A powerful new group has been formed to give England’s food and drink industry a strong collective voice in the wake of Covid-19 and Brexit, with Dorset Food and Drink being one of the organisations involved.
Food from England has been created from more than 30 regional groups which represent over 43,000 businesses. It will specifically support small and medium sized businesses by providing a unified platform from which to communicate the industry’s needs to relevant government agencies and departments. It will also highlight the impact of Covid-19 and Brexit and identify ways to help the industry navigate its way through both, while encouraging consumers to keep supporting their local food and drink producers.
John Farrand, managing director, Guild of Fine Food, organisers of Great Taste and a founding member of Food from England said: “The past eight months have seen disaster and innovation within the regional food and drink sector, possibly in equal measure.
“Consumers across the country are now realising the importance of connections across the food and drink supply chain, between makers, retailers and consumers – connections that have suddenly become more urgent, closer, simpler and friendlier as a result of coronavirus.
“We have witnessed the rise and fall of our artisan cheesemakers and watched with sadness as our cousins in food service saw their trade plummet overnight.
“This has been balanced by independent retailers attracting new customers, adopting the internet as a tool to keep them and unearthing previously unknown suppliers from their area to broaden the retail offer.”
The group has gained support from many influential people in the food industry including Tom Hunt, an award-winning chef, food writer, climate change activist and author of the new book Eating for Pleasure, People & Planet.
He said: “There’s certainly strength to be gained from working collectively with all the different groups across England that represent their membership and bringing together everyone, including consumers, who make up the exceptional food and drink landscape of the UK.
“We are so fortunate to have access to outstanding food that is home grown, and home produced, but Covid-19 has put tremendous pressure on the food and drink industry with many businesses suffering as a result of the pandemic, while also highlighting the UK’s food security.
“We need to be supporting all our producers and giving them a unified voice so that they can continue to grow, raise, graze and produce home grown food, and we also need to ensure more consumers support them so that the industry can thrive, even during a pandemic.
“Food from England is a superb initiative which is a huge step forward for this industry and one that I am delighted to support.”
Food from England will develop strategies for producers and artisans to help increase sales through independent retailers and agri-food tourism. This will be enhanced by linking directly to appropriate agencies and public bodies for access to business intelligence that will benefit micro and small producers.
Recommendations will also be developed for the retention of new customers, stimulation of business growth and strengthening of regional identities without compromising national opportunities.
Mr Farrand added: “We need the support of the food and drink trade, but most of all we need the new shoppers who have recently discovered their local producers and independent retailers. Many of us have visited our local shops, either online or in reality, and been impressed by their range, value, expert knowledge and personalised service.
“By supporting your local deli, farm shop, butcher, cheese shop, food and drink shows, community and village store, you can support your regional producers and your local pound.
“You’ll discover seasonality and you’ll find new flavours and quality in what you eat. You’ll even uncover the stories about how your food and drink are produced and where they come from. Most important of all, you’ll help ensure that local food and drink can contribute to our food security and peace of mind.”
Dorset Food and Drink are pleased to partner with a number of other regional groups as part of this initiative. The other groups taking part include:
Cornwall Food & Drink
Eat Sleep Live Herefordshire
Food and Drink Forum
Food and Drink North East
Food Drink Devon
Greater Lincolnshire LEP
Great Food Club
Guild of Fine Food
Made in Derbyshire
Made in Northamptonshire
Produced in Northumberland
Produced in Kent
Rural Community Council of Essex
Sussex Food Network
Taste of the West
Three Counties Food & Drink Co Ltd
Worcestershire Food and Drink
Worcestershire Regulatory Services
Photo: (photographer Steven Haywood www.sghaywood.com)