Our speaker on 4th July was Mr Philip Rodda who came to tell us about his family business. His grandmother Fanny was the instigator when she discovered she could sterilise the clotted cream she made every day. At the age of 18, extending hospitality to some visitors, she offered scones, jam and cream. The visitors wished they could take some cream home with them but it wouldn’t survive the journey. This set Fanny thinking and she began to experiment with the cream until she found a way to make it last for 3 months. Thus began the family business.
Mr Rodda played us a television documentary showing interviews with his father and uncle, telling the story of how the business had grown and what their lives had been like growing up with it. The present business premises are still on their family site at Scorrier, only now 150 people are employed. It was very interesting to see how the cottage industry had grown – going from first using their own cows and milk bought from neighbouring farmers until now when they bring in milk from farms between the Lizard and Bodmin.
Health and Safety has changed the systems too of course. When they first started up there were no services to the house like today: they had to collect rain water from the roof, use slate slabs and water for cooling and primus stoves for heating.
We learned how the family had begun to produce turkeys alongside the cream, feeding them up on the skimmed milk and selling them at Christmas along with the cream orders. Managing to keep a perfectly straight face, Mr Rodda explained that, on joining the Common Market, they were told they had to keep either a very few Turkeys or a large number – a la Bernard Matthews. So they gave up Turkeys but found that they could dry the skimmed milk and sell it that way and now, with changes in taste, they simply bottle and sell it as it is.
This diversification is something they are very good at. Now their business extends beyond cream to butter, creme fraiche, custard, biscuits, fudge and perhaps more. Mr Rodda bought us samples and explained that, if we liked them but didn’t find them where we buy the cream, we should ask the retailer to stock it for us. This seems to be in the spirit of the way the family has always marketed their business – by sharing and letting the product sell itself. Mr Rodda’s father took some cream to grocers in London, including Fortnum and Mason and – hey presto – big business.
Mr Rodda showed us some paintings of when the family land reverted to a small mixed dairy farm during WW2 when rationing was in progress. He also explained that previously the land had been a coal yard linked to the mines close by. There is still evidence of a small tungsten mine on their land. It was a fascinating history of a very enterprising family much enjoyed by us all. https://www.roddas.co.uk/our-story/