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Morrisons wants to expand its food and drink supplier base.

20 Feb

We have just received news that Morrisons wants to expand its supplier base. Although this will not be of interest to all our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers on Friday we emailed the details through to them and the link below, despite Morrisons copy righting much of their press release.

For more details and dates etc from Morrisons follow:

https://your.morrisons.com/local/

The gist of it is that Morrison are looking for 200 new domestic food producers to supply their supermarket chain and are targeting England, Scotland and Wales. Producers are being invited to pitch to the supermarket chain in a series of 12 regional events, the first of which kicks off on 14th March in Yorkshire.

Morrisons appreciate Great Britain cannot be entirely self-sufficient in food, but by buying more local food they as a company will be able to help reduce these risks. Morrisons recognise there is an appetite to buy local – as we at Welsh Country magazine know so well – and their research shows that 67% of UK shoppers prefer to buy British. Well I’d like a 100% of people in Wales to buy Welsh food and drink, but I’d be happy with 70%!!!!!

Morrisons have 491 stores and around 2 million customers and are looking for small UK food suppliers to become bigger ones. The retailer will also be working with Members Of the Women’s Institute to source and select the best suppliers tin their area.

I’m surprised but pleased to hear a huge supermarket chain such as Morrisons re-enforce the message Welsh Country magazine has been promoting virtually since we first started publishing over 13 years ago. Of course our interest lies solely in our Welsh food and drink suppliers, that’s what we are here for,  I’m 100% behind them and I really hope other supermarkets will adopt this message.

I can only assume that the Welsh Government and the companies on its pay roll to push our Welsh food and drink producers into supermarkets are already on the case, but when I walk around supermarkets I do wonder if anyone in the Welsh Government is really promoting our Welsh producers. Of course I’m well aware that going the supermarket route is not for many of our producers, some of of Best of Welsh & Borders are happy to stay as micro businesses, but for those that do want to supply supermarkets they should be given every bit of help available as this can often by a tough, long process, but well worth the effort if it comes off.

If we have any further news, I will of course update you.

 
 

Food Festival Funding

06 Feb

Food Festival Funding, as happens each year, I’m getting asked what’s happening about Welsh Government food festival funding. Sadly, as always, I haven’t a clue. I’ve heard many rumours, but can assure you when wag food tell me – which hopefully they will – our Best Of Welsh & Border producers will be the first to know. Plus then it will be posted on welshfoodbites.co.uk.

One producer suggested I ask the Welsh Government’s press office, which certainly made me chuckle as seemingly he’s been reading welshfoodbites otherwise he’s know that for the second time the wag press office have refused to answer any questions from me, as Welsh Country magazine. Apparently we posted on welshcountry.co.uk a press release from Open Spaces Group, but wag press office, as so many people do, visited our welshcountry website and spotted the Open Spaces post. We were then in trouble because we as Welsh Country hadn’t gone back to the press office to give them a right of reply! Apparently the press office expects a right of reply on issues/articles that relate to the Welsh Government, which they say they get from all other Welsh media. So the Welsh Government press office now class welshcountry.co.uk as ‘merely a depository for unchallenged press releases’ and believe we should make that clear on our site. I’m perfectly happy with welshcountry.co.uk, I’m thrilled with visitor numbers we get on our site and the positve feedback we get from it too! If we had the time and the staff to read through in detail every press release we post and thenh if wag was mentioned I might consider doing just that, but it seems they are ok with my chasing them up three times for a question I wanted answered. The press office appear unconcerned that we do not post any Welsh Government press releases on welshcountry.co.uk  or in Welsh Country magazine, not sure why that is……..

