Adventurous English boost sales of haggis

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Many squeamish Sassenachs would run for the door when confronted with a dish of sheep's lung, heart and liver stuffed into a stomach lining. But the haggis, Scotland's national dish, is enjoying a popularity boom in England with shoppers demanding the delicacy all year round.

The supermarket Sainsbury's said yesterday that it was trialling sales of the sheep and oatmeal dish across the country all year round in response to customer requests.

A spokesperson said: "We have had people going into stores and asking for it at Christmas, in the middle of June, all year round.

"We are running trials selling plain haggis across the country, and already sell a broad range, including spicy haggis and organic haggis, in Scotland.

"People's tastes have become broader over the last few years, and whereas they may have not even known about Burns Night a few years ago, now they are not scared to try something different, and have a taste for the dish all year round."

Sainsbury's previously only sold haggis in English stores in the weeks before Burns Night on 25 January and St Andrew's Day on 30 November, when it is traditionally served with neeps and nips, mashed swede and turnips.

Simon Howie, the Perthshire butcher who makes the haggis stocked in Sainsbury's, said people around the world had become fans of the dish. "We have seen a tenfold growth in haggis sales in four years," he said.

The Scottish Whisky Association reported meanwhile that whisky exports to China had increased 84 per cent over the past year.

Campbell Evans, director of government and consumer affairs for the Scotch Whisky Association, said: "Scotch whisky is seen as an aspirational drink, and as people's economic prosperity improves in China, they are choosing to drink Scotch whisky with friends - either with ice, or with green tea as a long drink."

About 20 million bottles were shipped to the Far East in 2005, making £46m for the economy. In 2000, exports were nearer to one million bottles.

Mr Evans said a reduced tariff on exports, from 65 per cent to 10 per cent, had contributed to the popularity of the drink, with China becoming the 15th largest whisky consumer globally, behind the traditional markets of America and continental Europe. Exports had also increased to South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and the US, where malt whisky is popular.

Despite its popularity, haggis recently earned the displeasure of the Scottish Executive on account of its high fat and salt content. The dish was added to a list of restricted food for nursery schools produced by the Executive. According to the classification, haggis should only be eaten once a week - in common with turkey twizzlers and burgers.

The mystique of haggis continues to fascinate many tourists visiting Scotland. A survey byHall's, a haggis maker in West Lothian, revealed that more than 30 per cent of American visitors thought a haggis was a creature and a quarter thought they could hunt it.