultural identity and pride. By championing the cause of local producers, you will not only support businesses like ours but also uphold the values of fairness, quality, and authenticity that define British craftsmanship. 

“I cannot stress enough the urgency of the situation for one of the most beloved British institutions.”

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