A baker, brewer and jam-maker revealed as Co-op’s Producer of the Year finalists
- Credit: Archant
Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex food and drink businesses will now battle to be named overall East Anglian champion.
Three local food and drink heroes have tickled the taste buds of shoppers across the region to reach the finals of the East of England Co-op's Producer of the Year competition.
The Cake Shop bakery in Suffolk rose to the occasion, beating rival Choose Spice to secure public votes during a Valentine's Day-themed event, while The Norfolk Brewhouse narrowly beat Woodforde's Brewery in a David and Goliath battle to be crowned Norfolk County Winner.
Meanwhile, jam maker Thursday Cottage stormed into the lead during an Essex afternoon tea for over 70s and under sevens after competing against family-run sandwich firm Raynor's.
Now all three – representing Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex - will go head-to-head to win the hearts of the judging panel and be crowned overall champion.
David Wright, director of The Cake Shop in Woodbridge, said: 'We take immense pride in our work and we are extremely touched by the support we have received from the general public.
'To have attracted such a huge number of votes in such a small space of time makes us very proud and we are so thrilled to be the producer to represent Suffolk in the next stage of the competition.
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'We really hope that we can go on and win it for our county, our town and for all those people who made the effort to vote.'
The bakery was crowned Suffolk County Winner after securing an impressive 4,114 votes.
Pele Heydon from Tiptree-based Thursday Cottage said: 'We are thrilled to have won the Essex part of the award. We were staggered at how much support we won from the public and are very grateful for their votes.
'Showcasing our jam for the very special tea party was a highlight in our campaign for votes and the feedback we received from young and old was absolutely superb.
'To reach the finals of this very prestigious competition is a really amazing achievement for our brand and we are hoping that the quality of our products will see us through to win the producer of the year title. Fingers crossed!'
Across a four-week voting period, Thursday Cottage secured a remarkable 4,409 votes .
David Holliday, who runs The Norfolk Brewhouse with his wife Rachel, said: 'We are always delighted to have our work rewarded but for this competition, so much of the result rested on the votes from the public. To have this kind of feedback from customers is invaluable.
'On top of that, the event gave us the excuse for a good bit of banter between us and Woodforde's Brewery which was fun.'
The brewery won by just 41 votes – securing 3,233 to Woodforde's Brewery's 3,192.
All three of the county winners will now meet a panel of food and farming experts before the overall Producer of the Year 2018 is crowned at the annual East of England Co-op Supplier Supper on March 14.
Roger Grosvenor, joint chief executive at the East of England Co-op, said: 'The competition has been as fun as it has been fierce, with a tea party, a beer festival and a Valentine's Day taste test resulting in an incredible 19,000 public votes.
'We have seen primary school children sharing scones with care home residents, watched two brewers go head-to-head at the University of East Anglia and seen a real love for food expressed by two producers who are friends as well as rivals.'
The East of England Co-op works with approximately 100 local producers through its multi-award winning Sourced Locally initiative, which has generated millions of pounds for the regional economy since launching in 2007.
Producer of the Year plays a vital role in continuing the Sourced Locally ethos by encouraging shoppers to consciously buy local and quality produce throughout the year.