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Archive for October, 2012

Is Welsh Government Food Beginning To Get It Right?

30 Oct

I never thought I would say it, and it does not mean that all is well in the world of Wag Food,  but I do think and hope that the direction has now changed. Of course like you, we must now wait and see if what Wag Food say turns into action, but I’m sticking to feeling hopeful.

Let me put this into context and take you back to June this year. At that stage Wag was leaving all but their favoured few in the dark, using smoke and mirror tactics and avoiding or fudging answers to my questions.  Thankfully a Best of Welsh, BOW, producer told us that they had been told about a Dairy Summit and a Food Summit being held with leading people within the industry, so they could sit down and discuss the future. The Dairy Summit was imminent but the Food Summit was still a few weeks away in July. When asking around only a handful of those we asked in the food industry knew of the forthcoming summits. Indeed I blogged about the Welsh Food Summits – Why The Secret? on 25th June.

A day later it was blogged, Not Quite An update On Welsh Dairy Summit when it was apparent that things at FMDD were still very much a closed shop and only those that would not rock any boat allowed through the Wag doors.

I did have an invite to the Food Summit, not to the event, I wasn’t allowed to that, but to interview the Deputy Minister Alun Davies AM. This invite I accepted and for 30 minutes we did have a discussion, with me raising topics of food festivals and markets, micro producers, rather than the summit which I’d no idea what they were discussing. The exchange was polite, but as expected with four minders in tow, the Deputy Minister stuck to his political line.  A few days later though we did have an, Update On The Welsh Food Summit which I blogged, but I was still being blocked with questions I continued to ask. One of these questions was who had been invited to these summits and how representative where they of the Welsh food sector. After mentioning Data Protection, eventually I was sent the details which I blogged about on the 8th August Recently Held Welsh Dairy & Welsh Food Summits – List Of Invitees. Earlier this month and as at least in part a result of the Dairy Summit, Deputy Minister Alun Davies did come out with Deputy Minister Outlines Support For Dairy Industry (blogged on 16th October) and issued in the form of a press release.

The latest update I have for you is this. Last week I had an email from FMDD which was very interesting and very welcomed – hence my hope for the future! It has taken me over a week to find out the exact openness of this document. With the change or heart from the food department I felt it only polite and correct to ask them, rather than as I would have done in the past, publish and be damned. Just as a reminder for you, the Food Summit was instigated by Deputy Minister Alun Davies as a means of meeting with industry and getting HRH Prince of Wales’ support for the sector. HRH Prince Of Wales has been a great supporter of Welsh local food and does visit many food events, markets and also visits producers when he spends time in Wales.  I am sure that you will not agree with everything in this report but if that is the case, please do, air your views about your industry. You do not have to put your name to it and I will not divulge your name to ANYONE, unless you agree. If you can’t be bothered, you’re too busy, or you don’t believe we’ll ever get changes made, or perhaps you’re in total agreement with everything in the summary, then I’ll accept that as your choice, but please don’t moan at me six or twelve months down the track……………………………  because I doubt I’ll be sympathetic if you do nothing now!!! Follows has been lifted directly from the report and has not been amended at all:  Welsh Food Summit – The Executive Summary

1. The Welsh Government held a Welsh Food Summit and Workshops at the National Botanic Gardens for Wales on 12th July 2012.

2. During the event, delegates were asked to attend 2 workshops per am or pm session so that everyone attended all 4 workshops. The workshop themes were Market development, Innovation and added value, Food Tourism and Growing the Future.

3. This report covers the deliberations of and outputs from the Workshops based on the notes taken by the scribes on the day. Below we present the key issues for each theme:

4. Market development: a. The True Taste Awards – is seen as a good scheme in principle but in need of significant change and a more commercial focus on larger businesses. b. Public Procurement – the low margins in this segment were cited and the attendees felt WG could help by promoting quality food and healthy diets in schools, health, etc c. Support for Business – they described a varied role for WG including funding (grants and loans) and providing support for the availability of market intelligence and expert advice d. Government’s role in ‘education’ – this encompassed ‘educating’ customers to buy local products, encouraging purchasing responsibility on behalf of supermarkets, creating a national brand for Wales and focusing on schools to promote a better understanding of where food comes from e. Exporting – they saw a specific role for WG in supporting export activity through practical assistance from WG in opening up and developing export markets.

5. Innovation and added value: a. Government support (for Innovation & Added Value) – they saw a role for targeted support for innovation including expertise/knowledge sharing/technology transfer and to address bureaucracy as a barrier and delay to project development. Attendees also cited access to market data and research as being important. Lack of funding and better targeting of funding was also identified as ripe for improvement. b. Education & Skills – this section focused on both education, e.g. from changes to the schools curricula and career advice and skills – focusing on apprenticeships (and issues of making resources available for apprenticeships). Attendees also cited the need for improvement in development of (post experience) skills and training c. Government (more generally) – the attendees thought that public sector procurement should do more to support the local food economy, and impose conditions on planning permission for new supermarket developments to stock a minimum proportion of local products d. Food Centres – they saw Food Centres as an important example of innovation and added value and felt they needed more resources to become more proactive.