I find this attitude petty and pointless and achieves nothing apart from the press office trying to stamp their influence on Welsh Country magazine. This is the second occasion the wag press office have refused to answer my questions, I find it simply annoying and frustrating. So no questions answered through the press office but thank goodness the Freedom Of Information Act, (FOI), is still an option open to me,  albeit it takes 20 days to achieve that. Perhaps if wag press office were funding their own office and staff and were not being paid for by the tax payer, they’d realised how expensive and time consuming the FOI is. Yes I realise I’m being harsh and unfair as it’s unrealistic for me to expect civil servants to understand the difference between civil servants and those running businesses.

Anyway the latest news on food festival funding for 2017 is there isn’t any. Food festivals that are advertising this year will of course get our support in Welsh Country magazine, on our website and of course on social media too but if/when a list of Welsh Government funded food festivals is ‘sent’ through to me it will as always be sent around our Best Of Welsh & Border producers and then posted on welshfoodbites.co.uk.

Sorry I can’t give you the information you are asking me for but that’s the situation we are in.

 
 

Taste Wales – Is It Only Me Confused?

13 Dec

Ian showed me a mini piece from Wales Business Insider, WBI, which is a B2B regional title, saying as follows: Taste Wales – Food-focused trade show and conference gathering producers with UK and international buyers. It’s expected to include partnering sessions for producers and buyers to make contacts; a showcase of Welsh products; insight into innovation, skills development and business support; and an evening reception.

Well dear readers, isn’t this interesting? WBI is a regional title, one of five regional titles published. Forgive me for stating the obvious here, but Welsh Country magazine is a Welsh title, published for 13 years and focusing heavily on Welsh food and drink, but have we been sent details of this event? No we haven’t. Why not? Well maybe that question is best directed to the Welsh Government, or perhaps the Welsh press office………………..but as I’m not supposed to talk to wag and the Welsh Government press office have refused to answer any further questions from Welsh Country magazine, I’m stuck!

Using Google, I typed in ‘Taste Wales’ TW, and ignoring the food delivery business running under that same name, I got directed to Business Wales. Once on that site I searched for Taste Wales and was told to refine my search, but Food and Drink and Growing Together then showed. Scrolling down under Information, 8 headers were shown but no Taste Wales. Scroll down again and found 2 headers for News & for Events. Click on Events and guess what showed up first? Taste Wales! Other events showed up along the same line, not in date order, but why would I expect that to happen? I guess it’s my job to search and it seems it is wag’s job to not make that too easy.

All I’m asking is for wag and wag food to keep me, as a journalist, updated, particularly on the Weksh food and drink front. Then if I think it relevant I shall tell my Welsh Country readers but will most certainly keep readers updated on welshfoodbites and send any food and drink press releases to our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers. In a nutshell I’m trying to help Welsh food and drink. I just didn’t think it would be so difficult getting that message across to wag.

 

 
 

Scottish Government Considers Enshrining The Right To Food

18 Nov

Following a report by the Independent Working Group on food poverty, the Scottish Government is considering enshrining the ‘right to food’ in Scots Law. Enshrining this in law would in effect make the government responsible for ensuring everybody has access to affordable food. The Independent Working Group wants to not only give people further opportunities to access nutritious food, but also to experience community meals and develop culinary skills, with the belief that this would do more to counter the problem of long-term food poverty.

The Scottish Government provides funding for the Food For Life Catering Mark which encourages schools to meet standards in provision of fresh, traceable food meeting nutrition guidelines. Over one third of Scottish primary schools now serve FFL Catering Mark meals.

Interesting news from Scotland.

 
 

Wales To Host Great Taste Judging Roadshow

18 Nov

Regular readers will not be surprised – that wag food didn’t tell me this – but Lesley Griffiths, Wag’s Cabinet Secretary for the Environment and Rural Affairs, has announced that Wales will host judging of Great Taste 2017’s Welsh entries to Great Taste 2017 on home soil.

The judging will form part of the eight week process where 10,000 products from the UK and beyond will be assessed by hundreds of independent judges.

Apparently the Cabinet Secretary announced the news at a celebration event for 2016’s Welsh Great Taste winners but seemingly her team didn’t think this worthy news to tell the Welsh media. Obviously no publicity required.

