VIDEO: Small food producers encouraged at Future of Food

Small food producers should use a “less is more” approach to marketing, focusing on the strengths of the product and its ingredients, an expert told delegates at the Future of Food conference in Cheshire earlier this month.

Toni-Anne Harrison, head of the food centre at Reaseheath College, outlined 12 tips on how small and medium enterprises (SME's) can succeed in the food market.

She recommended that when speaking to buyers, producers should present the food in the environment it would be eaten in, whether that is a restaurant or burger van. She said that it was also important to think outside of the box and use a few great ideas to sell the product. Good packaging and good communications with customers are vital, she added.

Harrison was speaking during the morning session of the conference, which focused on how SME’s can boost their businesses. Other morning speakers included Food Cheshire’s Stephen Wundke and David Pickering, who raised questions on how to make food from Cheshire the “envy” of the rest of the country. Pickering asked: “How do we produce local food with a good history and appeal?”

Chief operating officer of family-run Booths supermarket, Chris Dee, outlined his company’s philosophy and commented on the recent horsemeat scandal: “I think it’s really sad that we’ve got to this point,” he said.

However, he pointed to a quote from Jay Rayner saying “Supermarkets are not evil”, adding that there were many opportunities for small producers to supply retailers with quality products.

He explained that Booths valued the importance of high quality, small producers, pointing out that by using local producers, Booths could get products which other supermarkets do not have. “The future of British food has to be about quality, not quantity,” he said.

Dee added that it was important to package food products well, and highlighted the importance of a good display to success. “People like to shop in stores they like being in,” he said.

Encouraging the attendants of the conference to supply Booths because it is looking for meat suppliers in the North West, Dee offered successful applicants a one-week front display in the shop.

In the afternoon, attention turned to wider overview of the food industry and its future, including how to create interest for young people to join the industry, and looking at food and its relationship with health.

Speaking about young people joining the industry, chief executive of The National Skills Academy for Food and Drink, Justine Fosh said: “Less than 10% would consider a job in meat processing” or “less sexy jobs” like it.

She added that there was not enough science in current food qualifications to attract young people to join.

Finally, keynote speaker Dr Corrinna Hawkes, of the World Cancer Research Fund, examined food and health from an international perspective. She made recommendations on food intake and urged the government to promote healthy eating.

These recommendations included cutting back on meat consumption and boosting starchy food intake. However, she refused to give further comment to the Meat Trades Journal.


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