6. Food Tourism: a. Promotion outside Wales – they thought there should be an added focus on the promotion of Wales as a tourism destination (including the food offering) outside the Principality. In this context, the True Taste brand was mentioned and it was considered to have poor brand awareness outside Wales b. Linkages between Tourism & Food – They cited the need for better linkages between accommodation and restaurants and food producers and the hospitality sector. In addition they isolated better education in the hospitality sector regarding the benefits of customer care and local sourcing as a desirable improvement. c. The True Taste Awards – they felt much had been achieved since its inception but it now needed significant change. There was now a need to review the objectives (i.e. more focus on consumer attitudes and awareness) and how the budget is spent (i.e. away from the event, the dinner, etc and more towards consumer awareness) d. Food Festivals – attendees identified Food Festivals as an important vehicle for developing Food Tourism. Abergavenny Food Festival was cited as an example of best practice. In addition, they drew a link between popular tourism areas and the food offering (i.e. tie-in popular tourism areas to the food offering). The attendees recorded the need more support to deliver activity, e.g. Food Markets/Festivals. e. Food & Tourism at a Government level – the attendees stated that Food & Tourism should be linked within government and not in ‘silos’ – the consumer should see it as one offering.

7. Growing the Future: a. Schools & Education – a range of issues were raised within this theme but the main message for the Minister was the need to support apprenticeships in horticulture and agriculture. In addition, they focused on the need to add horticulture as a subject in the curriculum and make the profession more appealing to young people as a career option b. Grow Your Own – they cited the heath and community benefits emanating from the Grow Your Own initiative but some delegates questioned the economic benefits. Some highlighted the gap between Grow Your Own and enterprise development c. Supermarkets – on the whole, the attendees saw Supermarkets as having a generally negative effect in terms of people not knowing about food and ‘bullying’ in the market by big operators. However, they also acknowledged that people buy based on price and convenience and that they are generally getting access to what they want and when they want it. d. Local Authorities – the main themes were the need for Local Authorities to be more flexible about planning regarding allotments and more release of land for allotments.

 
 

Congratulations To Cowbridge Food & Drink Festival

29 Oct

What a delightful change for Ian and I to visit a 2-day food festival, arrive on the second day and see and talk to happy traders. Yes dear reader, you did read that correctly, happy traders! Plus we had lots of Best of Welsh & Border producers there.

Wow, wow, wow Cowbridge, what is your secret……….?

Well to be fair there isn’t one, but the reason why the Cowbridge team have a winner of an event, year after year, is that they listen. Cowbridge listen to traders, to the retailers in the town, to the town council, to their helpers and volunteers, to their sponsors and maybe in part, also listen to us too. In my view, listening is their secret. Usually when ‘anyone’ suggests to organisers that something could be improved, instead of getting the usual scenario from them, which could be strongly defending their corner because there is nothing wrong, it can’t be changed or the ultimate, which if a trader complains, means they’ll not get invited back, so what is the point of traders saying anything? Cowbridge Events Manager is Polly Wilson of pollywilson events, she’s the face of Cowbridge, the contact for both traders and press, but thanks and congratulations must also go to John Davies the Chair of Cowbridge Food Festival and the rest of the great team that he has put together.

Anyway back to Polly, who I must say that the traders have a great deal of respect for, and I still insist it’s because she does listen to them. Of course she can’t please everyone, who could? But if your requests are listed on your application form, and if your form is accurately filled in, with you not expecting Polly to remember all the products you produce, then maybe possible problems can be nipped in the bud  before they start. Festival forms are a pain in the butt for both sides, but over the following months, I want to pick Polly’s brains and see if we can devise a form that will help Polly do her job and will make life easier for traders too. If we can achieve that, then maybe we can persuade wag to have just one form for ALL funded festivals, but maybe I’m dreaming on that one, we’ll see.  Yet after praising Polly and the team, even they couldn’t stop the rain on Sunday afternoon! But the pleasure from visiting Cowbridge festival does come from Polly understanding the traders and the traders appearing to understand the job she works so hard to get right.

I’m sure you can now guess another reason the traders so happy? Yes of course, Saturday was brilliant on the takings front. One trader said: this festival is the best and busiest I have done this year and such a change to see people handing me £20 notes and not struggling to find a fiver in change. Many commented: Saturday was so busy; Sunday is now a much needed bonus. A trader, who has travelling down to London that night for a show this week, had no choice but to use some of the London stock they had, as they too had been so busy. This was music to my ears.

Parking has always been a problem in Cowbridge, that’s the nature of this beautiful town, but improvements had been made, although human nature decrees, that traders will want to be as close as possible to the food marquee. However something else that impressed me was the young people from the ATC that were so helpful to traders in helping them move their stock back to their vans. Gosh they were so polite, despite the hideous rain that came in without my permission I might add! The cookery demos were moved much closer to the main action, which was sensible and worked well. There were locals chefs down for duty and again this is something I like and want to see more of at other festivals. Not sure though if they were using food from the producers, I’ll check with Polly about that one. I would have liked to have seen a notice in that area saying who was cooking and when though. The Park & Ride was another big help, as were the AA signs on my way in. Marshalling worked well and everyone was so polite and helpful – yes even to press too!

Another surprise after Ian and I had had our coffee fix in Cowbridge just after 9.30, the cafe was very busy and doing a good trade in breakfasts, was to see a local butcher open on the High Street and other shops planning to open from 11-3.00. Thank goodness that shop retailers were taking advantage of the massive number of visitors to the town and showing them what Cowbridge has to offer.

There was the craft area in it’s normal spot, some had done ok some not well at all. I must have a moan at some of these traders who not only didn’t have business cards and singnage on their stands but did look totally fed up. I know it was cold and it is always worse if you aren’t selling, I do know that after having done tradestands for more years than I wish to divulge here, but a grumpy looking trader doesn’t encourage me to have a look at what they have got on offer.  Ian has quick to spot our First Minster Carwyn Jones in the craft area, and of course couldn’t resist the opportunity to give him a copy of Welsh Country to take home with him. Polly you didn’t say you had friends in such high places!

