Innovation in the food and drink industry is fast becoming a modern-day British business success story, with more and more producers specialising in artisan, handmade and locally sourced products than ever before.
From award winning sparkling wines grown in Kent to seafood charcuterie producers in the highlands, the explosion of the British food and drink scene in recent years has been driven by a handful of plucky entrepreneurs drawing upon the UK’s long culinary heritage to create something fresh and interesting.
A county long associated with some of our most treasured culinary traditions, Gloucestershire is a heavyweight when it comes to creating innovative food and drink products and experiences that really get the taste buds going.
A case in point is Gloucester Services. Not so long ago it was unthinkable that a motorway services would ever be able to offer anything that could remotely be described as a ‘gastronomic experience’, with the bland, soggy food typically on offer as disappointing as the atmosphere is sterile and dull.
Then, of course, Gloucester Services came along and revolutionised the motorway services forever. No longer is your average British motorist prepared to accept limp sandwiches and lukewarm coffee, when just between junction 11a and 12 of the M5 a smorgasbord of organic, locally sourced delights await foodie visitors.
With food and drink pioneers like Gloucester Services on our doorstep, when Enterprise Europe Network SW and The Gloucestershire Growth Hub (in partnership with GFirst LEP and Business West) decided to organise the ‘Secret Ingredients to growing a successful food & drink business’ event to inspire the county’s next generation of food and drink heroes they were spoilt for choice deciding who to invite as guest speakers.
The organisers finally settled on a select group of food and drink industry experts plucked from prominent local food and drink business including paleo sweet treat makers Primal Joy, artisan gin makers Sibling Distillery, food technologists Campden BRI and the aforementioned Gloucester Services!
Speakers Sarah Mace, Cicely Elliot-Berry, Emma Hanby and Nicky Wildin each took time out of their busy schedules to inspire local food and drink businesses to pursue growth by sharing the secrets of their success.
The programme for the event, which was held at the Gloucestershire Growth Hub, was designed to give attendees a comprehensive overview of food and drink production processes and the supply chain, provide a forum for gaining feedback from the expert panel and to allow growing businesses to develop long-lasting connections.
Emma Hanby, product innovation lead at Campden BRI kicked off proceedings with a talk on the importance of rigorous product testing and compliance with international packaging guidelines, and was followed by Gloucester Services local sourcing manager Nicky Wildin, who spoke passionately about the importance of locally sourced produce and giving back to the community.
After Nicky’s candid account of life at Gloucester Services, Primal Joy’s Sarah Mace shared a frank and personal account of how she turned her food passion into a business.
Last but by no means least, Sibling Distillery’s Cicely Elliot-Berry discussed the pitfalls of the food and drink industry and family businesses, in addition to giving her expert advice on branding and finding buyers.
Present at the event was Emma Gill, business development assistant at Buckley and Beale World Food, who commented:
“It was great to have been given the opportunity to learn directly from the experiences of some truly inspirational local food and drink pioneers who have been there, done that and got the t-shirt.
“The majority of business owners and entrepreneurs starting out in the food and drink industry are driven by their passion for the product. Tasting, testing and sourcing great products and ingredients is what comes natural to us, but food and drink businesses also need to be careful and ensure that they are on a steady pathway towards growth.
“The event gave companies a wealth of practical knowledge on how to approach buyers and other recipes for success that I cannot wait to put into action in my business. Oh and the breakfast, which was generously provided by Gloucester Services, was great too!”
Presenting on the day, Nicky Wildin was full of praise for the food and drink business community in Gloucestershire:
“At Gloucester Services we’re passionate about food and we’re passionate about Gloucestershire business, so we’re always happy to help give a boost to food and drink entrepreneurs in the county by sharing the benefit of our experience.
“These are exciting times for the food and drink industry in the UK and I am in no doubt, having witnessed first hand the wealth of business talent in the room that Gloucestershire will continue to be front and centre of the British food revolution.”
The food and drink focussed event was the latest in a long line of events organised by Enterprise Europe Network and the Growth Hub that helps innovative businesses grow in Gloucestershire by providing access to funding and finance, finding new markets , and finding the right partners for research and development.