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Family business charms Heston Blumenthal

Andrew Ramsay and his brother, John, have worked in the family business since their teens. “I’d help make sausages and pack hams,” recalls Andrew. “There was no doubt that I would eventually run the business.”

When the pair joined Ramsay of Carluke, the firm was not thriving. It was time for a radical change in direction. “Cheap bacon was coming in from abroad and we could not compete on price,” says Ramsay. “We decided to compete on quality instead and operate at the top end of the market: the best pigs; the best ingredients in everything we made.”

Placing the business at the “specialist” end of the market meant spurning the supermarkets. Instead, the firm won premium clients like Harrods and Skibo Castle. “Most of the multiples have asked to stock our product,” he says. “But we’ve just politely said ‘no, thank you’. We would lose a lot of speciality customers that way. And dealing with one very large customer is incredibly risky.”

This move has yielded eight years of strong growth at the company, and brought the firm to the attention of celebrity chefs Rick Stein and Heston Blumenthal, even propelling Ramsay of Carluke onto the small screen.

When Blumenthal recently took part in Channel 4 programme Big Chef Takes On Little Chef, the Michelin-starred culinary wizard was charged with revamping the tired Little Chef menu. Ramsay of Carluke’s black pudding made it onto the menu.

Since the series aired, the £1.7m-turnover firm has seen a lot of publicity: “I’ve just had a photographer from Glasgow in here,” says Ramsay, sheepishly. “Another’s coming from the Telegraph. I’ve been in The Times, The Guardian, The Mirror. And it’s just the start of it.”

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