I didn’t see Miller Research but maybe they visited on Saturday. To me that is a daft day to go as Saturday is always the busiest day so you cannot talk to traders and get their view – that is if they want any traders view of an event.

So compliments to all involved in Cowbridge, wag should hold you up as the example to follow. I know that wag funded Cowbridge to the tune of £9,900 and this is one of the few occasions that wag food and our producers got real value for money.

Poor Polly is though going to have many, many more producers wanting stands next year when word spreads to those who haven’t attended before or worst still couldn’t get in this year and missed such a wonderful event………………………………..

 
 

Welsh Butchers, Please Stand Up & Be Counted (FOI REF 6577)

26 Oct

On 12th October I sent in a request under the Freedom Of Information Act asking:

1. How many are there in Wales?

2. Please forward the full list of all independent butchers in Wales.

Today, 26/10,  I have been told that the Welsh Government does not hold this information. The Welsh Government have also confirmed that this information is not held by Hybu Cig Cymru / Meat Promotion Wales or the Asiantaeth Safonau Bwyd Cymru / Food Standards Agency Wales. Instead I am told by the Welsh Government: I believe that your request may be publicly available information and would suggest that you seek it through these sources.

My amazement knows no bounds with this pathetic response. Unless I am totally wrong, I understood that one of HCC’s criteria was to ‘look after Welsh butchers’. But how can they possibly do that if they are unaware how many independent butchers there are in Wales?

So to double-check, I went onto the HCC website and below is taken from their front page:

Welcome to Hybu Cig Cymru Meat Promotion Wales Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) is the organisation responsible for the development, promotion and marketing of Welsh red meat. We work with all sectors of the Welsh red meat industry – from the farmers through to the retailers, to develop the industry itself as well as develop profitable markets for Welsh Lamb, Welsh Beef and pork from Wales.

I continued my trawl through their site and couldn’t resist checking how many staff HCC employed and found 19. But then back to business and I looked up retailers. Again I have taken wordage off their site which states:

Retailers

HCC works with UK retailers – from local butchers to supermarkets – who sell Welsh red meat. HCC produce point of sale materials, such as posters and recipe booklets, which go out to retailers during the year to help them to promote Welsh red meat to their customers. These campaigns help retailers to constantly refresh their promotion of Welsh Lamb, Welsh Beef and pork from Wales to consumers. HCC regularly meets with retailers to develop new strategies for promoting Welsh red meat products to shoppers and increase visibility of the brands, which is done through promotional activities such as on-pack promotions and competitions as well as point of sale materials. HCC are constantly looking for new retail opportunities for Welsh red meat and carry out regular analysis of the latest retail data to ensure that the industry is kept informed through our monthly market bulletins as well as keeping up to date with the latest market trends. HCC has also introduced new initiatives for retailers such as the ‘Welsh Lamb and Welsh Beef Butchers’ Club’, which aims to help Welsh butchers that sell PGI Welsh Lamb and PGI Welsh Beef.

So dear reader, it would seem I can confirm that HCC must have the cleverest and most knowledgeable people working for them, as once again they purport to support Welsh retailers, unless I am totally wrong and HCC don’t count our independent butchers as retailers. Which would appear to be the case, as it’s impossible to support independent butchers if they don’t know how many there are in Wales or even where they are. My next option is to make a complaint – via the Welsh Assembly Government on this response and maybe that is what I shall do next. Would that we could all have the luxury of running our businesses in this vague manner………………………….

 
 

11th Wales the True Taste Food & Drink Awards

26 Oct

The waiting was over, as last night the winners of this year’s True Taste Food & Drink Awards were announced at the Awards Ceremony held at the Food Hall, Royal Welsh Showground, Builth Wells. The Welsh Government said the evening ‘showcased and rewarded the best and most innovative food and drink products from Wales, and recognised excellence in the food and drink sector’. I hope everyone that attended had a wonderful evening and the Welsh Country team send their congratulations to all those who scooped an award.

Last year I struggled long and hard to be able to get the results of the TT and had so many hurdles put in my way that I felt more like a racehorse than a journalist. I even had to sign that I wouldn’t publish before Friday 00.01, which is something that I’ve never had to do before. ‘Normal people’ simply send a press release and inform the media that it is embargoed. However this year, with some personnel changes in place in wag food, and perhaps someone in wag reading and understanding welshfoodbites, I received yesterday this year’s list! It was duly embargoed, but nothing for me to sign and all this happened without my even asking! Between the two of us, dear reader, I actually wasn’t going to bother chasing wag this year, it really didn’t seem worth the effort and if wag didn’t want this information out in the media promptly, that was OK with me this year. So to receive this on Thursday morning, well, amazed couldn’t possible cover it, so I must return the amazement and shock wag, by congratulating the food and press teams for being helpful and behaving professionally and I do hope the shock isn’t too much for them. But perhaps wag food will understand that when ‘things’ go well, praise will follow, if it doesn’t, then I shall continue to shout about it, or rather blog about it, because even having to go this way, ‘things’ have improved, even slightly. Getting this information early meant that my team arranged for this to go out at 0.10 this morning to all our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers, knowing that all our producers will want to know who won what. Plus of course welshfoodbites has been able to post promptly too!

So the bulk of wag’s press release is as follows:

The best food and drink products from across Wales have been recognised at the 11th Wales the True Taste Food and Drink Awards. This year’s True Taste Champion, Robin Jones of Village Bakery, Coedpoeth, Wrexham, has urged those producers to make the most of their success. The third generation of bakers in the family, Robin recognises that many smaller operators may be reluctant to think big, but urges food and drink producers to build on their passion for what they do. He said: “There are a lot of lifestyle businesses which make excellent artisan products. But there needs to be more recognition of products which can be scaled up. That is where Wales is going to have an impact on the UK stage.”

