Weekender: Annual festival to showcase export success of rhubarb gin

22 February 2019

Weekender: Annual festival to showcase export success of rhubarb gin

Wakefield is set to host a festival this weekend to celebrate West Yorkshire’s Rhubarb Triangle, which is an area that has recognised European Commission like Champagne, Parma Ham and Stilton cheese.

The rhubarb is forced in sheds located in a nine square-mile triangle between Wakefield, Morley and Rothwell. At its peak, West Yorkshire produced 90% of the world’s winter forced rhubarb and covered an area of about 30 square-miles.

Rhubarb has also played a major part in the success of gin in the UK over the last several years.

Harrogate distillers Slingsby’s infuses its London Dry Gin with Yorkshire Triangle rhubarb.

Clare Gibson, Slingsby’s marketing director, said: “This year we have seen a huge surge in rhubarb gins come into the market to enjoy in the boom of the ‘pink gin’. Slingbsy’s very early entry into the rhubarb gin market has secured us another year of phenomenal growth – almost 600% over the past year.”

The latest figures from HM Revenue and Customs show that British gin sales abroad, in 2018, were worth £612m – up 15% on the previous year. Britain sends more gin around the world than it does beef or beer, with gin sales overseas worth 28% more than beer sales.

Roger Marsh OBE, Chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (The LEP), said: “West Yorkshire and the Leeds City region always has the capacity to surprise. It’s a digital powerhouse with a £69.6bn economy that is transforming businesses through FinTech, telecoms, health and education technologies and cyber security, and at the same time it is the home to a European Commission-designated area where in lightless sheds, rhubarb, or tusky, is being forced at such a speed you can literally hear it grow.”

Later in the year, the West Yorkshire town of Pontefract will be holdings its annual festival of liquorice, a plant which due to its geographical origins was known locally as ‘spanish’.

Liquorice has been associated with Pontefract since 1500 when they were first mentioned together and by 1750 the town boasted 47 liquorice farmers.

Confectionary giant Haribo continues to make Pontefract Cakes, also known as Pomfret cakes and Pomfrey cakes. The company’s plants in Pontefract and nearby Castleford employ 700 people.

Marsh added: “We have a unique and influential ecosystem that has seen our region become the UK’s first health innovation hub that incudes opportunities in diagnostic and personalised medicine, med-tech and regenerative medicine.

“And a factory in Pontefract making sweets deriving from a plant, liquorice or spanish, that was probably brought back from the Crusades for medicinal purposes.”