Demand for local produce continues to rise across the country and, given the backdrop of political and social trends, many farmers are taking the opportunity to be proud of their produce’s heritage. Danusia Osiowy finds out more.
There has been a resurgence in buying local produce as British consumers wake up to the idea of better shopping, and new research suggests the trend will continue.
Nearly one-third of consumers are buying more British products since the UK voted to leave the European Union in 2016, according to pricing specialist Simon-Kucher and Partners.
The company has been tracking the impact of the referendum on buying choices for the past three years and its latest survey shows 30 per cent of consumers report buying more Britishbranded products, a ratio that has climbed from 24 per cent in April 2018.
The findings also suggest British consumers report an increase in purchasing local produce, such as fruit and vegetables and cheeses, and spending more money on British brands.
The report echoes similar sentiments expressed by consumers in research published by Defra, which revealed 60 per cent of shoppers agreed they tried to buy British food whenever they could, and 76 per cent agreed it was important to support British farmers.
According to supply chain standards organisation GS1, consumption of local British food and drink has enjoyed a renaissance as consumers seek out food and drink which demonstrates local heritage, transparency and provenance.
Chief executive Gary Lynch says buying British and local is now hugely back in vogue.
He says: “The upswing in the demand for authentic heritage products and the increased popularity of small, local suppliers can be attributed to a number of factors.
“There has been a shift in what it means to be British and a resurgence in patriotic pride, with the Union Jack no longer the sole preserve of football hooligans.
“No single event was responsible; think of it more of a conflationary cocktail, one part Great British Bake Off, a dash of Keep Calm and Carry On and a spritz of the London 2012 Olympics, all muddled together with a blend of other ingredients.
“One thing is certain: buying British has never been so fashionable.”
In 2017 Morrisons announced The Nation’s Local Foodmakers campaign which has launched more than 150 farmers and other local food producers into its stores nationwide, tailoring products to reflect local tastes.
The move allows customers to buy local food that has been grown, made, picked or packaged within 35 miles of the store. Here, we speak to two producers to find out more.
RAZAN Alsous came to the UK after fleeing the war in Syria in 2012 with her husband and three young children. After recognising the quality of British milk and struggling to find her family’s favourite Halloumi cheese, she began looking into starting her own business.
Through research, Razan discovered Britain was the biggest consumer of Halloumi in Europe, and realised the key ingredient was surrounding her every day.
“The quality of Yorkshire milk is excellent, much creamier with a high percentage of solids,” says Razan, who has a degree in pharmaceuticals and a strong background in microbiology.
“In Syria, the best Halloumi is made in spring when grass is new and green, but here the climate is more consistent for good pasture, so milk is more consistent in quality.”
With a small business loan, she started manufacturing in June 2014 and after just four months of production she won the World Cheese Award bronze prize, taking the gold accolade the year after.
Now branded Yorkshire Squeaky Cheese, thanks to its signature texture, her Halloumi went on sale in Morrisons stores last year via The Nation’s Local Foodmakers campaign, and now currently stands at 275 stores nationwide.
Razan says: “The initiative encourages small producers to grow and work in a professional way.”
The 1,000 litres of milk is collected daily from a local dairy farmer and turned into about 2,500 blocks of Halloumi each week, with flavours including rosemary, smoked and chilli.
Razan says: “The business is also working on producing Halloumi from 100 per cent goat’s milk, and hopefully we can increase the current amount and cover all needs in the market.”
LOVERS of Dartmoor’s iconic landscape can now ‘taste the view’ by purchasing prime lamb from a selection of Morrisons stores as part of its local campaign, sourcing lambs from the Dartmoor Farmers’ Association.
In 2007, supported by HRH The Prince of Wales, the Dartmoor Farmers Association was formed. It currently has about 70 members.
Its aim is to promote the area’s livestock, environment and the infamous landscape enjoyed by thousands of people every day.
Member and third-generation Dartmoor farmer Mat Cole farms 809 hectares (2,000 acres) and says many of the participating families have farmed in the area for generations and the formation of the association has been a major breakthrough for farmers.
He says: “Traditionally, Dartmoor farmers compete over the same piece of land on the commons and it has been a real game-changer to work together as an association rather than compete against each other.”
The livestock reared on the farms are predominantly native breeds which are able to withstand extremes of weather experienced during a typical year on Dartmoor.
Many are born on the hill and grazed on semi-natural habitats, which contributes to a premium product boasting a superior flavour and texture to the meat.
Mat says: “Last year we supplied 5,000 lambs into Morrisons stores and, going forwards, we are hoping to grow that and absorb as much lamb off Dartmoor and through our season.
“Our love and passion is our livestock so welfare is our greatest concern. We now feel as if we are being valued and not just taking a price we are being given.
Members of the association are involved in agri-environment schemes and also sign up to a set of principles which look to reduce food miles and ensure traceability.
Among the group’s objectives is to seek and share skills and knowledge with future generations of farmers and help develop a sustainable farming future.
Mat says: “Dartmoor is a fantastic landscape. It has been a farmed landscape for thousands of years. We just hope to pick up where our ancestors left and we will take that forward and leave it in as good, if not better, condition for the next generation.”
SAM Gaudie was originally a Yorkshire organic dairy farmer, but began diversifying in 2003.
His business initially produced clotted cream, then moved on to yoghurt, but it was a hobby business for many years, says Sam.
He says: “We just did a few farmers markets and the odd farm shop. We did not push it and did not sell a great deal, even though it was well-liked.”
After completing his A-levels, Sam took some time out to travel. He says: “I knew I wanted to come home to the farm and I wanted to develop the yoghurt business, so that is what I did at the end of 2017.”
His first task was to oversee the rebranding of the yoghurt product and, inspired by the popularity of pouring yoghurt in Scandinavia, changed the packaging from a pot to a bottle, then set about finding outlets for the product.
He says: “We could see there was big potential for the businessand knew we had a product people liked, but it was not widely available.
“We visited a few farm shops with samples, but it is quite hard work getting people to take you on, especially when you are new and unknown.”
Joining Morrisons’ The Nation’s Local Foodmakers programme really opened doors.
Sam says: “Through the programme we got to meet people at Morrisons and get feedback on our products.
“It is great to know what people think about your product and whether you need to make any changes. It gave us confidence.
“We started in 30 stores and now supply Morrisons with three products.
“It has definitely been a good thing for us. Just having the experience of dealing with a supermarket is really helpful and helps you give consumers what they want, so it keeps you focused.”
Sam hopes the increasing interest in organic, local food products will help sales continue to grow.
“Everyone is becoming more aware of the environment, food miles and where their food comes from.
“Customers are also interested in natural, organic products, which all of our products are.
“All the milk we use comes from our cows and you can even see the cows out in the field from where we produce the yoghurt.”
FARMERS and food producers can apply for The Nation’s Local Foodmakers campaign at any time and can then be invited to an event where they can showcase their food to customers and buyers with a view to supplying Morrisons stores in the local area.
To register or find out more, visit my.morrisons.com/foodmakers
FARMERS across the UK are pledging their support for this year’s 24 Hours in Farming. You can take part on any social media platform including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, from 5am on Thursday, August 8.
We want to know about your typical working day and any other activities you might be involved in, such as hosting farm visits, meeting fellow farmers or professionals, attending meetings or adopting new strategies on-farm.
Throughout the day, FG will be encouraging engagement by commenting, sharing and collating posts into stories throughout the whole event.
Download your free 24 Hours in Farming poster to share with others on your site, or send in a picture pledging your support, at FGinsight.com/24HoursinFarming