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Taking pride in our county's produce


By: Justin Wright Date: 14 March 2017

Last month saw the launch of ‘Proudly Norfolk’, an initiative from Norfolk Food & Drink to create a brand for food producers, retailers and restaurants which will reassure consumers that the food and drink on offer is proudly produced in our county.

In an era when consumers are increasingly concerned about where their food comes from, this is a welcome idea which will hopefully encourage people to seek out produce which is made in the county.

It comes as the link between farms and the public is becoming ever closer. The agricultural sector is making big efforts to engage with consumers through open weekends and other educational initiatives. At the same time, provenance is the watchword for many consumers, made wary by repeated food fraud scandals.

Food producers often find themselves in the middle of this equation. They are often the ones who actually buy from farmers and the ones whose brands are sought out by consumers. Producers have an important role as honest broker, ensuring that the promises made on the label actually reflect what is in the jar or packet.

Food production has many different aspects and, here in Norfolk, we see most of them – from growing or raising primary ingredients on our farms, to turning those ingredients into finished foodstuffs that consumers will buy. The new brand encourages that production chain to source as much as possible within the county and to be loud and proud about having done so.

Clearly, there are some ingredients which simply can’t be grown in Norfolk – olives for example. That doesn’t mean that Norfolk-made products containing such ingredients can’t be labelled as such, providing there is transparency about where the ingredients are sourced from. Several Norfolk producers make tapenade and no-one would expect them to get their principal ingredient from the county.

Marketing experts will tell you that a brand will only gain traction with consumers if it is honest. The people behind the Proudly Norfolk brand say that, to earn the right to use the gold and black roundel, producers must prove that the product is Norfolk-based. That rigour is important and we should welcome it.

Interestingly, transparency in the supply chain for food and drink is a hot topic just now, especially as the UK starts to decide what regulations it will adopt post-Brexit.

To win over the consumer, the more information they can provide about their supply chain, the better; and, if you want to be truly local and express yourself to be Proudly Norfolk, that supply chain goes beyond where you get your ingredients from: are you using a local printer to make your labels, local equipment suppliers, local marketing firms and so on.

This great initiative is much-needed and deserves to succeed. To do so, and to build credibility with the consumer who will ultimately part with their cash, the brand needs to represent true localness, with as much as possible of the supply chain within the county. Only then can we truly claim to be Proudly Norfolk.
 
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