Their names – and wellies – are emblazoned across the front of the packaging. But now the Yorkshire farming couple who launched one of Britain’s poshest sausage brands are urging shoppers not to be misled into thinking they still endorse the product – after it was bought by a firm at the centre of the horse-meat scandal.
Debbie and Andrew Keeble, who founded Debbie & Andrew’s in 1999, have been involved with a bitter dispute with Vion, accusing it of allowing customers to believe they are still involved with the food. Vion has just sold the brand to ABP, which has continued to mislead consumers, according to the Keebles.
The couple sold the brand in 2005, but the sausages still retain their names, and the website insists it sticks to “Debbie & Andrew’s small-brand ethos” producing sausages to “the exacting standards and principles laid out all those years ago”. Asda takes this even further. The sausages are made, its website says, following “weekly tasting sessions with their children”. But the Keebles claim that their children have not tasted the sausages for years.
The couple originally sold the brand to JJ Tranfield, which was subsequently acquired by Vion in 2007. The Keebles initially remained directors of the brand after these acquisitions but became increasingly alarmed, claiming that corners were cut to reduce costs. “We were poles apart in terms of how we wanted to do things,” Mrs Keeble said. “We tried for years to make it work but we were working with a product we didn’t even like any more and I think customers were being misled.”
In letters seen by The Independent, Vion agreed to a “rebranding exercise” after the Keebles raised concerns that their personal information was being used to market the sausages. Minor changes to the website were made but, the pair allege, not enough to make clear that they had severed all ties by March last year.
Food companies including ABP are trying to mend damaged reputations following the horse-meat scandal. Its Silvercrest plant in Ireland produced the Tesco Everyday Value burger that was found to contain 29.1 per cent horse DNA relative to the beef content.
An ABP spokesman said: “Very shortly, the entire website will have a new look and feel which will tie in with our marketing and advertising campaign for the Debbie & Andrew’s brand.”
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