Confectionery firm turns vegan to avoid Brexit checks

BRUSSELS (AFP): Following Brexit, confectioner Pecan Deluxe Candy soon discovered that British operations were plagued by costly new red tape on exports of animal-derived products. Its solution? Go vegan.

The US-owned firm — which provides food brands with sweet confection like cake toppings and cookie dough — scrapped butter and eggs in favour of plant-based alternatives that require no checks at the EU border.

Bosses decided in October to ditch dairy at their facility in the northern English village of Sherburn-in-Elmet near Leeds to boost flagging exports to their main market in Europe.

“We decided to take action because … we weren’t just going to lie down and take it,” Graham Kingston, managing director of the Pecan Delux Candy Europe, told AFP.

The UK left the European Union’s single market and customs union two years ago, forcing exporters of animal-based foodstuffs to submit veterinary certification and other costly paperwork.

The extra red tape has heaped costs and time on companies, further straining supply chains.

However, vegan products are not subject to the same restrictions. That makes for cheaper and more efficient transportation.

“One of the biggest issues that there has been is the implementation of border control checks,” said Kingston.

Those checks have been “stopping a lot of deliveries going through depending on interpretation of the rules, which has caused a number of issues with products being returned to us all having to be destroyed”.

New recipes

Extra red tape had cost the group more than £100,000 ($123,450) over the past couple of years.

“The new range… has significantly reduced those costs,” he added.

“We don’t have to get a vet come and sign those off anymore and that allows us to have a very slick supply chain into our customers in Europe.”

Family-owned Pecan Delux Candy, which is based in Dallas, Texas and also has a factory in Thailand, employs 600 staff worldwide making key ingredients for desserts like brownies, cakes, pastries and more.

The company reformulated recipes after European exports tanked to 55 percent of its total UK sales.

That compared with a huge 84 percent before Brexit.

The new products are also cheaper to produce and taps into current dietary trends.

“A plant-based range which has had some other benefits to offer, which are reduced pricing, and also hitting a number of trends that are in play at the moment, not least veganism,” Kingston told AFP.

Pecan Deluxe Candy Europe has made the French port of Calais its single point of EU entry.

Reversing Brexit?

Asked about how the Brexit-backing UK government could help struggling exporters, Kingston suggested a reversal of Brexit — and direct assistance.

“I think moving back into the EU would be a start, in terms of helping us,” Kingston told AFP.

“I think just giving us exporters some assistance financially where possible, but also the availability of information would very much help.

“Because everything we have here has been learned post-Brexit. So we’ve had to be very self sufficient in the whole process.”