The past eight months has seen disaster and innovation within the regional food & drink sector, possibly in equal measure. 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.
Suddenly the connection between maker, retailer and consumer has become closer, simpler and more friendly. And friends rally in a crisis. The local food & drink sector was relatively close-knit before COVID-19 but that community spirit has led to a unique network of over 20 organisations coming together with the collective aim of becoming a strong face for British food and drink. Providing a voice and support for thousands of SMEs, this network will enable the retention of new customers, stimulate business growth and strengthen regional identities without compromising national opportunities.
The stakeholders, who between them have inimitable connections with the market, are working underneath the banner of Food from England, a name that reflects the good work and support of the past and introduces a compelling list of aims and objectives for the future:
- Provide a voice for small producers in response to Covid-19 and Brexit, highlighting the impact of both and identifying routes for support.
- Link directly to appropriate government departments for access to business intelligence, representing micro and small producers.
- Encourage and develop initiatives that increase sales of local regional food and drink through independent retail and agri-food tourism.
Food from England will establish the framework and create a voice. We need the support of those within the food & drink trade, but more importantly we need the new shoppers who have recently discovered their local producers and independent retailers. In the last four months many of you will have visited your local shop and been impressed by the range, value and the service level. Those businesses need your support as we emerge from this crisis and, we hope, into a better society.
By supporting your local deli, farm shop, butcher, cheese shop, community and village store, you support your regional producers and your local pound. You’ll reduce the globalisation of food, you’ll discover seasonality and you’ll realise new flavours, quality, and the personality of the maker in what you eat. We urge you to reflect on this in the run up to Christmas, a critical trading period for all SMEs involved in food and drink.
There must be a societal benefit to this awful crisis we have all endured, and as a collective we hope that it will force us all to find a simpler way to live, eat and drink.
Made In Northamptonshire