Blackpool rock 'under severe threat' from imported imitations

ITV News' Amy Welch went to Blackpool to find out why the seaside town's industry is in danger.

Blackpool rock makers have said they are facing a "grave and immediate challenge" after a recent influx of cheap Chinese imports.

In a letter to MPs signed by ten rock makers from across Blackpool, Wyre & Fylde, they warn that the craft of creating the rock candy is facing a crisis like never before, and calls for greater cultural protection to secure the trade.

The resort - where almost all of the UK's sticks of rock are made - has seen the number factories dwindle from around 30 to just 10 in recent years.

It's feared those numbers will fall further as businesses face rocketing energy costs, forcing some to reduce manufacturing to just three or four days a week.

Only about 30 people in the UK are skilled enough to put the signature lettering through the rock, with most of them living and working in Blackpool.

The seaside town is famous for its traditional rock candy.

The rock makers warn that "the rise of cheap Chinese imported imitations poses a grave and immediate challenge" to the industry, and are "jeopardising the livelihoods" of Blackpool workers.

Despite being made in China, many of these imported goods are still labelled as "Blackpool rock."

Rock-maker David Thorp worries that if things don't change, his business could go bust.

David Thorp, who penned the letter, says companies can't compete with the Chinese imports, which are sold to wholesalers at 3p per stick cheaper than theirs. This undercutting will see "at least two" more factories in Blackpool close down in the next year, he fears.Mr Thorp, who runs Stanton and Novelty Confectioners, said: "It's Chinese rock that's really poor quality but it's cheaper than we can sell it for.

"Companies have lost hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of orders. It's only 3p a stick cheaper but the wholesalers are putting big orders in."

Over time, the sugary snack - and its assortment of colours and wording - has become synonymous with Blackpool.

Blackpool rock is sold across the country. Credit: PA

In the letter to MPs, Mr Thorp went on to say: "The quality and integrity of British confectionary is unparalleled, built upon generations of craftsmanship and expertise.

"However, in recent months, inferior products have flooded our market, undercutting domestic producers and... giving the impression to British consumers that they are buying British products."

Rock makers have now applied to the UK geographical location as a way to stop imitations from claiming to be made in Blackpool, and are calling on MPs to back their campaign.

If approved, only rock candy produced in or around Blackpool would be able to use the town's name on their label. Such protection already exists for products like Cumberland Sausages, Cornish pasties, and Isle of Man lamb.

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