UK local market grows by £1.3bn

Demand for locally produced meat is set to continue, with the latest research revealing that the UK market for regional and local food has increased by £1.3bn since 2003.

According to research from Food Northwest, the UK local and regional food and drink sector grew from an estimated market size of £3.7bn in 2003 to £5bn in 2007 – a 35% growth.

The organisation, set up by the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) to lead the region’s food and drink industry, said that the growth indicates there is further capacity for the UK’s local food producers to expand their businesses, despite the recession.

Pat Foreman, chief executive of Food Northwest said: “While the figures are from 2007, prior to the full economic downturn, we believe there is continued potential for local and regional producers to weather the recession and continue to prosper.

“Retailers continue to report that they are still looking for new local suppliers of a range of food and drink products, in order to expand their regional offer in response to consumer demand. While the recession may be challenging for some premium speciality products, our study shows that there are still opportunities for genuine quality products, which can demonstrate real value to customers.

“In addition, foodservice outlets offer a good opportunity for local food and drink producers and we predict that they can strengthen their sales nationally as well as in the Northwest, whatever their size of businesses. “

Mark Bareham, sector leader of food and drink for the NWDA, added: “The difficult economic conditions are having a knock-on effect on consumer spending habits. Research is showing that a growing number of consumers now prefer to buy local quality products.”

The figures were compiled by Food Northwest following a wider mapping study, which shows that the regional food and drink industry is worth £9.5bn, employing more than 440,000 people and representing more than 12% of the region’s economy.

The Northwest itself turned over an estimated £500m in 2007. The region’s thriving local and speciality food sector represents a range of food and drink products, from speciality producers selling through farmers’ markets or online retail, to major retailers sourcing local milk, potatoes or lamb.

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