Cotswold food and drink co-operative enters new era

Fiona Scott
CotswoldTaste Fiona Scott

Cotswold Taste, the cooperative organisation set up by entrepreneur Nick Waloff to celebrate and promote the food and drink sector in the area, has recruited a new chair after its founder passed away from Covid last year, at the age of 69.

Nick, who was well known in the food and drink industry throughout the UK, lived in Lechlade and was at the heart of Cotswold Taste since its creation five years ago.

His friend and co-director, Chris Leibbrandt, said: “I was lucky enough to know Nick for the last half a dozen years and in that time he became a very dear friend. Nick had a vision of collaboration, co-operation and fair play. He sought to change the lives of all those whom he touched. He was the driving force behind Cotswold Taste, those of us who are left will now have to work hard to fulfil his legacy.”

At the annual general meeting held earlier this month, new volunteer directors have been elected to take Cotswold Taste onwards. One of their first actions was to create one tier of membership at £100 a year which will be charged from January 2022 – all membership fees were suspended for existing members during the pandemic when so many businesses faced difficult or even impossible trading conditions.

New chairman Fiona Scott said: “We hope to do Nick proud and to take Cotswold Taste on and support members and future members to be more visible and more connected across the UK in this important sector.

“We plan to hold our first in-person event this year, Covid19 restrictions allowing and we are seeking funding to upgrade our website and increase our social media profile. These things will take time however we are positive about the future of the cooperative.”

Joining Fiona as a director is Dr Richard Baines, who is the principal consultant at Agri-business & Community Development, a consultancy aimed at bridging the gap between producers and consumers through the sustainability eyepiece of economic viability, environmental responsibility and social acceptability.

Richard said: “Having been an associate member for two years, I believe Cotswold Taste has the potential to support local food systems and, through our links to Food from England, we can also seek to influence Government to support local food.

Taking on the joint role as secretary are Caroline Topping of Gap Sales & Marketing Services Ltd based in Cheltenham and Nicky Hardy of NH Associates. Both are members of the Chartered Institute of Marketing.

Caroline, who is an expert in sales and marketing strategy, said: “It’s great that we are carrying on Nick’s legacy with a team of people that worked alongside Nick. I’m so excited about Cotswold Taste and the things to come.”

And Nicola is a freelance research consultant and analyst, specialising in the food and drink sector, supporting businesses with market intelligence and business information.

Nicola said: “Buying local has recently become even more important. Going forward Cotswold Taste is well placed to support and promote local food and drink producers and, in the process, reduce food miles and bring Cotswold consumers and producers closer together.”

Over time, the directors will set up specialist panels as part of Cotswold Taste covering food & drink producers, technical support and communications. They will also look to organise more in-person events and provide business training for members who wish to upskill.