Fussels Fine Foods
PUBLISHED: 12:48 22 December 2010 | UPDATED: 18:19 20 February 2013
Sarah Ford meets Somerset farmer, food producer and 'dragon tamer' Andy Fussell
Standing in front of those BBC Dragons must be a knee-trembling experience for even the bravest of men. And Somerset farmer Andy Fussell admits he was more than a little nervous when he found himself in the TV spotlight in his bid for financial backing for his food business.
The arable farmer from Rode made the trip to Dragons Den last year and treated the panel of entrepreneurs,
which include Somersets own Deborah Meaden, to some tasty samples from Fussels Fine Foods. But although retail entrepreneur Theo Paphitis declared
the products to be fantastic, unfortunately none of the panel
chose to invest in the business.
Not that this is any major set-back for Andy, since oil produced by his company can already be found across the South West, including branches of Tesco and Waitrose, as well as a number of restaurants such as Dragon Duncan Bannatynes own Charlton House Spa Hotel in Shepton Mallet. You may also have spotted the variety of oils, dressings and mayonnaise at farmers markets and delicatessens in the area each bottle features a cheeky-looking chap in dungarees and cap; it could almost be Andy himself on the label.
When hes not taming dragons, Andy is based at his busy farm in the heart of Rode. As well as Fussels Fine Foods, this is home to his other business, Frome Area Buildings Supplies, and I meet him in his office for a chat.
Andy comes from a long line of farmers and his grandfather built the first Fussells Brewery in Rode back in 1932. They were the biggest brewer in the South West, with 60 pubs, Andy explains, showing me an old picture on the wall of the former brewery building. The business was a huge employer and was bought by Charrington in 1963.
Andy comes from a long line of farmers and his grandfather built the first Fussells Brewery in Rode back in 1932
Andy was helping out on his fathers arable farm from a young age and he went to agricultural college in Berkshire. When I finished college I went round the world for a year and when I came back my father said, Is that it now? Have you done everything? And he got out the farm cheque book and told me to get on with the business. I was 23 years old.
Alongside the farm, Andy began his own road haulage company carrying scrap and stone. I bought a grain trailer because it suddenly dawned on me I was a farmer and I could be hauling grain. Over the years we have built up the lorry side of things and put up about 8,500 tonnes of storage space. Everything I have done has evolved through farming. We have also set up a blending plant, which blends animal feed.
As well as storing a lot of oil seed rape for other people, Andy grows his own, plus barley and wheat on 550 acres of land. About five years ago the price dropped and we wondered how we could manage to keep the rape in rotation and add some value to it to make it pay. The result was his very own rapeseed oil. The second letter l was dropped from Andys surname when it came to creating the brand and a design was devised for the bottle that customers could identify with.
The little man is based on how I look. I wear a cap whenever I go out and a pair of dungarees on the farm, says the father of two, who is married to Lesley.
Rapeseed oil is a versatile product which can be used for salad dressings, for light and deep frying, for roasting potatoes, marinades and making dips. Andy explains that it has half the saturated fats of olive oil and is high in Omega 3 and 6.
It has a high smoking point which means its integrity does not break down at high temperatures, he says. You can stir fry with it, do chips, fry an egg and still do the Jamie Oliver drizzle. I guarantee your roast potatoes will not be beaten! Its got a lovely nutty taste its not heavy and it also makes fantastic mayonnaise and Rick Steins chefs like it for its mayo capabilities.
Andy partnered with regional brewer Blindmans to create the beer and horseradish sauce, otherwise known as FGS! And he recently joined forces with another producer to turn up the heat a little. Founder of nearby Deers Leap Chillies, Sarah Gratton produces the new Fussels Fine Foods chilli oil by infusing the extra virgin rapeseed oil with her home-grown Birds Eye variety.
So, what next for the enterprising Somerset farmer? Without hesitation, Andy says it is his ambition to see his products in every part of the country.
Eventually I want Fussels Fine Food to be a national brand. I want it to be on the shelves in every supermarket. Thats my dream.
For further information about Fussels go to fusselsfinefoods.co.uk.