As the 2018 British Food Fortnight kicks off (from September 22 – October 7), HMRC figures reveal that exports of South West food and drink increased to £760 million in the year to March 2018, an increase of severn per cent compared to the previous 12 months.
British Food Fortnight is the biggest annual, national celebration of British food and drink. It was established in the wake of the Foot and Mouth crisis, in response to the fact that, though there are numerous food initiatives, projects and events taking place across Britain, there was no overall flagship event to bring them to the public’s attention.
Across the South West, the most popular products from the region overseas were meat (£97 million) and dairy products and eggs (£148 million).
But it’s not just about exporting. The Midcounties Co-operative’s Best of Our Counties programme, which champions British produce by sourcing the best quality food and drink from the counties it trades in, has enabled producers throughout Oxfordshire to secure their first national retailer product listing.
British Honey Co is one of the Oxfordshire suppliers that has benefitted from its collaboration with The Midcounties Co-operative. The partnership began in August 2016, when the company’s artisan honey secured its first major UK retailer listing through the Best of Our Counties range.
Since then the British Honey Co has blossomed; in 2017 it was able to expand its range of products by launching an assortment of spirits infused with a honey twist. The line has proven incredibly popular since being introduced to over 50 Midcounties Co-operative Food stores in the UK.
The Midcounties Co-operative recently provided additional support by helping The British Honey Company explore further avenues for expansion, such as its newly-developed variety of artisan jams infused with a kick of gin. The jams are currently stocked in three stores, with plans to expand further soon.
The HMRC statistics also show that more firms in the South West are targeting China, with 24 per cent more food and drink exported to the country during the period, when compared to the previous twelve months.
The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department for International Trade (DIT) have been supporting food and drink businesses in the region as part of the Food is GREAT campaign, the UK Government’s cross department initiative to showcase UK food and drink overseas and to help firms to export.
Food Minister George Eustice said: “Our food is known for its high quality and great taste and there has been a huge growth in the worldwide demand for British produce.
“Through the Food is GREAT campaign the government provides invaluable support to food and drink companies in the South West so they can access foreign markets and see their businesses grow.
“I hope these latest figures – which show the success of local businesses who have branched out abroad – will encourage other firms to take the first step in their exporting journey”
As part of Defra and DIT’s support, a number of South West based companies have been able to visit overseas markets around the world on trade missions recently, including the Food and Hotel China (FHC) show in Shanghai and Gulfood in Dubai.
Paul Shand, Head of Export – South West at the Department for International Trade (DIT), said: “Many South West food and drink firms, from breweries to cheesemongers and crisp makers to ice cream producers, are already benefitting from a growing overseas appetite for local produce.”