It remains a mystery to me that wag food still have learnt how to communicate to Welsh food and drink producers or the Welsh media. For me it is commonsense but as we frequently say in our Welsh Country magazine office, commonsense is not commonly available, and certainly not, it appears in wag food. That’s such a shame as it’s another opportunity lost and with Welsh food and drink supposedly being so important to wag, you have to ask why this is?

You really couldn’t make this up …………………….

 

 
 

Welsh Cheese In Aldi?

16 Nov

The reason I ask is that I was looking through their Christmas and New Year booklet – all 50 pages of it. As I’m a cheese lover of course I’d to look at the double-page feature – titled Glorious Cheese – and searched for Welsh cheeses. Well that didn’t take long because as you might know if you’re a Welsh cheese producer, or an Aldi shopper, there’s little Welsh cheese in stocked in Aldi in Wales. So no Welsh cheeses in this feature although there was Cornish Blue, Yorkshire Blue, Buxton Blue and plenty of French cheeses too.

We’ve a number of top Welsh cheese producers in our Best Of Welsh & Borders listing so I thought I’d take some time yesterday, Tuesday 15th to direct my displeasure through the Aldi press office. This I’ve done and had an acknowledgement, but nothing further. At least I’ve tried and I can only hope wag food are trying hard as well.

I seem to be on a cheese theme this week as I also posted today the good news that South Caernarfon Creameries, SCC, have got a selection of their cheddars into all Lidl stores in Wales. We were so chuffed to hear this news and as SCC are with us on Best Of Welsh & Borders, Ian took to Twitter saying shame that Aldi cannot have Welsh cheeses in the Christmas platter. That was quickly responded to by Aldi with them saying: thank you for taking the time to leave feedback; we’ll pass this onto the relevant team.

Goodness knows if anything else will happen and of course it’s too late now for Christmas, but maybe it just might Aldi think again about stocking some of the wonderful array of food and drink that we have in Wales. Welsh food and drink should be stocked at least in Welsh branches of Aldi and Lidl. Of course I’m aware that not too many of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers wish to go the supermarket route but for those that do wag food should be helping them on this journey.

As I keep saying I hope the wag food team are on this case ………………………..

 
 

Great Taste Awards, Freedom Question No. 10815

26 Oct

Great Taste Awards are now the leading food awards in Wales following the abandonment of the True Taste Awards, of which much has been posted on this blog.

When wag – in it’s ‘wisdom’ – decided it would drop the True Taste Awards there was huge consternation amongst food and drink producers. The main sticking point was that producers were not allowed any input to wag food before they made their decision. Well let’s be honest, there’s no change there, as wag food do not communicate with producers, a fact we’ve established and tried to change, but to no avail. Our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers are always sent any food press releases I receive but that is very few indeed. But we do send around by email any food and drink related items that we think might be useful to our BOW producers. Anyway back the Great Taste Awards, (GTA). I’ve been asked so many times what is wag’s involvement and what does amuse me is producers think wag food actually tell me. Oh, if only that actually happened, then I wouldn’t have to send through so many Welsh food and drink related questions through the Freedom Of Information, (FOI)  system. But the fact of the matter is we are where we are, wag food don’t talk to me so I have no other option but to use the FOI system. Here’s my latest one and I’ve published this in full apart from the obligatorypiece where wag food tell me if I’m not happy I can ask for a review, which wag food then call a complaint and only if I’m then still not satisfied I can go to the Information Commissioners Office. So here are the questions asked and wag food’s answers:

The information you requested is below.

  1. How much money has the Welsh Government given to the Guild of Fine Food for the years 2015 & 2016?
  2. What proportion of this is targeted specifically at the Great Taste Awards?

The Guild of Fine Food has received £49,080 from the Welsh Government for the years 2015 and 2016 with £4,800 targeted specifically at the Great Taste Awards, see below.

