Over the years since Hugh de la Haye introduced the famous ‘fluke’ to fellow farmers at a now famous dinner, the Royal has earned a reputation as the early potato par excellence.
Because it is instantly recognisable and associated with high quality, the name Jersey Royal has incalculable value in branding and marketing terms. If Island farmers were merely selling potatoes, their exports and their profits would be far smaller than is currently the case.
Although the department must be well aware of the unique status of the Royal, Economic Development have, for reasons that defy understanding, decided to dilute the brand. They have successfully applied for certification which would allow the name to be applied to a range of other goods. These, we are told, could range from crisps to alcohol and from clothing to, bizarrely, cardboard.
Previous initiatives aimed at securing something equivalent to the French appelation contrôlée system for wine for authentic Jersey produce have made complete sense. So, too, does the Genuine Jersey label. It is, however, difficult to see how the words Jersey Royal, if applied to crisps or clothing, could lead to anything other than confusion.
As the word ‘fluke’ – the alternative name for the Royal – suggests, the emergence of the variety was the result of genetic chance. Full exploitation of the new potato was, on the other hand, the result of Hugh de la Haye’s insight and the Jersey farmer’s remarkable aptitude for spotting a nice little earner.
Those who worked so hard to develop this arm of Island agriculture but have now moved on to their eternal reward will be spinning in their graves when the news filters through that Jersey Royal is being stamped on footwear and vodka bottle labels.
Permission might have been granted for this ludicrous widening of the application of Jersey’s most recognisable brand. That does not mean that we should let ourselves – or potentially, our agricultural industry – down by actually doing what the trademark regulations now allow us to do.