In the latest edition of Scottish Field we speak to Laura Black of Cooper Butchers for Producers Corner.
The Haggis World Champion talks about giving up her banking career to take over the family business and how butchers have seen a resurgence with a new generation of youngsters cooking at home.
Cooper Butchers has been in Laura Black’s family for 40 years.
Mum-of-two Laura, 40, has always been around the business as her parents bought the shop in Bellshill, North Lanarkshire, just months after she was born.
She worked at the butchers as a teenager and lent a hand during busy spells, but in 2018 she gave up her high flying career in banking to take over the family firm when her father retired.
Laura was recently crowned the Haggis World Champion, thanks to her family’s secret recipe, and since the award has seen orders increase by 400%.
One dedicated customer even made a ten hour trip from Eastborne to get his hands on some haggis, and orders for Burns Night next year are already coming in.
‘The butchers was originally started by my mum and dad,’ Laura said.
‘I was born in June and my parents got the shop in August so it’s been part of my life forever.
‘I worked part time in the butcher when I was a teenager, on a Saturday, and I helped out at busy times like Christmas when it was all hands on deck.’
Five years ago Laura, who had a career in banking for 18 years, decided to give it all up to come on board at the family business full time.
She thought the career change would give her some more free time, but Laura has found there is no slowing down when you run a business.
Since taking over in 2019 she has bought a second shop in Motherwell, where she is from.
‘I had a career in banking for 18 years but about five years ago my dad started talking about retiring, so I decided to make the change and come into the business full time,’ she said.
‘It’s been quite the career change.
‘I thought the pace would be a bit easier than banking and I would get to spend more time with my children but it’s not that easy when you work for yourself.
‘But I love it, it’s fantastic, and since taking over I have bought a second premise in Motherwell.’
Last month Laura was recently crowned Haggis World Champion at the Scottish Craft Butchers Trade Fair.
She admitted she entered the inaugural world title-chasing bid with the secret family recipe in hope rather than expectation.
But she was delighted to win and said she won’t part with long-held family secrets that made her haggis a world-beater.
Cooper’s haggis is normally made two or three times a week – but since the award Laura said they are making it three times a day just to keep up with demand.
‘Our haggis is a family recipe that was passed down from my parents,’ Laura said.
‘It has been tweaked and developed over the years but we have always kept it traditional.
‘Since the award the sale of our haggis has gone up 400% and we have had orders from all over the UK.
‘I have people wanting to book in advance to buy the haggis for Burns Night in January.
‘One customer drove 10 hours from Eastbourne to pick some up. I thought he was maybe coming up on holiday but he just came for the haggis which is incredible.
‘We have had orders from London, Manchester, Blackpool and all across Scotland.
‘It has been hard to keep up with the demand because it was so unexpected, we weren’t prepared for this wave of sales.
‘We normally made haggis once, sometimes twice a week, and that lasted us.
‘But now we are making it two or three times a day to get through the orders.’
What’s in your fridge at home right now?
A lot of haggis products! We are trying our different flavours of haggis bon bons. Oh, and some rose wine.
If you could cook for anyone who would it be and why?
I would get all my family and friends together and have a big BBQ in the sun. Everyone has busy lives so we don’t get to do it as often as we want.
What’s your favorite restaurant in Scotland?
DaClaudios in Motherwell. The steaks are delicious and they always offer the freshest of ingredients.
Laura said Covid helped invigorate a generation of younger cooks who weren’t able to go out but realised they could eat well at home, with the help of their local butcher.
‘Covid definitely gave independent butchers a resurgence because people couldn’t get deliveries and they were suddenly buying local,’ she said.
‘And for us, having an online presence certainly brought a whole new clientele, and they have remained with us.
‘You’re getting that younger generation now who want to cook because they couldn’t go out and go to restaurants during covid.
‘Now they have learned to cook and see they can get the good quality products and make meals at home at a fraction of the price.
‘I think the younger generation also see the benefit of a butcher compared to supermarkets.
‘And I don’t mean that in a negative way, because there’s a place for supermarkets.
‘But people are seeing the benefits of going and speaking to your butcher, who can advise how to cook something and give you hints and tips.
‘The pandemic made us adapt and do things differently, like with ready to heat, ready to eat.
‘It gives people a different option on what they can cook at home and a butcher is a much more personalised service.’
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