Alun Davies, Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, was impressed by the standard of entries in the independently judged Awards.

“Good quality, distinctive food is an emblematic part of the Welsh culture. Consumer confidence in our excellent produce is currently riding high, which is a massive achievement, especially in light of the challenges our producers have faced in recent years,” he said. I intend to build on that confidence and enable our food and drinks industries to strengthen and thrive. I am committed to doing all I can to deliver a thriving and sustainable food sector that is able to support and sustain employment and prosperity across the whole of Wales. The Welsh Government will continue to provide significant commercial benefits to Food sector businesses by enhancing their capacity to compete and achieve profitability. We can achieve that by building on the good quality, and distinctive food that is already being produced in Wales.”

Over the past decade thousands of companies have competed in the Welsh Government Awards which this year attracted some 830 entries from over 250 diverse companies.

A group of second year students from Coleg Powys’ hospitality and catering course have been brought in this year to work with the caterers to gain a rare opportunity at such a prestigious and large scale event on their doorstep.

WALES The True Taste Food & Drink Awards Winners 2012-13

LAMB

GOLD
Welsh Venison Centre
Rack of Welsh Lamb
SILVER
Capestone Organic Poultry Ltd

Paradiseloin of Organic Lamb

BRONZE

Graig Farm Organics
Roast Rump of Lamb
BEEF

GOLD
Cwmcerrig Farm Shop and Grill
Beef Sirloin
SILVER
Welsh Venison Centre

21 day Matured Welsh Fillet Steak

BRONZE
T.J.Roberts & Son

Local Welsh Sirloin Steak
PORK

GOLD
Glasfryn Farm Shop

Pork Tenderloin filled with Pork & Garlic Stuffing & Wrapped in pen Llyn bacon

SILVER
Rhug Organic Farm

Pork Shouldeb Boned & Rolled

BRONZE
Douglas Willis Ltd

FreeRange Woodland Squarecut Rind-On Boneless Belly Joint

POULTRY & GAME

GOLD
Usk Vale Poultry

Speciality Large Barn Reared Chicken

SILVER
Yerbeston Gate Farm

Rosemary Glazed Chicken Breast stuffed with Saddleback Pork and Leek sausagemeat

BRONZE
Capestone Organic Poultry Ltd

Marks & Spencer Spatchcock Poussin with Four Peppers, &AngleseySeaSalt

BURGERS & SAUSAGES

GOLD

Coity bach farm produce sweet chill sausages

SILVER

Douglas Willis Ltd

Pork, Honey & Wholegrain Mustard Sausages

BRONZE

H J Edwards – Master Butchers

Traditional Free Range Pork Sausage

OTHER ADDED VALUE MEAT PRODUCTS

GOLD
Trealy Farm Charcuterie

Merguez Salami with Welsh Lamb

SILVER
Amser Da

Porc Celtaidd mewn Seidr

BRONZE
Cnwd
Chicken Liver Parfait

MILK, YOGURT, BUTTER & CREAM – SMALL PRODUCER

GOLD

Llaeth y Llan Village Dairy

Llaeth y Llan

SILVER
Tomlinsons Dairies Ltd

Semi skimmed milk

BRONZE
Ty Tanglwyst Dairy
Ty Tanglwyst Dairy Fresh Whole Milk

CHEESE – SMALL PRODUCER

GOLD

Trethowan’s Dairy Limited
Gorwydd Caerphilly

SILVER
Caws Cenarth Cheese

Golden Cenarth

BRONZE
Caws Teifi Cheese

Caws Teifi Cheese

ICE CREAM – SMALL PRODUCER

GOLD
Mario’s Ice Cream

Luxury Brecon Honey Dairy Ice Cream

SILVER
Conti’s

Conti’s – Traditional

BRONZE
Conti’s

Conti’s Salted Caramel

MILK, YOGURT, BUTTER & CREAM – LARGE PRODUCER

GOLD
Rachel’s

Rachels Organic Fat Free Peach and Passion fruit yogurt

SILVER
Rachel’s

Rachels Organic fat Free Strawberry & rhubarb Yogurt

CHEESE – LARGE PRODUCER

GOLD
Carmarthenshire Cheese Company Ltd

Carmarthenshire White

SILVER
Milk Link, Llandyrnog Creamery
Cadog Vintage Welsh Cheddar

BRONZE
Carmarthenshire Cheese Company Ltd
Carmarthenshire Blue

ICE CREAM – LARGE PRODUCER

GOLD
Subzero
Donatella Roche

SILVER
Parisella’s of Conwy

Maple and Walnut Ice Cream

BRONZE
Forte’s Ice Cream
Classic Vanilla

Sweet products (cakes, desserts and puddings but not including confectionery)

GOLD
Forte’s Ice Cream

Raspberry Sorbet

SILVER
Parisella’s of Conwy

Passion Fruit Sorbet

BRONZE
Siwgr A Sbeis

Lemon And Poppyseed Drizzle Cake

SAVOURY PRODUCTS (NOT INCLUDING MEAT)

GOLD

Hardwick Hampers

Cheese Sable Biscuit

SILVER

Leonardo’s Delicatessen Ltd

Crab, Leek & laverbread Quiche

BRONZE

Tortoise Bakery

44 hour Walnut Sourdough

CONFECTIONERY (INCLUDING CHOCOLATE & FUDGE)

