The history of Otter Vale Products is proudly Devonian – and this is clearly reflected in our products, our people and the character of our company.
Before condiments, our DNA evolved from some altogether different products, and was intertwined with two famous Budleigh Salterton companies – The Kitchen Shop and the Budleigh Salterton Pâté Company.
On returning from the Second World War a certain Major Scott brought back a secret recipe for a renowned pâté, bestowed upon him by the chef of his hotel in Strasbourg, and he began to manufacture it from a shop in Fore Street.
In 1969, the business expanded to include The Kitchen Shop, selling a comprehensive range of kitchen equipment and a large “Pâté by Post” enterprise. The Major was said to be a familiar figure in the locality, delivering pâté on his bicycle.
Around this period, Mr Seymour Laxon joined the venture, buying new premises on Perriam’s Place in 1972 and employing local people to produce and distribute pâté. In 1979 Mr Graham Worrall, who had been a food production manager supplying the business, purchased the company as a going concern and increased the pâté range, distribution network and local members of staff.
1982 saw the first production of Christmas puddings on site. A number of schoolboys were employed through the years, the most notable being George Hollywood who now runs Georgie Porgie’s Puddings from his own premises at South Farm, Budleigh Salterton. George continues the Christmas puddings first manufactured at Perriam’s Place – and who knows, he may even return there one day!
In subsequent years Mr Worrall, having had previous experience in chutney production, started manufacturing and selling chutneys. The workload continued to increase as did the number of local people employed, young and old.
In 1990 the pâté business was sold and, having gone through a cycle of owners, is still made today in Station Road, Budleigh Salterton.
By mid-1995, Mr Worrall had to consider various retirement options and the business was sold to Mr Jon and Mrs Christine Laxon – Jon being the son of Seymour Laxon and thereby neatly continuing the legacy started three decades earlier.
The business was renamed Otter Vale Products, conjuring up images of the Devon countryside, produce and nature.
The classic novel Tarka the Otter was set in Devon. Not a lot of people know that!
As the business grew over the ensuing 21 years with the range or chutneys, preserves and mustards expanding and becoming more and more popular, the Laxon family tradition continued with son Ben taking over as managing director in 2014.
In July 2016, Otter Vale moved from Perriam’s Place to new, purpose-built kitchens in Cullompton, mid-Devon.
Having outgrown the company’s spiritual home in Budleigh, and with the lease set to expire in the not-too-distant-future, the difficult decision was taken to move. A year long search for a suitable site close to Budleigh proved fruitless, and moving out of the immediate area was a very emotional time.
Kind words from valued friends and neighbours helped, but Otter Vale will never forget its roots in Budleigh, and strong ties and happy memories remain.
And now the new kitchen and storage facilities in Cullompton have opened up exciting opportunities for Otter Vale and its growing family of customers and suppliers. The layout and design were planned by Ben and the team to make for an efficient, comfortable and modern working environment from where cooking can continue in the traditional way.
The company still employs local people to produce quality, hand-made condiments and 55 years after Seymour Laxon joined the venture, Otter Vale has five family members still closely involved in the next chapter; Chris Laxon (daughter-in-law), Ben Laxon (grandson), Andrea Laxon (granddaughter-in-law), Julian Laxon (grandson), Claire Laxon (granddaughter-in-law).
Visitors are welcome at the new holt – where they may even meet Ben and Andrea’s toddler Flynn getting in some early training as the first great-great grandson to be involved.
What We Do
In our dedicated kitchens, located on the outskirts of Cullompton in mid-Devon, we take great pride in the manufacture of all our products.
Wherever possible we source all our ingredients locally to support other local producers and reduce environmental impact.
Sadly, pineapples don’t grow in Cullompton – even with our famous Devonian climate!
We peel all our onions by hand, making sure only the best flesh goes through to the cooking process. The onions and fruit are chopped up in oversized food processors which allow us to process about 8lbs of onions at a time. We check to make sure that the pieces aren’t too big or blended too small to become like a puree – it’s a bit like Goldilocks, they have to be ‘just right’.
We have two gas fired cooking pots, one of approximately 50 litres and another of approximately 100 litres. The onions are added to the pots with vinegar and the pots are ‘lit’. After some time sugar is added, with a small amount of salt when the recipe requires it. Next, the fruit is added before the pot is allowed to heat up and cook the contents. When it reaches the prerequisite temperature, then spices, modified starch and some more vinegar are added. This is when the real work begins as we carefully stir the contents constantly to prevent the chutney ‘sticking’ and burning in the bottom of the pot.
When the chutney has thickened up we pour it into jars. Until very recently this was all done using a litre jug and a funnel, really doing it all by hand!
We still pour many of our products this way, but we did forego tradition when we received an order for 30,000 of our small jars!! To preserve the health of our teams’ backs, which were constantly bending and straightening to pour the chutney, we bought a filling machine. This enabled us to fill all our small jars a lot more easily, cleanly and accurately.
Marmalade, piccalilli, salsa, Coronation sauce, mincemeat, relishes and jellies and catering tubs are all still hand-filled.
So whilst our company grows and we gently add some modernisation, our commitment and heritage will always be to delivering high quality products to you, our discerning customer!