It’s Worth the Truffle: Luxury Fungi Demand to Make Scottish Firm Millions
Photo: Truffle Farms EuropeBusiness18:00 23.10.2017(updated 18:04 23.10.2017) Get short URL
A firm based in Scotland is plunging into the truffle farming industry in a bid to cash in on growing demand from China and other emerging markets. Sputnik spoke to the company’s founder, Martin Waddell, about why the Black Perigord truffle is so special and in such high demand.
Truffle Farms Europe’s (TFE) managing director Martin Waddell, who moved to Perpignan, France in 2007, said he had been looking at truffle farming as an investment for several years and had forecast the boom in demand from emerging markets such as Brazil, Russia, India, China, Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey.
Mr. Waddell is hoping to make millions of euros for investors in his business, that’s based in Edinburgh. The businessman predicts a big future for commercial truffle farming, in view of the huge and growing demand for luxury foods from the emerging markets.
Photo: Truffle Farms EuropeThe Black Perigord Truffle (French Black Winter Truffle)
Supply Down, Demand Up
In the recent years, three major truffle-producing countries — France, Spain and Italy — have suffered from a series of dry summers which has reduced supply and sent global truffle prices on an upward curve, Mr. Waddell explained.
Meanwhile, the US truffle market grew from US$4 —20 million between 2004 and 2012 and several emerging markets, including China, are also fueling demand.
Wealthy Chinese customers have developed a taste for western cuisine and demand is growing for wine and caviar as well as truffles, according to TFE. Black Perigord truffles now have a retail value of up to 2,400 euros (US$2,817) per kilogram.
Mr. Waddell spotted the trend a decade ago and says he and his investors are set to reap the rewards.
“In order to get to where I am now, somebody else trying to enter this market would be 10 years behind me,” he told Sputnik.
‘Impossible to Describe’ Flavor
Truffles are a type of ectomycorrhizal fungi which grow at the foot of certain trees. Most truffles grow in the wild and were traditionally sniffed out by truffle hunters using pigs.
“It’s almost impossible to describe the taste of black winter truffles. It’s extremely pungent and overpoweringly flavorful. It’s a very strong, rich, deep flavor, way beyond any mushroom. Some people say it has an aphrodisiac quality. But the taste certainly stays with you and it triggers chemical qualities” Mr. Waddell told Sputnik.
TFE has planted thousands of young oak trees on a plantation in Languedoc, southern France, and believes they will spawn a highly lucrative harvest of French black Perigord truffles, sometimes known as black winter truffles.
MR. Waddell said they hoped to harvest their first truffles in February, or failing that in November next year.
Photo: Truffle Farms EuropeThe first batch of acorns arriving at IRTA in Barcelona
TFE is cultivating 26,500 young oak trees in a special propagation nursery at the Institute Research and Technologia for Agronomia near Barcelona, 5,000 of which are now available for purchase by private investors.
The trees are transported to a secret location deep in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, which is known as “truffle country.”
The black winter truffle is, as its name suggests, harvested between late November and February and during this period Mr. Waddell said they would be employing special security procedures.
“The plantation will be protected. It will be fenced at crop time with high-security fencing and I will be employing an anti-penetration specialist, ex-SAS, to oversee the security operation because you are sitting on a serious amount of money here and we are doing a huge amount to protect our investment,” he told Sputnik.
TFE, which has employed world-renowned expert Dr. Marcos Morcillo as a consultant, plans to harvest and sell the truffle crops to global wholesale markets and promises investors a forecasted average annual rate of return of between 15 percent and 21 percent over a 15-year tax-free period.
Mr. Waddell admitted the taste of black winter truffle did not suit everyone and he compared it to the polarization which Marmite produces among UK consumers.
“Because of its overpowering taste you want to eat it with something simple, like pasta or plain chicken or veal. Truffle and scrambled eggs is also delicious, or with simply cooked potatoes,” Mr. Waddell told Sputnik.