Malton: How Yorkshire's food capital has boomed in recent years - but is still falling behind

For anyone arriving in Malton, the welcome signs by the side of the road spell out just how much of a renaissance the North Yorkshire market town has seen in recent years.

Emblazoned with the slogan “Malton - the food capital of Yorkshire”, the culinary offering in the town has seen its local economy become a driving force for the county.

The Malton Food Festival has become a huge success since launching in 2009 and has attracted major names such as Tom Parker-Bowles, Prue Leith, John Christophe Novelli and Valentine Warner as well as leading Yorkshire chefs such as James Martin, Andrew Pern and James Mackenzie.

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The town now has a cookery school and a plethora of independent businesses focused on food and drink, with many centred on Talbot Yard, which has undergone a £500,000 transformation.

Malton is Yorkshire's food capitalMalton is Yorkshire's food capital
Malton is Yorkshire's food capital

However, like so many towns located in predominantly rural areas, Malton’s full potential has yet to be fully realised.

Data from the Northern Powerhouse Partnership has revealed that its Gross Value Added (GVA) per filled job rise from a score of 73.9 to 84.4 in the decade up until 2019 - although this still falls significantly short of the national average of 100.

But for businesses based in the market town, the multi-million pound investment that has been ploughed into Malton in the past decade by its main landowner, the Fitzwilliam Estate, has been vital in aiding its economic growth.

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Florian Poirot, Master Patissier, Talbot Yard, Malton, North YorkshireFlorian Poirot, Master Patissier, Talbot Yard, Malton, North Yorkshire
Florian Poirot, Master Patissier, Talbot Yard, Malton, North Yorkshire

Florian Poirot, a pastry chef from Nancy in the north-east of France, launched his business, an artisan patisserie in Malton’s Talbot Yard, four years ago.

Mr Poirot came to the UK 14 years ago to work in the research centre of the Nestle confectionery firm in York, and lives in the city with his wife, Celine, and their 17-month-old son, Thomas.

The 39-year-old said: “It is difficult to describe, but there is something special about Malton. The mindset of the people is so much aligned with supporting local businesses, and it is special to be a part of it.

“We have seen a lot of investment in the town, which has been so important in helping grow the economy of Malton.”

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Tom Naylor-Leyland, who is the organiser of the Malton Food FestivalTom Naylor-Leyland, who is the organiser of the Malton Food Festival
Tom Naylor-Leyland, who is the organiser of the Malton Food Festival

Mr Poirot’s business has managed to expand during the past two years during the Covid-19 pandemic, as he has developed the online element of the company.

Christmas is traditionally the busiest time of the year, and his business dealt with more than a thousand orders in December last year.

However, Malton’s economy is not solely focused on the food sector, with a diverse range of enterprise in the town.

Park Engineering, which has been involved in restoring engines including those for classic tractors and cars since 1955, is based on the town’s York Road Industrial Park.

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Chris Atkinson, who runs the firm with his business partner, John Wall, said: “There is a breadth to the economy in Malton, which has undoubtedly helped support the town.

“We are a long-running business, and it shows what can be done in a rural market town.”

The Fitzwilliam Estate reinvest on average 65 per cent of its rental income each year to improve buildings and develop in projects across the town.

The investment has involved a wide variety of schemes including production units at Navigation Wharf, the conversion and renovation of the Town Hall and creating a dedicated cookery school in Malton.

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Tom Naylor-Leyland, whose family owns a large part of Malton under the Fitzwilliam Estate banner, said: “Our project in Malton has shown that by working closely with the council, residents and also seeing exactly what visitors to the town want, it is possible to create jobs and keep money in the local area.

“Covid-19 has been hugely traumatic for the whole country, but it has shown that you don’t necessarily need to be based in a major town or city.

“There is the chance to work from home in more rural settings like Malton, if there is the transport infrastructure and decent broadband available.

“Malton is now a big part of the wider economy, and our reputation has grown immensely. I do believe we have shown the way forward for how the rural economy can work well, but of course there is more to do.”