2015/16 £44,280 19/04/15 Hosting Great Taste judging of Welsh entries

2015/16 £ 2,400 29/06/15 Sponsorship for 2015 Awards

2016/17 £ 2,400 08/04/16 Sponsorship for 2016 Awards

In June 2015, the Welsh Government hosted the judging of Welsh entries over a three day period at the St David’s Hotel, Cardiff Bay. The judging, which was arranged and staged by the Guild of Fine Food, hosted up to 70 judges including food writers, bloggers, chefs, producers and buyers.

  1. What were the Welsh Government’s objectives in giving money to the Great Taste Awards?

The overall objective in sponsoring the awards and hosting the judging of the Welsh entries in 2015 was to further raise the profile and awareness of the range of highly innovative, quality and great tasting food and drink produced in Wales.

  1. How were the Welsh Government’s objectives achieved?

Our objectives were achieved by inviting the press and media to the judging; having journalists and food critics visit Wales; undertaking case studies of previous winners; issuing press notices; and through social media, national and regional print.

  1. How were the Welsh Government’s objectives measured?

In supporting the above elements of the Great Taste Awards, we have been able to raise the profile of Welsh successes in the awards. More than 4.5 million people were reached through online and print coverage, measured using print and online circulation figures and radio listening-ship figures.

The Great Taste Awards website, has on average 7,500 visitors per calendar month, and featured our Welsh winners. The Guild of Fine Food promoted the Judging in Wales through their social media channel, @guildoffinefoods with 18,500 followers, and also through press notices.

Yours sincerely

Deputy Director Food Division

Well let me start at the end of my reply from the Deputy Director Food Division, well not signed which I find rather rude, but who is the DDFD? Well waste more time Kath and search Google to find out that this posh title belongs to a Mr. David Morris. But shall I ignore the fact that my reply was only dated as October – with actually no date…………………..

Anyway back to the core of this post. The bonus of sending through an FOI is that I must get a response within 20 days, which to me a long time, but I do appreciate how busy our civil servants are and I do know the timescale. However I’m looking at wag food’s figures and still wondering what this £50k over two years has achieved. To be told wag hosted the judging of Welsh entries in 2015, in Cardiff of course, for up to 70 judges, including food writers, bloggers, chefs, producers and buyers seriously made me chuckle as this is the Welsh government who have told me on a very regular basis that – The Welsh Government doesn’t engage with the blogging community. I can only assume then in this case it was the Great Taste organisers that invited members of the blogging community!

So how were wag food’s objectives achieved? Well inviting the press and media to the judging; having journalists and food critics, undertaking case studies of previous winners; issuing press notices; and through social media, national and regional press. Oh dear, so where does that leaves Welsh Country magazine? www.welshcountry.co.uk. Still out in the cold I can hear you yelling and I would have to agree. In 2015 and 2016 I was not invited to the judging as a member of press, although in 2015 I was invited to judge. I declined that offer as I had always understood GTA judges were top chefs, food critics or expert food and drink producers, so I didn’t think I qualified to judge such an important competition, but that’s another learning curve for me. I’d also like to know in column inches how much national and regional print was achieved. To say more than 4.5 million people reached through online and print coverage is vague to say the least and I’d prefer a more detailed breakdown, but there we are – that’s only my take on it.

 
 

Guess What? Another Food Festival Organiser Conference …….

23 Sep

My thanks to the thoughtful person who sent me details of a Welsh Food Festival Conference being held next month and organised by wag food. Apparently wag food are holding another conference because the one held earlier this year was such a success. It’s no surprise to me hearing second-hand about this conference because that’s how I found out about the first one. That’s what happens when you’re not on wag food’s mailing list! Wag food must have their own agenda for not telling a journalist who is so supportive of Welsh food and drink that this conference was happening. Welsh Country magazine is trying its best to back Welsh food and drink, it’s just a shame wag food don’t understand that. So of course I’m back on my soapbox about the lack of communication and just wishing wag food could grasp that communication really is the key.