GOLD
Siocled Moethus Sarah Bunton Luxury Chocolates

Earl Grey Tea

SILVER
Pemberton’s Victorian Chocolates

Toffoc Toffee Vodka

BRONZE
Hufenfa’r Castell

Fudge sauce

NON-ALCOHOLIC DRINKS

GOLD
Brecon Carreg Mineral Water

Brecon Carreg Still

SILVER
Brecon Carreg Mineral Water
Brecon Carreg Sparkling

BRONZE
Fruitapeel

Fruitapeel Freshly SqueezedOrangeJuice

BEER, CIDER & PERRY (UNDER 10% ABV)

GOLD
The Hurns Brewing Comp Ltd

Blodwens Beer

SILVER

The Hurns Brewing Comp Ltd

Premier Ale

BRONZE

Coles Family Brewers

CarmarthenGold

WINE, SPIRITS & OTHER ALCOHOL (OVER 10% ABV)

GOLD
Condessa Welsh Liqueurs
Sloe Gin
SILVER
Penderyn Distillery

Penderyn Single Malt Welsh Whisky

BRONZE
Condessa Welsh Liqueurs
Praline Welsh Cream Liqueur
Best Added Value Product

GOLD
Claws Shellfish

Pembrokeshire Seafood Platter

SILVER
Black Mountains Smokery

Premier Welsh Smoked Salmon

BRONZE
Cnwd

SmokedWest WalesCoracle Caught Sewin

FRUIT

GOLD
Carreglefn Nursery

Kiwi Fruit

SILVER
Carreglefn Nursery

Lemon

BRONZE
Hooton’s Homegrown

Strawberries

VEGETABLES

GOLD
Carreglefn Nursery

Thai Lemon Grass

SILVER
Carreglefn Nursery

Chilli Peppers

BRONZE
Siop Fferm Llwynhelyg Farm Shop

Ceredigion Fresh Herbs

CONDIMENTS, SAUCES & CHUTNEY

GOLD
Inner City Pickle

Mostarda di Frutta

SILVER
Môn Stir Sauce

Cheeky Girl Sauce

BRONZE
Claire’s Kitchen

Raspberry Vinegar

JAMS, MARMALADE & HONEY

GOLD
Pant Glas Bach Preserves

Blackcurrant and Liquorice Jam

SILVER
Elm Tree Foods

Elm Tree Foods: Honey

BRONZE
The Preservation Society

Ravishingly Raspberry Preserve

OTHER SPECIALITY FOODS

GOLD
Claire’s Kitchen

Lemon Curd

SILVER
Blodyn Aur

Blodyn Aur Welsh Rapeseed Oil

BRONZE
The Blaenafon Cheddar Company Ltd

Free Range World Heritage Eggs

HEALTHY OPTIONS

GOLD
Subzero

Blackcurrant Sorbet

SILVER
Welsh Venison Centre

Matured Welsh Venison Striplion

BRONZE
The Edible Hedgerow Company

Welsh Fruit Leathers – Fruit Mix

SPECIAL DIETARY OPTIONS

GOLD
Munchcake Gluten Free Goodies

Gluten free Carrot and Pecan Cupcake

SILVER
Bendylegs

Supercharged Bendylegs Granola

BRONZE
Munchcake Gluten Free Goodies

Gluten Free Raspberry and White Chocolate Cupcake

Welsh Exports

GOLD
Rhug Organic Farm

Organic Lamb Beef Pork Chicken Pies Wild Venison Wild Game

SILVER

The Celt Experience Ltd

Celt Beers

BRONZE

Llanllyr Water

Llanllyr Source

Local Sourcing

GOLD
Cwmcerrig Farm Shop

SILVER
Cnwd

BRONZE
The Blaenafon Cheddar Co Ltd

CHAMPION

Robin M. Jones
The Village Bakery

Coedpoeth

Wrexham

 

 
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Food Hygiene Rating Bill Moves Forward

23 Oct

Not sure this is very newsworthy but it was issued from the Welsh Government last week, so is obviously still high on their agenda.

Efforts to provide the public with more information on the food hygiene standards of food business in Wales took a step forward with a debate in the National Assembly for Wales on the Food Hygiene Rating (Wales) Bill.

 The introduction of a mandatory food hygiene rating scheme is a commitment in the Welsh Government’s Programme for Government and would be the UK’s first compulsory scheme.

Health Minister Lesley Griffiths said:

“This Bill will empower consumers and drive up food hygiene standards in individual businesses. The Food Standards Agency and local authorities currently run the food hygiene rating scheme on a voluntary basis and over 20,000 businesses in Wales have so far received a rating. This Bill will require food businesses to display their rating in a prominent position, such as at the entrance to their premises, or face a fine.”

Under the scheme, businesses will be rated with a score between 0 and 5 – with 0 meaning urgent improvement is necessary and a 5 rating meaning hygiene standards are very good.

The rating will be based on criteria including food handling standards – such as how the food is prepared, cooked, cooled and stored, the condition of the premises and the procedures in place to ensure the production of safe food.

Following consultation on the proposals earlier this year, the Bill includes provisions to include businesses that supply food to other businesses.

As always interested in your views  – and you can put your comments up without your true name.

 
 

Mumbles Oyster Fair

22 Oct

It is a very long time since I have been to Mumbles, so on Saturday I decided to pay them a visit and see how they had been managing without me, hoping we’d have some of our Best Of Best & Borders producers there – whcih luckily we did. Perhaps I don’t need to say, yet again, that I have had no press release about it and on checking the web, I couldn’t find a list of producers attending – annoying to say the least! Our producers need very bit of promotion that they can get, but I have to waste time searching and searching to find a list of them, mostly without a result.

