31 December 2013

Sir Norman Wrassle's New Year Message to the Nation

(Extracted from Sir Norman Wrassle’s address to the Westhoughton Ladies' Circle New Year's Eve Luncheon 2013)

Sir Norman Wrassle, TMB chairman

Let me begin by saying what a remarkable year this has been for tripe. Tripe sales continued to decline but at the slowest rate since 1971.

Looking back through this year’s diary I see tripe landmarks almost every month, sometimes overshadowed by events on the national stage, but nevertheless of great importance in the world of tripe

In January we welcomed Mr Martin McEvoy as our first honorary president - not without opposition in some quarters as Martin hails from the other side of the Pennines.  But this is 2012. We must move with the times and embrace all sections of the community, no matter how geographically challenged they may be.

Traces of horsetripe were found in tripe ready meals in some parts of the country, a scandal which was exposed by the bravery of Sandy, a three year old Jack Russell terrier who is sadly no longer with us.

In February, I had to announce that, due to the state of the economy, tripe salesmen would not be paid any bonuses regardless of how much tripe they were able to sell.  I interrupted my fact-finding trip to the Caribbean to deliver this news personally to the affected staff.

My off-the-cuff remarks during an interview with Mr Elliot Webb on BBC Radio Hereford in March were grossly misinterpreted.  It is not, and never has been, the case that tripe is a vegetarian food and I am happy to reiterate that point now. 

At the end of a difficult month, I had to defend the Board’s decision to diversify into book publishing. Angry tripe retailers accused the Board of having ‘lost touch’, something I wholeheartedly refute. Tripe is our core business and will continue to be. But this does not mean we cannot explore other areas such as branded sportswear and fragrances for the home and car.

In April, as well as publishing our second book, ‘The Lost Films of 20th Century Spatchcock’, we also launched our spring tripe campaign, hammering home the message that tripe is not just for dogs and the over 85’s -  a message that reverberated from Blackburn to Burnley!

The versatility of our product was demonstrated yet again in May, when Edinburgh University student Jocelyn Mather produced her tripe handbag as part of her Fashion and Tripe Studies course. As I speak, Lady Cheryl has yet to open her birthday presents, but I am anticipating even now the look on her face when she opens that one in particular.

For far too long, the Tripe Marketing Board has had to endure the association of our fine product with something that is of poor or inferior quality.  This year, we have decided it is time to fight back, and we used the occasion of the 67th St Annes Film Festival to launch our new Media Monitoring Unit, tasked with scouring the media to ensure that negative references to tripe are always challenged.

This quickly paid dividends when Goole MP, Andrew Percy used the phrase “utter tripe” to describe a speech by a fellow MP.  Mr Percy graciously undertook the Tripe Taste Challenge and ate a bowl of tripe inMorrisons, pronouncing it entirely edible.

June was also the month that tripe sales turned a corner and the rate of decrease of tripe consumption was the lowest ever recorded.

In July I was persuaded that the Tripe Marketing Board Diary, previously only available to bona fide tripe traders, should be made available to the general public. To offset the cost of this venture I entered into negotiations with the Tunisian Date Marketing Board, which necessitated some additional travel.   On my return, I was able to announce the arrangement during an interview with the celebrated BBC Radio Cumbria broadcaster Graham Swindlehurst.  Graham has long been a friend of tripe, and I have relished the opportunities he has afforded the TMB to spread our message to the people of Cumbria during 2013.  Although it would be wrong of me to pre-empt our announcement of the 2013 Heroes of Tripe award next week, perhaps I should just say that there will be many sheep farmers and nuclear power workers who will be highly delighted when they see the results!

August was a difficult month for the Board. It started with a fact-finding visit to Greece where the ‘Choose Tripe’ T-shirt was being widely worn with immense pride, despite their shaky economy.   Back home, our Media Unit challenged Sir Geoffrey Boycott about his use of the word tripe during his Test Match commentary. David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd read my letter out during his Sky commentary, resulting in over 30,000 ‘hits’ on the Board’s website and two books being sold. Unfortunately this coincided with the staff attending a training day on ‘How to handle a media storm’ so were unavailable to deal with the furore.

August was also the month in which we undertook to sponsor Blackpool South football team – our first venture into the world of football sponsorship and one which so far is paying dividends.  Local butchers have reported that they have fielded more questions about tripe than at any time since 1973.   The sponsorship deal was a major event for us and received widespread coverage in the national media and a full page in the Blackpool Gazette.  I can’t tell you how proud I am when I see those lads running out every Sunday in their TMB livery!