Would it be too difficult to send out to food journalist the agenda and minutes or outcomes of these conferences? Sorry that was a stupid question because it hasn’t happened, wag food obviously not thinking it worth their time. After all it does take time sending out a couple of emails………………..

Wag Food sent this email out under a save the date communication. Apparently an agenda and full itinerary will follow in due course.

I can only assume it will be a fairly brief ‘conference’ as wag food tell me:

Food Festivals need to manage their own commercial decisions with regards to management, operations of their events. Each event should also maintain feedback, as part of their Quality- Systems and to maintain or better their producer / visitor experience in the future. The feedback forms do not come to Welsh Government. As you will appreciate each Food Festival is responsible to organise their own exhibiting area and food producers. This commercial situation has nothing to do with WG commissioned research and who exhibits is a matter for the said organiser.

Sure there are some Welsh food and drink producers who‘d like to be flies on the wall for that one!

 
 

Scottish Food Manufacturing Growing Twice As Fast As UK Average

08 Sep

Whilst I’m being bashed from pillar to post by wag food seemingly because I’m a journalist asking them questions they’ve no wish to answer, I’m chuffed that the Scottish Government are talking  to me. Mind you, if I were the Scottish Government I’d be broadcasting this news to all and sundry. Scotland says their annual turnover for the food and drink industry reached record levels of £14.4 billion in 2014. It makes sense that they wish to crow that these latest figures also reveal that their food manufacturing sector grew at twice the rate of the UK average, increasing by 43 per cent in Scotland compared to 21 per cent in the UK from 2008-2014. I’d like to give you the reciprocal figures from Wales, but ‘as yet’ I’ve not been sent any and haven’;t bothered asking them for those figures either!

On 4th September, at the start of Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity Fergus Ewing said: “The food and drink sector continues to be one of our most successful and that success shows no sign of slowing down. The industry is vital to Scotland – it creates jobs and wealth, impacts on health and sustainability, and helps attract people to the country by promoting our food and drink around the globe. This record turnover means that the sector is making good progress towards meeting the 2017 target of £16.5 billion, which has been set by Scotland Food & Drink. We are committed to doing all we can in government to support the growth of food and drink production and the contribution it makes to Scotland’s economy. Behind all of these figures are the drive and determination of the people who make up the industry – their hard work is key to ensuring, that Scotland’s food and drink is a success.”

Scotland Food & Drink Chief Executive James Withers also welcomed the announcement. Withers said: “These are great figures and testament to a transformation in food and drink activity in Scotland over the last few years. The sector is not without challenges and uncertainty, but for a sector whose growth was stagnant a few years ago, this has been a major turnaround. The Scottish industry is now being recognised internationally for how it has embraced collaboration to grow, forging a stronger global reputation for our products. Opportunities still abound at home and overseas. We’re investing in developing new customers across the UK and in key international markets. That work, alongside deeper partnership working between different industry bodies and government, will be the key to success in the coming years and central to a new 2030 strategy to be launch early next year.”

Now let me start off by saying Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight, well what a great idea, when is Welsh  Food & Drink Fortnight? Well that’s a good question, but do we have a Welsh Food & Drink Fortnight? Or is this something Welsh Country magazine and welshfoodbites.co.uk has missed? We are here with a huge passion to support Welsh food and drink so it would be a poor deal if we’ve not been told about it. Scotland’s Food & Drink target for 2017 is £16.5 billion, and they remain committed as a government to support the growth of food and drink production and the contribution it makes to Scotland’s economy. To me this is great news for Scotland and makes me think in the Scottish government is not just words from them but action to ensure their food and drink industry does grow. My fear for Wales, as it has been for far too long, is Wales is good on words, but fails on actual action. In my view we lack joined up writing. Yes of course Wales has action plans, I’ve lost count of how many action plans we’ve had over the last decade, my concern is that Wales seems to lack the capacity to turn any action plan into growth.