Iconic Cornish brands
It’s an indisputable fact that Cornwall has long been a county of innovation, inspiration and entrepreneurship. While the likes of Richard Trevithick and Humphry Davy found pioneering solutions to enduring problems such as transport and health and safety, today’s big names channel Cornwall in areas as broad as mouth-watering foodstuffs, luxury homewares and sustainable hacks. Here is a selection of companies who epitomise Cornish values, some of whose creations will be gifted to the world leaders and diplomats descending upon Cornwall for the G7 summit in Carbis Bay.
Circular & Co, Perranporth
Reusable coffee cups might be all the rage now, but eco-company Circular & Co was one the first to make them, and the only one to do so by crunching up single-use paper cups which were previously unrecyclable. These will be offered to all G7 delegates, media and other caffeine lovers in a bid to reduce waste. Company founder Dan left his job as a Dyson inventor in 2003, and launched a design company from his garden shed. He has since been working with industry experts to develop circular solutions, regenerating used things into new, over and over again , reversing waste and pollution cup by cup.
Atlantic Blankets, Perranporth
Gemma Teague and Alistair Graham create timeless products inspired by the might of the ocean. Cornish-designed and British-made, the journey of each sumptuous, snuggly blanket from farmstead to bedstead is designed to be as sustainable as possible. British wool and recycled fabrics are used where possible, while animal welfare and ethical trading practices are paramount. Since 2018 the company has rejected single-use plastic packaging in favour of paper mailing bags and tape.
Furniss Biscuits, Bodmin
Master baker John Cooper Furniss opened his first teashop in 1886 in the centre of Truro, working late each night to prepare a fresh batch of his delicious fairings and gingerbread. Word spread, orders poured in and within a decade, the teashop had grown into a factory (the quiet green spot it once overlooked is commonly known as “Furniss Island”). Production is now based in Bodmin, and a box of Cornish Fairings is a popular gift to take home to loved ones – which is exactly what G7 delegates will be doing.
Finisterre, St Agnes
Meaning “ends of the earth”, the company Finisterre is named after a shipping forecast area and started with a personal quest to design an innovative fleece to keep out chill winds and warm up cold bodies. It’s still going strong almost two decades later, having moved from a flat above a surf shop to a cliff-top workshop, and broadened its range to swimwear, wetsuits, beanie hats and other accessories for men and women. It’s also a certified B Corps company, committed to prioritising the environment and society in its business dealings.
Seasalt Cornwall, Helston
In 1981, the Chadwick family went to General Clothing Stores in Penzance’s Adelaide Street to buy waterproof coats – and wound up buying the actual shop. Two decades later, the business passed to three brothers and the decision was made to design a bespoke collection inspired by the traditional clientele of farmers, fishermen and artists. Seasalt now employs a vibrant mix of fashion and textile designers, fine artists and illustrators who oversee an ever-changing range of clothing using organic, recycled and eco-friendly fibres. It has also become one of Cornwall’s largest employers, with over 60 shops around the UK and Ireland. Since 2018, it has encouraged all employees to support local causes, clocking up over 4,000 hours of volunteering for more than 130 charities.
Celtic & Co, Newquay
In 1990, Nick & Kath Whitworth saw an advert in the local paper, offering a small boot-making business for sale. They bought it with just seven pairs in stock and taught themselves to sew them. Once they’d built up a local following of their Ugg style boots they registered the ‘Ugg’ trademark, later selling it and re-investing in the company. Today known as Celtic & Co, it employs over 40 staff in Newquay and enjoys a global reputation. They remain committed to slow or circular fashion, with an in-built sense of environmental and social responsibility – a timeless capsule collection, designed to last both materially and stylistically, rather than a passing fad. This dedication has earned them a Queen’s Award for Enterprise – the highest official UK award for British business.
St Austell Brewery
Shout-out to the company that has made Cornwall’s biggest town famous. Founded in 1851 by Cornishman Walter Hicks, today St Austell Brewery is family-owned to this day. Its Cornish Pale Ale, Tribute, is a firm favourite not only in the South West, but across the UK. The company prides itself on being one of the UK’s greenest brewers, using a whole host of tactics to keep its carbon footprint down, from feeding waste material to local cattle, to investing in renewable technologies such as solar thermal units and rainwater harvesting.
Kelly’s of Cornwall
In the late 19th century, Joseph Staffieri migrated from Italy to St Austell and launched an ice cream business. When his son, Lazaro, took over in 1918, he used a horse and cart to sell “penny licks” around the county. The family and company took the name Kelly in the 1930s and moved to Bodmin in the 1970s; today, their vans are a popular fixture around Cornwall, especially during the summer months. The retail side is now owned separately by Yorkshire-based conglomerate Froneri, taking it into supermarkets and other outlets across the UK; however the company still holds fast to its Cornish heritage, with a national television advertising campaign promoting the Cornish language of Kernewek.
Although synonymous with Cornwall, Cornishware was actually designed in 1924 by ceramics company TG Green of Derbyshire. Its blue and white stripes reminded an employee of the blue skies and white-crested waves of Cornish holidays; the name stuck, and Cornishware became one of the company’s most popular and enduring lines, a household name on dinner tables up and down the country. In 2007, TG Green stopped production, but the Cornishware brand was saved and moved to its natural home in the South West. You can now buy dinner sets in a variety of colours but rest assured that blue and white will always be the runaway favourite.