Good year for local food

Speciality food group Tastes of Anglia has reported the busiest Easter trading for its rapidly-expanding distribution and fresh produce delivery arm.Colin Clarke, group chief executive, said that the turnover of the distribution business, Tastes of Anglia Table, grew by 47pc last year.

Speciality food group Tastes of Anglia has reported the busiest Easter trading for its rapidly-expanding distribution and fresh produce delivery arm.

Colin Clarke, group chief executive, said that the turnover of the distribution business, Tastes of Anglia Table, grew by 47pc last year.

“We finished the year with £600,000 turnover and our planned turnover for the current financial year to April 2008 is £750,000,” he added.

“It is the busiest Easter we've ever had. We made something like 69 deliveries in the week through to Easter. We were about 70pc up compared with the previous March,” said Mr Clarke.

“Our existing customers are buying significantly more as they've extended their range. The opportunity to get local food and regional food out, particularly to independent food operators, both retail and food service, is a growing dynamic.

“We could grow as fast as we are able to persuade producers to come up with new products or to re-focus their products on food service,” said Mr Clarke.

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Tastes of Anglia, which supports the speciality food and drink industry in eastern England, was formed in 1992 to raise awareness and promote the region's fine variety of food and drink. It launched the Tastes of Anglia Trading Company in 1999 to provide additional services including the distribution arm.

Mr Clarke said that the “Table” operation, which now has three vans operating from its Witnesham base near Ipswich, has been growing rapidly and also offers producers other advantages. Members have to join the Tastes of Anglia co-operative, he said, and also satisfy the group's strict product standards. “We take that product and put into our price list, which is sent out to 300 plus customers,” he said.

Suppliers don't have to run the risk of credit risks. “We owe you and we pay on the 25th of the month following,” explained Mr Clarke.

He said that there has been continued growth in business. “Over the past two years, we have gone from about 30 producers up to 64. We then came back down again because not everything sold and we had to let some go. We're about 56 with another four waiting.”

Mr Clarke, who became group chief executive last December, said: “We've always said to suppliers: 'Don't let us become too big a part of your business. We're a slow build.'

“We suggest that we should not be 10pc of your turnover. So, if you're not doing farmers' markets or have not gone out looking for individual customers in your area, then you must,” he added.

He said that Tastes, which has more than 300 members in the eastern region including Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex, will lose funding from Food from Britain tender money in March 2008.

“Defra has said that it will not be putting money into FFB. Now, it is up to the regional develop agencies. So, we're hoping that our trading business will contribute because it is already covering some of the fixed costs,” said Mr Clarke.

T Feast East will be held at Chilford Hall, near Cambridge, on March 6 to 8, 2008.

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