Reviving Rural Economies: The Inspiring Story of the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association

We have to think big. Who would have thought 20 years ago we’d have got where we are now”. (Dr. Matthew O’Callaghan, OBE)

In 2015, food historian Dr Matthew O’Callaghan, Chairman of the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association, was awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. According to the official citation, this was for his “Services to the Food Industry and Small Businesses in Leicester”.

In 1998 he and eight producers of the almost 200-year-old genuine Melton Mowbray Pork Pie formed the Association to gain Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status for the world-famous Pie. In 2009 this was awarded and the Association became responsible for coordinating the management of the registration, its standards, and inspections. However, in addition to protecting the consumer from being misled about the provenance and quality of the Pies, the Association also began to encourage growth and investment in the rural economy, reinforce the credentials of Melton Mowbray as the heart of an important rural economy, promote the region and its food heritage and support the wider objective of recognising the importance of regional foods. (image): Dr Matthew O’Callaghan, Chairman of the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association

As a result of such activities, Melton Mowbray has become known as the “Rural Capital of Food”.  Not only does the Association organise a farmers’ market,  one of the first in the country, but it also organises food festivals helping to promote food tourism and revitalise what was, in the 1990s, a declining rural economy. Apart from the closure of the local army depot, coal mining in the area had ceased, and “mad cow” disease impacted the farming industry. The future looked bleak but as a result of the enterprise of Dr. O’Callaghan and the Association, the Pork Pie, and the world-famous Stilton Cheese, the fortunes of the town have been reversed. Currently, 5 food festivals are organised each year including competitions for the best pie and best artisan cheeses. Such events generate some £70 million from the 2 million annual visitors to the town which earns a further £100 million from the pork pie industry.

As a consequence, other food-oriented businesses have been attracted to the town, and its 1869 Livestock market, The Stockyard, has become the home of several innovative and award-winning small businesses. These include the £1million brewery, “Round Corner Brewing”, which was opened in a former sheep shed in 2018, “ Bretingby” Gin, a premium craft distillery occupying a former poultry house, and the chocolatier “Simply Chocolate”,  as well as other small food businesses. When The Stockyard was opened in 2022, the CEO of the development company working in partnership with the town council, observed that it recognises both the town’s heritage and future as a destination for future food and drink lovers. Visitors will be able to go on “behind the scenes” tours, tasting sessions, and educational programmes involving the town’s local college.

Stockyard Melton Mowbray (image:

In January 2023 the town received a £12 million Government grant which, together with a further £2 million provided by Melton Borough Council, the Developers Gilstream, and SMB College, will be used to boost the Melton economy. The funds will help develop food production units and events space in The Stockyard as well as the renovation of the town’s theatre. As the leader of the Melton Borough Council acknowledged “The delivery of these projects will enhance our reputation as the Rural Capital of Food, providing economic opportunities and support for established business and start-up producers”.

While the Melton Mowbray Pie Association is not an example of Harmonious Entrepreneurship it demonstrates how a focus on food can revitalise a rural economy when coupled with an entrepreneurial mindset. However it does address 5 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals  – SDGs 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), 11(Sustainable Cities and Communities), 9 (Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure), and 17 (Partnerships for the Goals). Importantly all of the main actors, whether in the private or the public sector, share the vision and work in harmony to bring it to fruition.

When talking about the future Dr. O’Callaghan believes they can achieve their objectives. “It can be done”, he says, “and I am really excited for the future”.

© / Harmonious Entrepreneurship Ltd. (2020-2023). Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author(s) noted is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Harmonious Entrepreneurship Ltd with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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