Biltong a recipe for business success

A FACTORY shop on a Newhaven industrial estate is a magnet for an increasing number of South African ex-pats keen for a taste of home.  Larry and Janet Susman's biltong is selling like hot cakes at their recently opened shop on the Avis Way industrial estate.  And the spicy, air dried meat is also sent all points north, east, west and south from the Newhaven factory for the Susman's supply top London stores, mail order customers and expeditions to far-flung corners of the globe.  From making about 5lbs of biltong a week at home for themselves and friends, the couple now produce about 2,000lbs of biltong and spicy sausages.  'Biltong is a way a preserving meat. In South Africa it would be dried in the open after being spiced and cured. There biltong could be made from any meat - elephant, ostrich, antelope, whatever,' explains Larry, 33.  Here we use special drying units and only the best Scotch beef, top lamb and venison.  The meat is cut into traditional sized strips with the drying process taking about two weeks.  Traditionally biltong it is used for stews, casseroles and curries but these days it is also popular for the snacks and hors-d'oeuvres.  Larry was born and grew up in Johannesburg but came to Newhaven - the home town of his grand parents - 18 years ago. Janet is also from Newhaven.  He never intended to go into biltong business. 'I wanted to be an architect but - couldn't get my maths A level, although I tried many times,' he says.  Their home-produced biltong was so popular with family and friends they decided to take over a factory at the Old Cement Works at South Heighton.

The move to bigger premises on the Avis Way estate and the opening of the factory shop took place seven months ago. Biltong is not cheap; the beef biltong is £9 a pound whilst the beef Jerky sausage costs £19 a pound. But the business is booming.  It has been much better since the South African election. It is surprising how many South Africans there are around here and we are getting other new customers all the time,' says Larry.  The shop also stocks other South African favourites, such as Mrs Ball's chutneys, preserves and dried fruit.  One regular customer is ex-pat PC Mike Woodford, Seaford's community beat officer.  'Larry's and Janet's biltong and sausage are the best out of Africa,' is his recommendation.