Brian Eldridge resigned as our CEO this month, to be replaced by Bryan Atkinson, a welcome replacement and probably the man most responsible for the rapprochement between the Board and the Vegetarian Society.

Although Sir Geoffrey did not retract the statement in which he used tripe in a derogatory manner, we were delighted to welcome David Lloyd as a patron of the TMB and were very pleased to see him wearing a CHOOSE TRIPE T-shirt in his hospital bed. This had absolutely nothing to do with him being voted the `Greatest Lancastrian’ in our November poll, contrary to popular belief.

September was a difficult month for the Board.  When we brought our ‘Summer of Tripe and Sport’ campaign to a close we were perhaps not as well prepared as we should have been, with the result that Wiltshire ran out of tripe. Despite our best efforts and my appeals for housewives to remain calm, it appears that they could not resist ‘panic-buying’, resulting in tripe shelves in supermarkets lying bare for several days before stocks could be replenished.   We were also forced to delay our ‘Free tripe for the over 85’s’ campaign until trading conditions became more stable.

October did not start auspiciously.  The results of a survey in the Daily Mail conducted by internet search engine Ask Jeeves found that nearly three in ten respondents had tried tripe and vowed never to eat it again. In response, we conducted our own survey which found that 98% of people we asked had tried Ask Jeeves once but would never try it again.

As we prepared for the inauguration of World Tripe Day, we introduced three new members to the Board: John Murray, Ken Ward and Phil Lathom, John and Ken are highly respected members of the tripe community whilst Phil is our first vegan board member. 

The first World Tripe Day (24 October 2013) was a huge success, and will henceforth be an important date in the diary for tripe lovers around the globe.  After my own attendance at the event was unfortunately delayed, our honorary president Mr Martin McEvoy proclaimed the launch at 4pm in front of an audience of invited guests, celebrities and tripe lovers from across the country at a meeting at the House of Commons, London.

October was a good month for tripe in the south east; sales doubled when a Kent housewife bought a half pound of honeycomb from her local butcher. This may have had something to do with the fact that during an episode of the Archers aired that month, tripe was mentioned in a positive context. In an exchange with another character, Mr Joe Grundy was asked for a recipe for a book to raise funds for the church organ and responded: "Well how about tripe 'n' vinegar, then?" 

We moved into November with the sobering news of another fall in tripe sales and we were forced – once again – to rebut rumours of a possible merger with British Spleen.  As I have made clear on numerous occasions, tripe will not be merging with any other offal- related marketing boards now or at any time in the future.  We also welcomed Mr Thabo Mophring to the board. South Africa-based Mr Morphring will have special responsibility for international tripe relations. 

Following disappointing second quarter sales, in December we announced that the Tripe Marketing Board would be launching a campaign to find a new canine 'poster boy/girl'.   The contest drew over 60 entries, and over a period of weeks these were carefully sifted through and put to the vote via a series of polls on Twitter.  Our new Tripe Dog 2013 is currently being groomed ready for his first public appearance early next year.

We were naturally disappointed that despite being nominated for an award in twelve different categories at the British Comedy Food Awards, tripe’s only success was as joint winner with spleen of the Funniest Offal award.  We have pledged to redouble our efforts and will be entering the contest next year, bigger and funnier than ever.

But it was not all bad news. Sales of our Tripe Marketing Board 2014 Diary reached double figures despite being described as hilarious in several Amazon reviews.  In response to requests from busy housewives and executives, we have now made the diary available electronically via Kindle – something the Milk Marketing Board never dared to dream of even in its salad days.

Looking back, our biggest success has been in embracing the social media such as Facebook and Twitter.  Our team of retired tripe dressers, volunteers and interns has assembled a new audience for tripe beyond our wildest dreams.  Our private polling via Twitter has shown that people are thinking, talking and writing more tripe on the internet than at any time before.

As we approach 2014, I see nothing but opportunities. We have every chance of improving our tripe sales figures as austerity continues to bite and with MPs on both sides of the House being forced to declare their positions on tripe as another election approaches.

Although I am not allowed to give further details at present, our 2014 campaigns are designed to put beef, pizzas and pop tarts on the back foot.  Together, we can make 2014 the Year of Tripe.

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