This is a new event and according to the list I was sent by the Welsh Government, this even was running from 19th – 21st October, luckily I selected the correct day as the food festival was only running on the Saturday and according to wag’s list the food side received £9,500. I’ve asked wag food this morning if that figure is correct, because to my mind it is a lot of money for what seems to be a one day event and being called a Produce Market too, but I’m still waiting for a response. When I get one I shall of course make a correction if required.

This was received this monring, 25th October. 
A Welsh Government Spokesperson said “The original offer was for £9,500 but this was withdrawn after the Mumbles Oyster Festival contacted us to say the festival was being scaled back. They then submitted a revised application and further financial information and after review a revised offer of funding of £7,760 was made to them in August which was accepted.”

What a lot of money to pay out for this one-day food event and with this much in their coffers I certainly did expect at the very least some basic PR & Marketing from them. The food stands were smaller in number than the Mumbles Local Produce market and fair enough that they had the cookery demo in the large marquee, which was away from the food stands, I do not understand why this was still funded. I was a little confused looking on the Swansea Gov. website, after wag saying it was a 3 day event, where the event was shown as a full filled weekend for all to enjoy, saying that there was a Produce Market at Southend Parking, but only running on the Saturday.  Their site also said that the main marquee will be at Southend Gardens where the cooking demos were being held. Sadly the first sign I saw for the Oyster Fair was when I had actually entered Mumbles itself.

The main marquee was quite busy when I arrived, a cookery demo was in progress with a local chef cooking a recipe with fish from the great guys at Swansea Fish. There was also a list with chefs cooking during the day another one of my must-haves. The rest of the marquee was mainly taken up by craft stalls. Although the chef at the end of his demo said that there were food stalls further down past the main marquee, for me a lots of signs were very much needed to encourage people to find the food! I think there were about 23 food stands, but they were certainly not selling very much. A few had followed the suggestion of the organisers and dressed as pirates, my prize for the best dressed and getting into the theme of the event were Pete and Helen from Pencae Mawr. The parrot on Pete’s shoulder certainly appealed to the many children that were there, although some of the smaller ones were not too impressed!

The setting for the food traders was ideal, bearing in mind the weather was beautiful and the tide was in, which gave a perfect setting. However the oyster theme was somehow rather lost at the Produce Market, not really working for the traders as there wasn’t even a fish stall in this area. Blessings for the good weather, though I dread to think what would have happened if we’d had more of our rainy weather, but perhaps the organisers had a Plan B! I think the cost of the stands were £35.00, a fiver more than the regualt monthly Mumbles Produce market, but the people that did find the food stands, were not spending very much at all, but certainly tasting the samples that were on offer. I spent some time watching people eager to take a free taste but with no intention of purchasing. That’s a blow and an expense for the traders because this does reduce their profit margin, but as you can’t say not try unless you’re likely to buy – the guys have to run with samples by-and-large.

One producer did give me some good news from Mumbles though, a regular at the monthly local produce market, the market that ran the week before was brilliant, vey busy and therefore very profitable. I’m not getting this feedback about many markets, but must say that Mumbles market has alwauys been a favourite of mine – they always had a great mix of stalls and the title of Local Produce really works, in my view I think it hits home to people probably more than the Farmers’ Market tag does.

 

 
 

Where Do You Stop For Coffee in Wales?

19 Oct

I’m sure most of you will have seen the uproar that has been caused when the news broke about Seattle based coffee company Starbucks, which has paid practically no tax in theUKsince it began trading here 14 years ago. This is despite the fact that Starbucks promote themselves as an ethical and a responsible company.

This global corporation, which I understand lies second only to McDonalds, has a billion-pound business. In the UK, this American chain appears to have taken over their High Streets, with around 735 cafés, and even here in Wales, the company is advancing at an ever growing rate. Starbuck cafés do a roaring trade which amount to somewhere in the region of £1.2 billion over the last three years. Yet Starbucks has not paid any corporation tax and if you’ll forgive another of my poor puns, they haven’t paid a bean. It appears that somehow Starbucks made a loss last year of £33 million on sales that almost topped £400 million. I bet you’re more than one step ahead of me when I say that their accountants are seriously on-the-ball. But how have they managed this legal loophole when the company are saying that their UK arm is profitable?

 

Well Starbucks are not alone in operating as Google do, there are others too, that charge their own overseas subsidiaries royalties for the right to use its brand and products. When you buy a Starbucks coffee, 6% of the cost is paid as a royalty to branches of the U.S parent company, which might just be based in a tax haven!! InBritain, these royalties would be counted as profit and be taxed at 24% by the Inland Revenue, but as this 6% is going to a foreign branch, the UK taxman can do nothing – absolutely nothing at all. Starbucks also funds its UKoperations through loans borrowed at high interest rates from another part of the firm, which lowers profits in theUK, but of course boosts the global balance sheet of Starbucks – what clever accounting. Starbucks also use their supply chain to move profits out of the UK as the UK division must pay subsidiaries in Holland and Switzerland for buying and roasting its coffee beans.

Gosh these are clever wheezes, aren’t they? Unfortunately though, these ‘tricks’ are all legal thanks to the UK laws which in this case are as useful as a chocolate teapot. What I must tell you now is that I am boycotting Starbucks, but actually, as you might guess, if I have to visit a Starbucks it is because there is not a local coffee shop anywhere else and I need my caffeine fix. I try so hard to practise what I preach, I buy local and use local whenever I can, and as we have so many good coffee suppliers in Wales, many of them with us as Best Of Welsh & Border producers too, then that is the very least that I can do.

