With 2018 tipped to see a growing trend in British demand for local, traceable food and drink, over 100 industry leaders debated the importance of supporting local produce in today’s political and economic environment at the Taste West Sussex Food & Drink Summit at Selden Barns, Patching yesterday [26 February].
Funded by West Sussex County Council to support the county’s food and drink producers, the event brought together buyers from across the UK with some of the best West Sussex producers, who showcased their wares aiming to find new customers from retail, wholesale and hospitality businesses.
Louise Goldsmith, Leader of West Sussex County Council, said: “Yesterday’s ‘Meet the Buyer’ event highlighted how important it is to showcase the provenance of our wonderful food and drink and was a fantastic opportunity to help local producers to sell their products to a wide range of buyers who are interested in buying our county’s splendid local produce.
“The event also marked over ten years of our local food magazine, Taste West Sussex. West Sussex County Council recognises and supports the importance of putting local produce at the heart of our county’s food and drink offer for residents and visitors.”
The debate kicked off with a strong statement from Simon Eastwood, Chief Operating Officer Food Retail, Southern Co-op, who focused on why it’s more sustainable and better for communities to support local food and drink. Southern Co-op has led the way in the region for building a Local Flavours range in their stores over the past ten years and believes in working with local producers to help people access local food, bringing the whole community together from farm to fork.
Second to speak was Nick Sutherland, Director, The Sussex Pub Group, which owns six quality food pubs and restaurants in West Sussex, who raised the need for British producers to focus on premium quality and deliver the story of provenance which customers want when they eat out today.
Adrian Burr, Director, Blakes Meats and RP Meats wholesalers focused on the topic of how ‘time poor’ people are today and the forecast that 70 per cent of the food we eat in the UK in ten years will be fast food. He urged local food producers to join the trend and make sure fast food is not bad food.
The final speaker, Nick Hempleman, Owner Manager, The Sussex Produce Company, who this month won Sussex Food Shop of the Year, banged the drum for the whole community coming together to support eachother and support independent businesses.
Fifty West Sussex local food & drink producers displayed their products for buyers to taste during the afternoon, including quality West Sussex meat, dairy, baked goods, wine, beer, spirits, pies, ice cream, chocolate, cereal, snacks, preserves, chutneys and much more.
The event was organised by Natural Partnerships CIC, which manages projects to support food and drink businesses in the region, including the Sussex Food & Drink Awards and Southdownsfood.org.
Building up to the event, a series of workshops was held for West Sussex food and drink producers to help them gear up effectively to sell, covering everything from pricing and identifying the right customers, healthy and hygiene procurement rules to marketing and packaging.
More info at www.businesswestsussex.co.uk/taste