Workshops help producers take a bigger bite of the food market

Jackie Maxwell of Doddington Dairy
Jackie Maxwell of Doddington Dairy

NORTH East food and drink businesses are being offered advice and support to take a bigger bite out the changing marketplace.

Regional food and drink group Taste North East, together with the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC), is organising a series of courses to help businesses get to grips with shifting market trends and conditions.

Paul Mayfield, SAC’s food and drink rural business consultant, said: “For the first time since the Second World War, people are spending a bigger percentage of their household budget on food.

“Consumers are shopping differently and buying different products, as they adapt to rising inflation and unemployment.

“Opportunities exist for local food and drink businesses if they are able to recognise these changing conditions and capitalise on prevailing market place trends.”

The courses will look at product presentation, customers, market opportunities and waste and efficiency in the industry.

Paul, a farmer’s son who studied agriculture at university, has been working to improve the food supply chain for smaller producers since the foot and mouth crisis in 2001.

He said: “The courses are aimed at food and drink businesses such as farm diversifications and smaller food and drink manufacturers.

“They will be really useful for one-man bands selling in farmers markets and smaller outlets as well as businesses which sell local produce like farm shops, and those looking to expand into reasonable sized businesses.

Courses will be particularly helpful to businesses which have only been running for a few years and want to move up to the next level.

“When you are working close to something every day and are constricted by time, you can become blinkered, so these courses are ideal for businesses to get new ideas,” said Paul.

“They give people a little time away, to see their business from a different point of view.”

Tim Pain, chairman of Taste North East, said: “The objective of these workshops is to help producers to up their game and help them add value to their business.

“It is very easy for businesses, be they producers or retailers to reach a plateau. Running these courses will, we hope, help them move forward as a result of specialist information and advice to progress to the next level, whether that is selling to the multiples or maximising their retail space.”

Jackie Maxwell, of Doddington Dairy near Wooler, attended a recent products and presentation workshop, which included a visit to Waitrose in Hexham.

The event, aimed at diversified farm businesses, covered product presentation, packaging and display.

Jackie said: “It was a great day. It is always useful to sit back and review what may be up and coming particularly at this time of year when we have been so busy with the cheese in the run up to Christmas and now have a chance to think and plan for the year ahead as ice cream makers.

“It’s good to get together with like-minded companies including new businesses as well as those who have been around for a while.”

The workshop series is a Lantra Landskills training project that receives funding from Defra and the EU, so businesses can attend each course for a subsidised rate. In many cases around 80 per cent of the course costs will be met, so businesses will pay £30 for each event.

The courses are –

February 7: Understanding and engaging with customers, Newcastle Falcons, Kingston Park. The event will focus on understanding customers from a buying perspective.

February 21: Market opportunities, Blackfriars Restaurant, Newcastle. The workshop will consider markets such as the food service sector, catering sector and public procurement.

March 6: Waste and business efficiency, Newcastle University, Cockle Park Farm, Morpeth. A look at the physical waste from the food processing sector and how to deal with it.

Anyone interested in further details or who wants to attend any of the workshops can contact Taste North East on 0845 4562340 or email