Northumberland produce scheme expands

Coun Jim Smith, Susan Davey, from Northumberland Tourism Board, and Val Tyler, Northumberland County Council cabinet member for arts, leisure and culture at the launch in February.
Coun Jim Smith, Susan Davey, from Northumberland Tourism Board, and Val Tyler, Northumberland County Council cabinet member for arts, leisure and culture at the launch in February.
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A scheme to celebrate food and drink produced entirely in Northumberland continues to flourish.

Produced in Northumberland is a joint initiative between the county council and Active Northumberland, which recognises producers and businesses that use and promote food and drink made in the county.

The economic impact of food tourism in the county is worth nearly £276million a year and it’s hoped the scheme will help to add value to visitors’ overall experience as food and drink is such an important part of their visit.

Launched in February, the voluntary food verification scheme covers any food manufacturer, retailer and caterer within Northumberland who applies and is accepted onto it.

A report to councillors last week states that initial feedback from businesses has been very positive and, by June, the scheme already had 36 businesses signed up – with a further 30 pending.

Producers who want to be part of the scheme have to prove to visiting Public Health Protection Unit staff that the food and drink is made in Northumberland. For butchers, checks are also carried out on the origin of the animals from which their meat comes.

B&Bs and other hospitality businesses have to demonstrate that a certain number of main foods being used on their menus is produced in the county while retailers have to ensure a proportion of food and drink that’s made in Northumberland by a variety of different producers.

Businesses can then display their official Produced in Northumberland certificate in their shop, restaurant or B&B, use the logo on their labels, websites and literature and they will also feature in a bespoke website.

Coun Dave Ledger, deputy leader of Northumberland County Council, said: “This has been a fantastic scheme to raise people’s confidence in the origin of our food and drink and scores of businesses have already signed up.

“There are numerous long-term benefits to businesses signing up – it helps reduce food miles, lead to increased production and sales within the local economy and ultimately create more jobs in an area that relies heavily on tourism. It is vital we promote schemes like this, but they face a real threat if rural grant cuts continue to bite.”

A celebration of food and drink produced in Northumberland is being held in Morpeth Town Hall on October 4, from 10am to 3pm. Businesses from the private and public sector will be invited. From this event, it is intended that delegates will sign up to a focus group which will develop a Northumberland Food and Drink Charter.