Just a few months after it was officially launched to the trade, Worcestershire’s refreshing new bid to put the county’s finest food and drink secrets on the national food map is fast gathering momentum, as its independent growers, producers, suppliers, retailers and business partners step forward to lend their support.

Worcestershire Food & Drink (WFD) which was unusually and quite possibly uniquely, set up by the county’s Regulatory Services team (WRS) is being driven by its members.  It was born out of a commitment to support smaller, independent food and drink producers operating in the county, in their own efforts to push out their stories and products to the wider world.

It’s being dubbed ‘a collective voice’ for Worcestershire and already boasts a steadily growing membership, a brand new interactive website and the backing of the county’s most proactive movers and shakers.

The Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership (WLEP) is kindly funding the project as part of its ‘World Class Worcestershire’ campaign until Spring 2019, after which time it will become a self-supporting membership organisation. Membership is free for all until then.

Earlier this month, its members met at Worcester’s Fownes Hotel to discuss the future of WFD.

The event was well attended and resulted in the formation of an Interim Board, chaired by Dr. Simon Murphy and made up of representatives across the industry, who will steer efforts to map out a strategic path moving forward. Jenny Smith from Thursfields Solicitors presented a legal options paper at the meeting, which has now been circulated to all members for feedback.

The Interim Board have met once with a follow up meeting scheduled for later this month.

The project was also well received at the recent Agri-Food Sector Challenges and Technology Opportunities event at Pershore College, where WFD Project Lead, Helen Cameron, was invited to outline the objectives of the project and its progress to date.

Dr. Murphy, who chaired the Pershore event, said the next stages of WFD were vital in promoting the county’s world class food and drink.

He said: “Worcestershire is known nationally for its Malvern Hills range, its Porcelain, and as the birthplace of Sir Edward Elgar. On the food front, it’s recognised for its asparagus and its plums and globally, of course, for its Worcestershire Sauce.

Yet the county’s culinary treasures are so much more in abundance, and we need to get that message out there. Worcestershire Food & Drink is about passionate people and tasty food; about home-made, hand-reared, artisan produce with provenance and traceability. By joining forces to tell Worcestershire’s story, our message will be stronger and therefore more impactful.

Both Worcestershire Regulatory Services and the Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership have been instrumental in getting this project off the ground and continue to come with us on this journey, but what’s vital now is for our members to agree on how we promote Worcestershire’s independent food and drink businesses to the widest audiences possible, and for them to direct what we do over the coming months and years.”

The WFD website, designed by business member, Source Design & Print of Worcester, was piloted back in May and has now been live for a month. Feedback to date has been excellent. www.worcestershirefoodanddrink.co.uk

The idea was to create something tangible, especially for the smaller producers – some of whom work virtually alone, to offer them a platform they may not otherwise be able to afford. Members get a free directory listing and feature page opportunities at competitive rates, and there’s a page for them to upload offers.

For more information and/or interview opportunities, please contact:

Sharon Gilbert  – glasshouse communications

Telephone: 01684 311463. Mobile: 07563 663543

sharon@glasshousecommunications.co.uk

EDITOR’S NOTES

Ø  Worcestershire Food & Drink is administered and supported by WRS and WLEP.

Ø  It offers its Members promotional activities, training, information, specialist advice, newsletters, discount and networking opportunities.

Ø  It is a not-for-profit organisation, open to any independent producer, caterer and retailer, regardless of size, operating in Worcestershire and producing/selling local food.  It is also open to third party organisations with relevant alignments who might be actively interested in membership or can provide support through sponsorship

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Dr. Simon Murphy heads up the WF&D Steering Group. He was formerly on the Board of the Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership, where he was responsible for better regulation, European funding and the Voluntary and Community Sector. He was also Chief Executive of the Worcester Community Trust. He co-founded and chaired the Worcestershire Social and Economic Inclusion Consortium (Fusion) which has used more than £2m of European funding to help the long-term unemployed back to work.

Other roles include Chief Executive of Birmingham Forward, member of the Better Regulation Task Force leading on licensing reform, member of the European Parliament and Vice President of the All-Party Group on Small and Medium Sized Enterprises, and managing the forerunner of the West Midlands Combined Authority. He’s also the founder of the British Beer Club in Europe and has a Doctorate in the politics of Northern Ireland.

He has previously been a junior football coach (Worcester Colts), junior rugby coach (Worcester Rugby) and is currently the Director of Junior Cricket at the Old Elizabethans’ Cricket Club. He lives with his family in Worcestershire, and is committed to promoting the county’s finest food and drink.