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Business forum finds interest in Norfolk food hub and desire for test facilities

SME food and drink manufacturers feel there are not enough food grade premises available in Norfolk. Picture: ANTHONY KELLY

SME food and drink manufacturers feel there are not enough food grade premises available in Norfolk. Picture: ANTHONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2014

The need for test facilities for start-ups was one of the demands to come out of a discussion between manufacturers and agencies about a potential food centre.

The Helping Norfolk Grow event, held at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in partnership with the Food and Drink Forum, brought together small and medium producers with academics and government experts to examine ways the county’s food and drink sector could be developed, including the creation of a hub for the industry.

UEA student enterprise officer Finbarr Carter said food was a competitive sector which had a high failure rate among start-ups and strict legislation to adhere to.

He said: “From the conversation it was very clear that there was a current lack of expert support and funding, or at least an awareness of how and where to access these, and test kitchen facilities and real interest in the proposed development.”

Andrew Collinson, commercial manager at the Food and Drink Forum, said the open forum had identified “barriers to growth”, particularly the limited supply for purpose built food grade units available to start-ups and SME food and drink manufacturers.

He said: “Norfolk is a very important agricultural and food and drink manufacturing region for the UK and the opportunity to support SME manufacturers over the long term will significantly help to reinforce its position.”

The feedback from businesses will be included in a final feasibility study on the food centre proposal by South Norfolk Council.

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