 

Let me leave this post with just one more thought, whilst I hope you are considering follow my lead against Starbucks and the rest of the coffee chains, I’m also pro coffee shops doing their own loyalty cards, which is such a simple but effective idea and does make customers feel valued.

 
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Welsh Food & Drink Producers Head For Sial

19 Oct

Firstly may I wish all of those going to this huge show, which runs over 5 days,  all the very best and this event will be a small step to reduce the deficit between Welsh and Scottish food exports as blogged here on 9th October.

I do find it interesting though that the press release that I have received emphasises that Wales is taking Maple Syrup, Australian Eucalyptus, Spanish Lavender, Manuka, and South American Rainforest honeys, plus peanut bars. Add to this amongst the mix are two water companies and a frozen bread company. I appreciate that this is an international show but taking bottled water and bread to France does seem a little odd to me.

A few years ago now, I remember Ian and I were at a Welsh Christmas food event, with our tradestand and I overheard  a chocolate producer who wag were funding to go out to the Middle East on what she termed an ‘export jolly’. She openly admitted that she could not supply chocolate to that area, laughingly saying – well it would melt – and that she was only going as a ‘paid for’ holiday. Can you believe that? This lady worked full-time and was what I term a ‘pin-money producer’ working on her chocolates only at evenings and weekends. Now why wag haven’t got the brains or common sense to know that lady trader better than they obviously did, is totally beyond me and makes me furious. It’s just another instance of wag wasting taxpayers’ money and not knowing their food producers – it’s shocking.

I would however just like to throw an idea at you – though I have to say that I’m not sure not sure if it is workable or practical. Why aren’t Wales taking a Welsh Pavilion to showcase there? Could wag not work out a way to showcase say another 10 – 20 producers and show the 140,000 visitors that should be attending this event what other artisan products we have to offer? To be on the stand the producers would have to put forward to wag proposals as to how they would work towards making such an exhibition work for them, how they would follow up the leads obtained and how they would put together the logistics. If they could do this, then wag could look further into supporting them. I am certainly not suggesting a wag/European box-ticking exercise, but one to identify those companies that could benefit and grow from this international exposure.

Please remember that if you wish to post any comments, you do not need to identify yourself, a pen name is in order. Only I will see your email address and it will stay with me – promise.

 
 

Taking Scottish Food To The Next Level

19 Oct

This is rather an unusual header for a post on welshfoodbites, but please don’t think I have gone totally mad, well not totally, maybe just slightly! Just thought you might find the following of interest:

Local food has been given a boost as £2.5 million is made available over three years to support initiatives that put a spotlight on Scotland’s outstanding natural produce. The Scottish Government is working in collaboration with SRUC – Scotland’s Rural College – to set up Think Local, an initiative to deliver targeted support and advice to local food companies, networks and communities. Think Local will include the £1.5 million Community Food Fund, which will deliver funding to a wide range of projects – such as local food marketing, food tourism, farmers markets, food festivals and events.

Plans are also being progressed for the National Food & Drink Forum, a diverse body that will bring together a broad array of experts from industry, health and environment and wider society to advise government on the strategic direction of our approach to food and drink, with a remit to put forward practical solutions.

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said: “Here in Scotland we have a fantastic range of fine food and drink right on our doorstep, with more and more Scots realising the excellent quality and taste that local producers deliver. But we can always do more. Think Local will help champion local food, by supporting projects and events across Scotland. With the Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup and a second Homecoming celebration in 2014, we have a great opportunity to showcase Scotland to the world. Food & drink will be an integral part to that and I want every business – from the largest to the smallest – to have the opportunity to take part. That’s what the Community Food Fund will aim to achieve. Scotland has made great strides over the past five years in how our food and drink is perceived, backed up by soaring exports. But I want more Scots to have access to delicious and nutritious local food, which is a particular challenge during these tough economic times. This is one issue I intend to put to the National Food & Drink Forum. Scotland is blessed by natural resources – in terms of our water, land and people, but for our food and drink industry to continue to be successful we also to face up to the challenges. That includes the climate challenge, the diet challenge and the economic challenge. The Forum will bring together a diverse range of individuals to think ahead on these key issues and ensure we are best positioned for the future. Taking in views from the industry, health and environment sectors and wider society, the National Food & Drink Forum will explore these issues and offer up practical solutions. I look forward to setting out full details about the new Forum later this year.”

David Lamb, Head of Food and Drink at SRUC, said: “Think Local builds on the excellent work already delivered in the development of local food. It brings together strands which have looked to develop the sector of local and speciality food from farms shops and farmers markets through to the regional networks which are enhancing Scotland’s reputation for quality food. We want to see that develop, to create a local food and drink landscape across Scotland, including tourism and events. This is the mechanism to make that happen.”

Alan Stevenson, Development Director at the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society, who will be involved in the development of Think Local, added: “We’re delighted to be a part of this joined up approach across Scotland to help develop local and regional food opportunities. It brings together all the expertise available in Scotland to drive forward the growth of local foods through Think Local. We know the industry and Government partnership model works extremely well, as has proved the case in the delivery of the successful Scottish Farmers Markets Partnership project, which included several of the key players in this exciting new initiative.”

Related information

Think Local will build on food engagement work of the Scottish Government and SRUC and will include collaboration with Scotland Food and Drink, the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society, the Scottish Association of Farmers Markets, and the National Farmers’ Retail & Markets Association.

The Think Local remit will include developing new local food networks, expanding Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight, creating signature food events for Homecoming Scotland, and providing new support for farmer’s markets. Funding for the operations of Think Local will be supported by £1 million from the Scottish Government.

