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Food

A voice for tripe: An exclusive interview with Sir Norman Wrassle

The Tripe Marketing Board is on the job
The Tripe Marketing Board is on the job.
(Tripe Marketing Board)

That big “X” marking Oct. 24 on your calendar? Did you forget why you made it? It’s World Tripe Day, of course! And in honor of the event, we reached out to Sir Norman Wrassle, since 1997 chairman of the Lancashire, England-based Tripe Marketing Board, the Internet and publishing phenomenon that may or may not be completely serious.

He says he’ll be very busy that day hammering home the group’s four essential messages: “Give Tripe a Chance"; “Tripe: It’s Not Just for Dogs"; “Love Life. Love Tripe. Share the Love"; and “Buy More Tripe.”

He also took the time to answer some of our questions, some which have been edited for brevity.

How did the Tripe Marketing Board begin? What were your goals in founding it? Were drinks involved?

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The Tripe Marketing Board is actually the successor to a long line of agencies that have, at various times, promoted tripe. We can trace our lineage back to 1926, when the Assn. for the Legal Disposal of Unwanted Cow Products first began marketing tripe in a concerted way. 

Tripe doesn’t sell itself. Our mission at the TMB can be summed up as “educating the public about the part tripe can play in a healthy balanced diet.” That, and getting them to buy more tripe. I won’t pretend it’s an easy job. In fact, we take a lot of stick. In 2012, the London Times’ respected city diarist Martin Waller called our website “very funny,” but said it was merely an attempt to gain publicity for a spoof local history book we had published. Since then, others have accused us of publishing humorous books that subliminally try to persuade people to eat tripe. 

We don’t make any apologies for using humor to promote our product – lots of marketing agencies do the same, and tripe is the perfect “comedy foodstuff."  It’s much funnier than anchovies or olives.

What are the day-to-day functions of the marketing board? How successful have you been in your mission?

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We’re not a large organization. We have a small communications team which monitors the media for negative uses of the word “tripe” and issues rapid rebuttals. For some reason, the word tripe has become associated with things that are of inferior quality, so it’s important we challenge that stereotype. We were doing quite well until the social media came along when, quite frankly, we were simply overwhelmed. Every time “The X-Factor” aired on TV, there were literally thousands of tweets and “Facebox” comments mentioning tripe in a negative context. Then we discovered interns. I don’t know if you have any at the L.A. Times, but they’re marvelous – they hardly cost us anything and they’re often very keen to make their mark. They also tend to be “tech savvy” and, by and large, we are starting to win the social media war.

I myself spend a great deal of time raising the profile of tripe in the media, or speaking to local groups about our product. I’m a bit of a hit on the Women’s Institute circuit, even if I say so myself! 

Actual sales of tripe itself could always be better, of course. They have declined in each successive quarter since rationing was abolished in 1954.  What we can say, however, is that they are now falling at the slowest rate since 1978, so there’s a sense in which we feel we are “turning the corner."  These are exciting times for tripe!

Why is tripe so under-appreciated by so many?That’s a difficult question to answer. Tripe’s certainly not the best looking kid in the class, but people need to remember that looks aren’t everything. It’s personality that counts, and tripe’s got that by the bucket load. I just think that other kinds of meat have had huge budgets thrown at marketing them, while tripe has had to be promoted on something of a shoe string. But, thankfully, there are signs that tripe is becoming more appreciated. Whether it’s in newspapers, radio, TV or the social media, there’s definitely more tripe around than ever before.

Your emphasis seems to be very much on the tripes of Northern England. How has outreach gone with other tripe-loving countries? Italy, Spain, are you on speaking terms with France?We’re often accused of being a bit too focused on the north of England, it’s true. But you have to understand that this is the heartland of tripe. Our strategy over the last few years has been to “reconquer the heartlands” and to hold on to those areas where tripe is still appreciated – albeit by an increasingly aging population. We think we’ve succeeded in this, and are now ready to spread the message more widely. Only last month, I spoke to the people of Gloucester, which is over 150 miles away.

When you recommend tripe for stamina, exactly what kind of stamina are you referring to?

We’ve always been rather coy about the benefits of eating tripe. It’s the British way, I’m afraid. We don’t want to be accused of playing the “sex” card simply to market tripe.  But there’s no doubt that tripe contains large quantities of trace elements such as zinc, which some scientists have said can improve the libido.  What we can say with certainty is that many athletes swear by tripe – quite literally, if it’s the first time they’ve eaten it!  Seriously, though, British Olympic gold medalist Jessica Ennis-Hill admitted in a frank interview with the Observer newspaper that she had been fed a diet of liquidized tripe as a child.  And she wasn’t paid a penny by us to say that.

Are you a food geek? Follow me on Twitter @russ_parsons1


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