Hub launches to support food businesses

L-R Dr Liz Charles, with Anne Mellanby from Mellanby’s, a fruit and vegetable supplier from Hutton Henry, and Keith Gill, manager of the new Durham Food Hub.

Hub launches to support food businesses

County Durham food businesses are being supported by a new initiative to help them take their products to market.

Durham Food Hub has been created as part of plans to champion small, independent retailers across the county.

The hub is now ready to fully launch, after building up support since the beginning of the year. The man behind the Phileas Fogg snack company, Keith Gill, is leading the programme, along with Dr Liz Charles.

Keith said: “Consumers have been aware of where the food we eat comes from and have been interested in sourcing products that are made closer to home for some years now. However, main issue for local producers has been limited distribution as well as, in some cases, making their products fit for different sales channels.

“In County Durham we are fortunate that there are so many wonderful food producers who, with a bit of help, could see their goods selling on the open market not just here in the county but nationally too.

“What we’ll do is work with them to assess where they are in the business journey, from conception to consumption, to develop their individual plans including which sales channels and distribution are the best for them and then determine what support they need to get their products out into the public arena.”

Food sales make a significant contribution to County Durham’s economy, bringing in around 38% of the £800m economic value.

As part of Durham Food Hub’s team is working in partnership with Visit County Durham to create a ‘Taste Durham Welcome Pack’, which will be distributed across County Durham and will include 12 specially selected food products made by food producers in the county.

Michelle Gorman, managing director of Visit County Durham, said: “Food and drink are strong drivers for visitors when selecting where they wish to spend their time and these novel welcome packs will help forge a much stronger link with food from Durham by introducing guests to a selection of unique local produce.

“Our collaborative approach also presents local suppliers with a direct route to market and will drive awareness of the diversity and variety of the county’s food and drink, celebrate excellence and provide our visitors with a unique taste of Durham.”

Durham Food Hub is being managed by Durham Community Action, a charity which has been supporting the local community since 1935 in social welfare, promoting health, supporting volunteer groups and enabling enterprises.