East Anglia's food and farming firms will battle for regional title
High-flying East Anglian farmers and food producers will battle for shoppers’ votes in January as they bid to become a supermarket’s locally-sourced champion.
The shortlist for the East of England Co-op’s annual Producer of the Year Awards includes two firms each from Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex.
In Norfolk, the finalists are Buxton Potatoes of Buxton, near Aylsham, and Gnaw Chocolate of Norwich, while the Suffolk contenders are Havensfield Eggs of Hoxne, near Diss, and Purely Pesto of Leiston.
Essex businesses Wicks Manor Pork of Tolleshunt Major, Maldon, and Ken Green Fish Merchants of Clacton-on-Sea complete the regional shortlist.
From Monday, January 1, to Wednesday, January 31, shoppers will be encouraged to “vote local” to decide the three county champions, which will be visited by a panel of food and farming experts in February to judge who will be crowned as the overall Producer of the Year for 2018.
Tim Briscoe is owner of Buxton Potatoes, which grows, harvests, grades, packs and distributes Norfolk potatoes to restaurateurs, caterers and retailers including the Co-op. “We care for these potatoes from seed to customer,” he said. “By far the most rewarding and challenging part is harvest when you battle the weather to get them out of the field and safely home.”
Fiona Brice, who runs free-range egg firm Havensfield Eggs at Hoxne with husband Alaistaire, said: “The most rewarding part of our job is eating our own product and feeling proud of what we have achieved.”
Matt Legon, who launched Gnaw Chocolate with his wife Teri in 2011, is also supplying the retailer’s Sourced Locally initiative. The Norwich-based company is now hand-producing more than two million products a year for stores around the world.
He said: “We started Gnaw, developing unusual flavours not knowing if they’d fit into the market or be accepted by chocolate lovers. But, the business is growing and our customers love our product, which is always the most important thing.”
Chef Gavin Battle, who took a six month gastronomic trip around Italy before founding Purely Pesto in Leiston, said: “Our customer loyalty has been amazing over the years. “I like to do two out of three of the weekly delivery rounds to keep in touch with our customers, sharing stories and news about the company.”
Votes can be cast online and in East of England Co-op stores. Everyone who casts a vote this year will automatically be entered into a prize draw to win £150 of shopping vouchers.
The retailer works with around 100 local producers through its Sourced Locally initiative, which has generated an estimated £57m for the regional economy since launching in 2007.
Roger Grosvenor, joint chief executive at the East of England Co-op, said: “Producer of the Year celebrates the hard-working local people behind the great-tasting products our customers see on our shelves. Food provenance is incredibly important to the East of England Co-op and we are proud to stock hundreds of fantastic produce from across the region as part of our Sourced Locally campaign.”
For more information about the producers, and to vote, visit the East of England Co-op website.