Why Norfolk food and drink is so important to our county
- Credit: SIMON FINLAY
SPONSORED: As I write this I am waiting for my last batch of marmalade to set… food is very important in all our lives, whether it is our love of cooking or going out to eat, food leaves us with a warm and cosy feeling, a feeling of family and friendship.
As I write this I am waiting for my last batch of marmalade to set… food is very important in all our lives, whether it is our love of cooking or going out to eat, food leaves us with a warm and cosy feeling, a feeling of family and friendship.
Food brings people together and is part of everyday life: deciding what to have for an evening meal, what to feed the baby for lunch, which cake to bake to impress the family or trying new foods because of allergies or intolerances.
Being part of Norfolk Food & Drink and trying to make a difference is a wonderful job. We are in a fortunate position of being able to help promote and market local producers, restaurants, pubs, accommodation, but most of all we are singing the virtues of our wonderful county of Norfolk, and of all the undiscovered artisan people within this county.
Through our now quarterly supplements we will be able to feature seasonal events and produce throughout the year, profiling farmers and businesses, topical subjects such as gluten-free as you will read all about in this issue, as well as keeping you all up to date with the various events coming up.
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So many people ask me: 'What is Norfolk Food & Drink and what are you trying to achieve? Why should I become a member and what is in it for me?' Let me try and answer these questions.
The Norfolk Food & Drink Festival was established in 2004 by a small group of local business people who shared one passion – the food and drink industry here in Norfolk.
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From humble beginnings as a three-day festival, with a handful of events predominantly in Norwich, its success has been unprecedented and it is now considered the largest event of its kind in the UK.
Five years ago, Norfolk Food & Drink was formally constituted as a not-for-profit organisation with specific objectives:
n To encourage in the public a better understanding of the importance of Norfolk food to our economy, environment, health and well-being, countryside and agriculture.
n To promote the event as a destination festival and encourage visitors to come to Norfolk at a time when the tourism season slows down.
n To promote opportunities for the food and hospitality industries to engage with the public.
The festivals used to run for a six-week period from end of August to the beginning of October celebrating the food and drink industry right across the county, from north Norfolk, the Brecks, Great Yarmouth, Aylsham and Waveney, to Norwich and dozens of market towns and villages. Since 2015 we became an all year round organisation, putting on events throughout the year and so being able to embrace our seasonal food and drink.
NFAD is stunningly simple in how it works. Anyone can get involved, free of charge – they just have to put on an event or offering with local food or drink – whether it's a farmers' market or a single restaurant, use our logo and the over-arching umbrella organisation will promote that activity.
NFAD is also unique in the level of support it receives from local organisations and businesses. Our patrons are five of the county's most recognised culinary names – Galton Blackiston, Vanessa Scott, Chris Coubrough, Richard Hughes and Nick Mills from Brasteds.
We've also appointed three Norfolk Food & Drink Champions: Dee Rawsthorne, now retired from John Innes; Sarah Simonds, of Scott's Field Pork; and Icarus Hines, a butcher from Cromer and winner of last year's Battle of the Bangers.
They are all great enthusiasts of Norfolk and its food and drink, and help us to beat the drum and bring people into the county for a great foodie experience.
There is no question that Norfolk Food & Drink has helped put the county on the gastronomic map. It has also become instrumental in supporting local businesses, retailers and producers, and it remains true to its original objective of celebrating the food and drink industry in Norfolk. It has also become a major tourist attraction, achieving national recognition and bringing visitors from all over the UK.
We became a membership organisation in 2015. As part of the governance process of NFAD members run the organisation and are able to vote on the board of directors. We will be arranging a member's visit; provide discounts and offers at restaurants, early bird bookings at our Patrons' Dinner in April, invitations will be given to our launch event in January and to our End of Year Party in December.
Members will also be supporting the food and drink industry and our objectives as mentioned above.
Last year we also created a Proudly Norfolk Food & Drink label initiative, which has been set up for Norfolk producers in the food and drink industry to give credence to their product when it is displayed on shop shelves, so that they stand out from the crowd from other products which have been mass-produced out of the county.
The label is an endorsement of genuine food producers who care passionately about the quality and provenance of the food they are producing; for the consumer it is a sign that you can trust the product you are buying, knowing it has been lovingly handmade in Norfolk.
Our project for this year is to try and persuade shops to have an area where they can promote our Proudly Norfolk members in order to encourage the consumer to buy local produce with taste and flavour and for us to be able to shout a little louder about these producers.
Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, join us at some of our events, support your local producers and become a member of NFAD. Forms can be downloaded from www.norfolkfoodanddrink.co.uk