The £1.5 million Community Food Fund will be delivered over three years. The Community Food Fund will be available to:

  • Support development of local food networks
  • Support communities to run local food events
  • Target specifically communities attempting to tackle deprivation
  • Deliver training and development
  • Develop farmer’s markets and farm retail opportunities
  • Help enhance food tourism

The membership and full remit of the National Food & Drink Forum will be set out in the coming months. It’s envisaged that the Forum will have a wide ranging membership, covering disciplines such as health and environment as well as the food and drink industry, and focus each year on a specific set of issues.

Well that sounds positive and pro-active doesn’t it? A spend of £1.5m is a fair amount, so I’ll be interested to get feedback when this initiative has ended. £1.5m, but I wonder how many of you recall FBA getting £800k but only had to ‘look at’ farmers’ markets, farm shops and box schemes. Sadly my feedback on what that £800k achieved for Wales has not been positive. Maybe the Scottish pound goes further and gets better value for money than we can achieve here in Wales with our Welsh pounds!

 

 

 
 

How Do Welsh Food Festivals Promote & Market Themselves?

17 Oct

Well my quick answer is that many don’t manage promotion very well. You might well say – so what does that matter to me as a producer? – well it really does matter to every trader attending. Let me throw a question to anyone wanting a tradestand at a food festival. Do you ever ask the organiser what promotion & marketing are they doing for their festival before you part with your hard-earned money? I’m guessing the answer is no,and you just assume they’ll do something, but you’re more concerned on whether you’ll get a stand at all and where you want to be sited. This is what I’m told by many of our Best Of Welsh & Border producers and I do listen carefully to what they tell me. So I can understand this, as producers have so much on their minds and so little time to get even their essential jobs completed.

So let me explain where I, as a journalist with a love of local food, stand. Many of the food festivals are funded from wag and at some stage I get a list from wag giving me a list of food festivals they are supporting that year. A success for me to crow about is that now I also get told how much each festival receives! That took a great deal of effort to get that, but I did and I think those amounts are helpful not only for me, but for traders too. Ian then talks to the various organisers during the year, obviously to see if we can get them advertising with us, but can you guess what many of them say? ‘That there’s no advertising budget this year’. Of course we have to accept that, we’re in a competitive market after all and it’s possible that they are using their local paper or even local radio. But I think it’s a pity that you as producers attending, are not told how a particular festival will be getting thousands of the people you need into their event.

So having to accept, with great reluctance of course, that some festivals will not be advertising in Welsh Country magazine, as a foodie journalist I do expect to get at least one press release about each festival. As I’ve worked in PR I know that it is worth sending lots of press releases out because you can never tell how much coverage you ‘might just get without placing an advert! Plus with the ease and speed of email why not send out to lots and lots of people? Yet out of the 33 festivals that wag are supporting this year, I’ve had only seven festivals send me through even a basic press release. As some of those were advertising with us anyway, our team would have pushed and pushed for us to be sent as many press releases as possible because they would all be put up on welshcountry.co.uk. Certainly if space was available, one would also go in the appropriate issue of the magazine too. This along with social media is part of the service package we offer to help promote their festival; in fact it is what we do for anyone advertising with us. I must at this point also confess that if we get a press release from a food festival not advertising with us, they go straight in my bin or my deleted box. This is because our company policy is to help and promote any advertiser that is supporting us.

My other grumble is that if we decide to visit a festival then I want to be able to easily find a website that has the details of all the producers attending on it. Annoyingly this doesn’t always happen, but it highlights another opportunity lost by the organisers and some promotion lost for you as traders.

Obviously there are exceptions to my list of grumbles, some festivals are very switched on and use e-newsletters, have super websites, which are regularly updated and make full use of social media. Over the years I have discussed food festivals with wag but have been repeatedly told that wag can’t ‘ask’ organisers to do these basic tasks, let alone insist that they do. Well I totally disagree with wag’s attitude, because if promotion and marketing were listed as one of their criteria and the festival didn’t get paid unless they did that, then it would be done and be helpful to many of us. Remove wag’s financial carrot and the donkey must go without. It amazes me that wag can insist that everything a festival produces must be bilingual, regardless of whether the bulk of your audience is English speaking, but wag cannot push organisers to do basic PR & Marketing.

My main argument is that there is no co-operation. I appreciate that the following comments don’t apply to all festivals as there are exceptions.  Anecdotally Welsh Country offered three wag funded food festivals a 32 page festival booklet produced and printed at no cost to the festival with advertising paying for the production and printing. Unbelievably for various reasons, all three rejected the offer. Why? Various reasons, one being the committee decided against it. But we are still puzzled that a no-cost offer was turned down.  We are astonished that festivals shouldn’t want offers like this. Add to this the fact that local businesses want to work with festivals, but some festivals appear not to want to use this free resource either. The tin lid on this long list of grumbles is the complete jobs- worth attitudes of some local councils. I am constantly complaining that signage is a problem, but also realise that many of the issues are not the fault of the festival organisers, but the local highways department. The local or county councils economic development team supposedly want to help local businesses and therefore allow and in many cases help local food festivals, but then the highways department stop signage preventing the economic development department doing their job and hindering local businesses in the process. On a positive note let me give the example of brilliant Council co-operation work, then look no further than Caerphilly, who at any of their festivals co-operate, sign well and all with a smile too! But before the cynics amongst you think I’m praising one of our advertisers, on this occasion I’m not!!!

My suggestion after ranting away about wag’s archaic system is that if you are unsure whether to apply to a festival, even after chatting to fellow traders, then why not ask the organiser how they are going to get the thousands of punters that you guys all need, into their event. Their answer will surely help……..