BRITONS have developed a taste for snails, with sales of the creatures soaring by 250 per cent in lockdown, according to a Dorset business.

Dorset Snails – whose main market has been restaurants, hotels and gastro pubs – says the culinary craze has taken it by surprise.

The company, based on the Uddens Trading Estate near Wimborne, has been breeding and selling snails since 2006. It has always sold to individuals as well but has seen many new customers buying online.

Traditionally seen as a French delicacy, snails are usually eaten as a starter but can be incorporated into other dishes, especially steak or fish.

Tony Walker of Dorset Snails said: “The quality of the product is the same the consumer would receive in a Michelin-starred restaurant.

“Sales to home cooks through our online shop and on Amazon have steadily increased since the first lockdown last March and are up 250 per cent.

“With restaurants closed and people wishing to replicate a fine dining experience at home, our products are a real hit.

“Whilst most people think of snails as a French delicacy they have been eaten here since the Romans introduced them.

“They are incredibly tasty with almost zero fat, 19 per cent protein and trace elements that are very good for you.”

Dorset Snails supplies the Helix Aspersa Maxima variety, which are cooked for three hours in stock and herbs then sold in shells with garlic and parsley butter.

All its orders are freshly prepared and despatched the same day throughout the UK on overnight delivery.

“Many who have tried snails in France may have been put off because the vast majority sold there are tinned, which are tough and chewy. Ours are fresh and delicious,” said Mr Walker.

“UK residents have over recent decades become much more adventurous diners as indicated by the number of ethnic food suppliers now in most high streets.

“We anticipate the sales to individuals to continue to increase after lockdown as buying food online has become more popular and a trend which we believe will last.”