Published: 09:36, 14 October 2013
A family business dating back to the 19th century is proving a healthy basketful of greens does not have to come at great cost.
Carrots, brussels, tomatoes and apples make for a typical fruit and vegetable shop, but there is a crucial difference at Macknade Fine Foods.
The clue is in the title somewhat but there is more to it, as explained by partner Stefano Cuomo, whose family began farming on the Faversham site more than 150 years ago.
The food is, indeed, top notch, but that does not have to equate to a lighter purse.
The Cuomo family maintain their fruit and vegetable produce is comparable on price with supermarkets and far outweighs the big retailers in terms of taste.
And their more exotic produce can be bought on a budget too.
“The difference is that rather than having to buy a big bunch of carrots, you can buy a single carrot,” said Stefano.
“So although the price does not compare in some cases, you can buy what you need. There is no wastage, whereas in a supermarket you might pay more for a bunch and then throw half of it away anyway.
“As a customer, you accept our jam is specialist and will be more expensive, but if you are shopping for just fruit and vegetables then the price is comparable.
“And there is value as the price goes up because our produce has more quality than the supermarkets’.”
The big issue for Macknade, says Stefano, is making people aware of the effort that goes into their products before they reach the shelves.
“We have not got enough on our labelling, which is a weakness,” he said. “People want to know where things come from. We might stick ‘local’ on something, but we need to show people exactly where things come from.”
That is something the company has to work on, but the foundations for success are there.
Starting as a tent in a field selling produce from the Macknade farm in 1979, the company is now a food chain with an outlet in Faversham’s town centre and its flagship foodhall on the original farm site.
Stefano is the sixth generation of his family to work there, although only the second since it has become a food retailer.
“We sell a knowledge-based product, and if we are asking you to pay a certain price, there is a reason for that and we can explain why...” - Macknade Fine Foods' Stefano Cuomo
His father, Renato, turned the traditional Kentish farming business into a market and then food store, which employs 45 people and more in the run-up to Christmas.
“People like heritage in a business,” said Stefano, 34, who was born the year the farm shop was launched.
“From an economic point of view, we have done all right. We have a loyal following.
“We sell a knowledge-based product, and if we are asking you to pay a certain price, there is a reason for that and we can explain why.”
Renato and his wife Patricia are the other partners who complete the trio in charge of Macknade.
Stefano became more involved in the business in 2006 after completing his degree in anthropology and Spanish at Swansea University, during which time he spent a year living in Barcelona.
While some friends moved up to the Big Smoke to further their careers, Stefano has no regrets about joining the business opposite the house he grew up in.
“My childhood was spent running around the orchards and fields here,” said Stefano, who lives in Faversham with his wife, Priya, and daughters Lakshmi, three, and one-year-old Mila.
“On a given day, I will see three or four members of my family and I feel blessed at that.
“I have a real sense of where I come from. I’m pretty lucky.”
For details, visit www.macknade.com