The South West of England needs to wake up and sell itself to the world by coming together to form a strong brand businesses can be proud of in the region and beyond. This was the clear rallying call from food and drink manufacturers in Bridgwater, Somerset, on Thursday 17 September 2015.
Sponsored by Cronus Logistics and a number of local businesses, the South West Food & Drink Breakfast Forum was attended by food and drink manufacturers from across the South West that believe there is a real need and urgency to get behind a South West brand.
The breakfast event was opened by Nicola Walker, Managing Director of Cronus Logistics, who told the packed audience, “What we should be looking at this morning is how to emphasise the brand values of the South West – pushing home the message that quality is paramount and ethical values are very important. Maybe this is where we will see a real agreement in working together to make the South West more of a brand to reflect the hard work and dedication you put into your own businesses.”
This strong message and call to other food and drink producers in the region was followed up by the panel comprising among others, Mark Bagwell of Wessanen UK, Charles Baughan of Westaway Sausages, Lee Sheppard of Apetito, Karl Tucker of Yeo Valley and Jesse Pattisson of Brown & Forrest Smokery. Questions on exporting and brand awareness came from an audience of those involved in every aspect of the food and drink industry in the region. It was a message understood by Nicola Walker.
“Ultimately the big issue for many SMEs and indeed some larger companies in the South West is a latent fear of exporting for the first time. In truth, exporting isn’t that complicated when it comes to Ireland because it is not that far from the region and it is also a place where we understand about food and drink brands. Ireland is the UK’s largest export market for the food and drink sector, but there are still lots of opportunities for businesses to benefit from. Our door to door service using the ports of Bristol and Warrenpoint can put the South West on the map in less than 48 hours. With a strong regional brand and a good distribution partner, the region can really show its worth to an even wider audience.”
John Sheavas, chief executive of Taste of the West, agreed with many of the comments made by the panel. “Collectively it makes sense to work more collaboratively and get the strength of a regional brand. One of the problems is that businesses want to work individually which can often make then seem invisible. When it comes to a brand and getting noticed, there should be a call for a strong South West brand in the food and drink industry.”