New fine food ‘cluster’ to support Welsh artisan firms
The Welsh Government has launched a drive to boost artisan food businesses in Wales by backing a new network of producers designed to share knowledge, improve quality and create new jobs.
The Fine Food Wales Cluster will comprise a network of small food companies with high quality products and ambitions to grow, who will come together with the support of the Welsh government and its marketing support company, Mentor a Business.
Other key partners include Food Innovation Wales and the Food Industry Centre at Cardiff Metropolitan University.
The programme will includes networking events, workshops and mentoring, funded by the Welsh Government. Companies will share best practise and work together to overcome barriers such as lack of scale and logistical problems in reaching new markets.
Another key objective is to build on Wales’ record winning haul of Great Taste awards in2015. The country scooped 174 awards this year, including 10 three-star golds.
The number of Welsh products entered rose by around 25% this year, but the Government is keen to encourage more businesses to develop and enter high quality products.
A number of companies have already signed up as ‘food ambassadors’, including Monmouthshire based Apple County Cider, which scooped a three-star award for its Vilberie medium dry cider, and fruity vinegar producer Beri Da.
Deputy Minister for Farming & Food Rebecca Evans said the new cluster would work within the wider Welsh Government strategy of nurturing Wales as an area of food excellence, whether small artisan businesses or those that had reached large-scale production and distribution.
Evans said established Welsh food brands including Rachel’s and Halen Mon had seen their early “drive for excellence” rewarded in the shape of rapid growth.
“We all know how high the quality of Welsh food and drink is, and the launch of this cluster seeks to reinforce these foundations further through providing a web of like-minded food ambassadors for the industry.”
The new business plan was announced at an event at the Pierhead in Cardiff Bay last week which showcased Welsh winners of Great Taste awards. It was organised by Bwyd a Diod Cymru – Food and Drink Wales, the Welsh Government’s marketing organisation that promotes Welsh produce at home and abroad.
Speaking at the launch, John Farrand, managing director of the Guild of Fine Food, which organises the awards, encouraged more Welsh food and drink producers to enter the scheme.
“Use the valuable platform that Great Taste accreditation brings, and build the profile of Welsh produce to a worldwide audience, which we know is eager to source from the list of Great Taste award-winners,” he urged.
The Welsh Government wants to increase food and drink sales by 30% to £7 billion, and has already issued an action plan to do so, Food for Wales, Food from Wales 2010:2020 – Food Strategy for Wales.