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.
Food from England has been created from more than 30 regional groups, including Taste of the West, Cotswold Taste, Food Drink Devon, Dorset Food and Drink, and Cornwall Food and Drink, which represent over 43,000 businesses across the country.
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.
One of the founding Food from England members John Farrand, managing director, Guild of Fine Food, organisers of Great Taste, 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 friendly 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 said: “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, 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.”
John Sheaves, CEO of Taste of the West says, “I’m delighted that we have managed to develop a new national brand to represent our finest food and drink producers at policy level at the very heart of Government. The South West has the most densely populated food producing network in the entire country, and by joining forces with our colleagues across England we can now add strength to our messaging and lobbying activity to Government but most importantly add an important marketing portal for any national or international buyer looking for top quality products which we have in abundance here in the South West. In these challenging times, this is indeed a most welcome development.”
Nick Waloff, Executive Chair of Cotswold Taste Ltd and one of the organisers behind Food from England, said: ‘We’re delighted to support Food from England. We hope that by working together, we can make a difference by helping our hard-pressed local producers, retailers and hospitality outlets to keep supplying all of us as consumers!’