Lockdown ‘match-making’ will help surplus food reach homes and buyers

PUBLISHED: 15:19 16 April 2020 | UPDATED: 15:19 16 April 2020

Organisers of the annual Local Flavours trade show at the Norfolk Showground have set up an online 'match-making' service to help food and drink firms find buyers during the coronavirus lockdown. Picture: Nick Butcher

Organisers of the annual Local Flavours trade show at the Norfolk Showground have set up an online 'match-making' service to help food and drink firms find buyers during the coronavirus lockdown. Picture: Nick Butcher

Archant © 2018

An online business “match-making” service has been launched to help East Anglia’s food producers and buyers find each other amid the supply chain disruption of the coronavirus lockdown.

Local Flavours director Valerie Watson Brown. Picture: Simon ParkerLocal Flavours director Valerie Watson Brown. Picture: Simon Parker

Covid-19 restrictions have forced the closure of many restaurants and food service businesses, throwing some supply chains into disarray as demand shifts towards retail for people now cooking more meals at home.

So the new “Flavours Connexion” service aims to match suppliers with potential trade buyers and consumers, so any surplus foods can be redirected to new markets and households where it is needed.

It has been set up by the team behind the annual Local Flavours trade show, which showcases more than 120 food and drink producers from across the East of England.

Backed by the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), the team have created free supplier listings on the event website, supported by a communications drive through social media, electronic mailings and telephone calls.

Valerie Watson Brown, director of Local Flavours, said: “The supply of local food and drink is and remains crucial to the local economy, so we have set up this new service for the sector, ‘The Flavours Connexion’, where we can help move products and services through supply and demand and across the local food chain. We’re reaching out to thousands of buyers and interested parties across East Anglia and some further afield.

“We have added pages to our website to list producers and their products and services available, linking through to their own website to contact. Coming soon will be a section for retailers and other outlets, to list their requirements – perhaps a normal supply route is unable to deliver, or they just want to increase their range to cope with requests.

“The entire service will be supported by a weekly newsletter going out to our contacts, as well as on social media. It is a different way of doing things in unusual circumstances.”

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Chris Starkie chief executive of New Anglia LEP, added: “Agri-food is a key pillar that underpins Norfolk and Suffolk’s economy, supporting more than 80,000 jobs and providing some of the UK’s best-loved food and drink brands.

“These are truly unprecedented times for businesses and New Anglia LEP is working hard to keep our key sectors operating and to keep our producers supplying food and drink to consumers.

“We have a dedicated team working to support this sector and one area of work is looking at the transition from established distribution models to new approaches, helping to make sure people have quality, fresh and good value food and drink. We’re pleased to be working with Local Flavours and their network of producers and buyers to achieve this.”

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One firm already using the service is Pat Gould, owner of Downham Market-based wholesale food suppliers Shire Foods East Anglia, who said: “There is still in great demand for our wholesaler services, mainly due to our customer base of local farm shops, retailers and others who are busy supplying the end consumer. We struggle with sourcing specific products such as rice, flour and pasta but have connections across the UK to call on. We have used the Local Flavours Connexion already to source, locally, three tonnes of pasta and a tonne of prunes from a local supplier.”

• The Local Flavours show is still scheduled to go ahead at the Norfolk Showground on September 23, although organisers said contingency plans are in place “should things not be back to normal”. For more details on the exhibition and The Flavours Connexion service, see the Local Flavours website.

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