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Meat Larry, Master of South African BiltongIT MIGHT be far from the veldt but a Newhaven company has become a mecca for homesick Springboks. In a unit on one of the town's outlying industrial estates, an expanding small business is thriving by supplying the 500,000 expat South Africans in the UK with a taste of home. Susman's Best Beef Biltong Company, founded and run by South African Larry Susman, specialises in the snack they miss most. Biltong, a dried meat delicacy devised by South Africa's Boer settlers during their famous great trek to the Transvaal, hardly looks appetising. It's rather like strips of old leather, but it is catching on quite dramatically in Britain, Europe and the U.S. Larry, who arrived in Newhaven from South Africa in the l970s, said: "Back home, every corner shop sells biltong. "It's the national snack and a national symbol.
"We sell on nostalgia -people love to buy what they know. "Now its becoming a cult thing here in the UK."According to Larry, South Africans develop a taste for biltong as babies when they are often given it to bite on during teething! The flood of immigrants from South Africa and the growing number of Brits holidaying there are boosting the demand for the product. Susman's is now producing a ton per week and supplying 350 outlets, including a dozen London pubs and upmarket department stores such as Harrods, Bentalls and Seifridges. And its finding its way on to the dinner party tables of Middle England. One of biltong's many properties is that it can be rehydrated as an ingredient for dishes such as casseroles and curries.
The mail order side of the business has 16,000 regular customers in New Zealand Australia, the US and Portugal, as well as the UK. Larry has even managed the equivalent of selling ice to Eskimos and is sending his British biltong to South Africa.
The company started in just 500sqft of space in an East Sussex village in the mid 1990s but has now moved to its present 5,000sqft factor on Avis Way in Newhaven, where the workforce has grown to ten.
In 1998 Susman's was runner -up in the small business category of the Sussex Business Awards.