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Why trade buyers are taking more interest in our local producers

By: Chris Solt Date: 8 November 2017
Category: Press Release,Food and drink

Chris Solt, food and farming partner at Lovewell Blake, applauds a local initiative to get our food and drink producers in front of trade buyers.

If summer is the peak period for East Anglia’s tourism industry, it is the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness which is a bumper time for any foodie – because autumn is increasingly the time of year when we have a plethora of food and drink festivals to whet our appetites.

The food team here at Lovewell Blake has been out and about in recent months, enjoying festivals in Norwich, Holkham, Aylsham, Reepham, Bury St Edmunds and Aldeburgh, as well as great events such as the Cromer Crab and Lobster Festival, Harfest in the grounds of Norwich Cathedral and, the biggest ever Porkstock at its new home at the Norfolk Showground.

With all that, plus the Royal Norfolk, Aylsham and Wayland shows earlier in the summer, no-one can complain that our local food and drink producers are not getting the chance to showcase their wares directly to the public.

I have written before about how important this is, not just to give potential consumers the opportunity to sample their products but, because building personal relationships with customers who will become advocates for your product or brand is a vital part of marketing for any small-scale producer.

The crowds we have seen at these various events over the past few months bear witness to how much consumers also like to interact with producers, so it really is a worthwhile thing to do. The growing success of the various farmers’ markets which take place regularly around the county back this up.

However, for a producer who has ambitions to grow beyond the micro-scale, the opportunity to meet trade buyers is every bit as important, and arguably much more difficult to achieve. Whilst these hard-to-reach professionals do frequent food festivals and farmers’ markets, they usually do so anonymously and, in any case, most producers are too busy interacting with the public.

So an event called Local Flavours, which took place in September at the Showground, is to be applauded. Now in its fifth year, this event has become East Anglia’s biggest food and drink trade show. Its raison d’etre is to give our local producers the chance to meet trade buyers, potentially providing access to much greater numbers of consumers than they could ever hope to do at consumer food events.

Those trade buyers are the regional retailers and the big national supermarkets, as well as the foodservice buyers who supply hotels and restaurants. In a consumer market where provenance is increasingly seen as a point of differentiation, these buyers are now taking the kind of interest in smaller, local producers which wouldn’t have been thought possible even ten years ago.

Perhaps all this demonstrates that taking that difficult first step from micro producer onto the road to growth is getting slightly easier. Our producers need to be more prepared to take that plunge, and those of us who support them professionally must be more ready than ever to give them the tools to do that – with much lingering uncertainty about our potential and economic future, getting our local produce in front of new markets is more important than ever.
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