It has been a busy six months since I last sent an update on the Eat Somerset project. In this newsletter you'll find information on what's been happening and future plans.
Distribution workshop and survey
Distribution has come up as a key issue for many local producers, particularly the smaller ones. To discuss the issues and make a start on seeing whether any links can be made between local journeys, we held a workshop on 13th March at Puxton Park near Weston-super-Mare. About 25 people attended and there were speakers from Bristol Fruit Sales and Somerset Local Food Direct. Notes of the meeting can be seen on Sustain's website at: https://www.sustainweb.org/page.php?id=437
Some actions have come directly out of this meeting:
- The Eat Somerset directory is now on the website in a searchable format. Take a look at: https://www.sustainweb.org/esdirectory/ If you are listed please check your entry details and let me know if any corrections need to be made. In particular, although I have details about whether most producers want to supply the retail or catering markets, I'd also like to include whether you'd like to supply public sector catering contracts and wholesalers too – I can then add this information in. If you're not listed and would like to be please contact me with your details.
- A survey on distribution has been carried out. Over 400 forms were posted and emailed out. We've had about an 8% response (reasonable level for this type of survey) and follow up phone calls are being made to key distributors. The data will be analysed as soon as possible. We hope to put this on to the website if anything useful comes of it to help make links between producers doing deliveries. We realise it's not relevant for a lot of the smaller producers but for those delivering to Bristol and Bath there may well be options of linking up. If any of you have distribution issues then please let me know.
- A directory of caterers, retailers and wholesalers is also being put on the website so that producers have a list available of people to contact who are interested in purchasing local, sustainable produce. I'll let you know once it's on there.
Also, if you have particular distribution needs then let me know as I may be able to link you up with another producer / distributor.
Booker, Taunton & local produce
I'm delighted to be able to tell you that after trying different ways of getting local produce into Booker at Taunton, we've finally had some success. This is largely due to John Wilcox at Booker who's been willing to take on some goods to see how they sell. Work's still needed on increasing promotion, but I'm pleased to say that following meetings in January, four local producers are now supplying Booker: Robert's Sauces, Country Cottage Cooking, Chiman's and Nutcombe Chocolates.
If you produce ambient goods with a reasonable shelf life and are able to work with wholesalers then let me know and I can give you more details. I plan to replicate this work with other Booker stores in Bristol & Bath, and potentially other wholesalers too - it would be great to be able to go to them with a range of produce and a list of suppliers ready and willing to supply this sector.
Meet the Buyers
A Meet the Buyers event was held on 3rd April in Bristol. Twenty four producers had stalls and over 50 buyers from Bristol, Bath and the surrounding area attended ranging from public sector caterers, hotels and restaurants and the retail sector. The feedback has been very positive and has resulted in a good number of new trading arrangements, although there's always room for improvement!
I'm looking into the possibility of holding specific meet the buyers' events focussing on different markets e.g. public sector catering, wholesale markets, and retail. I'm at the early stage of working on this so if you think this would be helpful to you please give me an indication of which market you would prefer to concentrate on selling your produce too. This will just make sure that any information I send out can be targeted rather than always general.
I'm gradually producing case studies on the work so far. Two can be seen on the Sustain website on our work with wholesalers and work with convenience stores. See the following link for details: https://www.sustainweb.org/page.php?id=422
I hope you find these interesting and will be adding one on Meet the Buyers in the near future.
Final report for Esmee Fairbairn Foundation
The funding from the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation finishes at the end of this month (but there's good news about funding next!!). I'm compiling a final report for them and some of you may have been contacted by my colleague, Cordelia, for some feedback on the project. Thanks to all of you who have commented – the feedback is really important to me to help to develop future work. If you haven't been contacted and would like to make some comments then please email these to me. Positive and Once the final report is available I'll let you know.negative comments welcome as this will help us to make sure that whatever we do next is relevant and useful to producers and buyers.
We heard on 6th June that an application to the Rural Renaissance Initiative had been successful. This means:
- we will continue the Eat Somerset project to the end of March 2009
- we will continue to work with existing producers but will also develop work in the West of England (former Avon) area with a view to increasing markets for local food in Bristol and Bath
- the 50% match funding for the project has been provided by Sustain, Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol City, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset Councils. Some match funding will also come from running events such as meet the buyers where we will make a nominal charge.
It's good news and I'll let you know more as this develops.
Opportunity to share space in a food manufacturing premises
I've been contacted by one of the members of the Eat Somerset project who has an exciting opportunity to share the use of facilities in their food manufacturing premises. They say:
The business distributes its products throughout the South West and also nationally from its base in South Somerset. This proposition would ideally suit a food producer who needs to scale up their processes without the hassle and costs of independently finding and setting up their own production unit. The shared facilities cover 2000 square foot and include shared use of an office, kitchen, storage and packing rooms. If needed, more space can be accommodated by building a further mezzanine. The premises would particularly suit an ambient food producer and the facilities have all the necessary planning and Environmental Health approvals.
Subject to discussions, the shared lease agreement could include the provision of gas, electric (including 3-phase), pest control, waste disposal contract and buildings insurance. There would be plenty of softer benefits as well by sharing contacts, distribution routes and the confidence that you can be away from the kitchen, say at a farmers market, in the knowledge that there would be someone back at base to sign for a delivery, take a phone message or even load a pallet onto a lorry!
If you'd like to find out more then contact me (details below) and I'll forward your details on.
Food stalls at Bristol Balloon Fiesta
One of the major events in the area is looking for food stall holders. It's a 4 day event 7th – 10th August, and the organisers of the food areas say:
We at Sourced are on a mission to improve the food on offer at the wide array of music, sporting and cultural events around the UK. Sourced works with small, independent farmers, producers and retailers. We build fantastic markets at events providing all the infrastructure for our traders and dealing with all the logistics and paperwork - as well as providing great opportunities the idea being to make it as easy as possible for our traders to do what they do best: turn up and sell their amazing produce. We tailor our markets to each event making sure each event is right for the traders we take along and ensuring everyone is well sited and gets a fair deal. Costs vary according to event, product and pitch size.
By bringing together high quality producers in one setting our market areas have proved hugely popular with event-goers and have attracted great press coverage (including sponsorship from Observer Food Monthly and Metro) - and thus great marketing opportunities for our traders.
We will be at all kinds of events this year, large and small, and are always looking for new and interesting traders serving hot or cold food or produce to go into picnics or for people to take home. We particularly like to source traders locally and are doing at least two events in the south west, so would be very interested to hear from any producers interested in having a stall at our events. This year we are looking for traders for the Bristol Balloon Fiesta and the Big Chill (both in August), but also have other events around the country for traders interested in travelling further afield.
If you are interested in finding out more then contact the organisers direct:
Ben O'Brien at Sourced Tel: 07966 274 213
That's about it for now.
Thanks and best wishes,
Eat Somerset: From 2006 to 2009 Sustain co-ordinated a food chain project in south west England that worked to increase trading between producer groups in and around Somerset and independent food retailers in the county, and create new markets in Bristol and Bath.
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