The North East’s food and drink community played a crucial role in an important visit in February, when it hosted the Defra team leading the National Food Strategy, Government’s first in-depth review of the UK food system in 75 years.
Coordinated by the newly-launched Food and Drink North East (FaDNE), a community interest company focused on driving sustainable growth in the region’s food and drink sector, the visit highlighted entrepreneurship, key heritage sectors requiring investment, and some innovative responses to social and environmental issues such as food poverty and waste.
The day-long tour comprised visits to Newcastle West End Foodbank, one of the biggest in the UK; Greggs’ headquarters, where regional food partnerships discussed the role of corporates in tackling issues around food sustainability; the Grainger Market, recently named ‘Britain’s Favourite Market’; and North Shields Fish Quay, which will celebrate its 800 year anniversary in 2025.
While the tour took place, FaDNE, in collaboration with RTC North and the Department for International Trade, brought companies from the sector together in a series of workshops designed to guide strategies for scaling operations, targeting retailers, and marketing and branding.
The day ended with an event to celebrate the quality and diversity of the food drink sector, as well as the launch of Food and Drink North East.
The National Food Strategy is being led by Henry Dimbleby, co-founder of Leon Restaurants and the Sustainable Restaurant Association, who was appointed lead non-executive board member of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in March 2018.
Commenting on the tour, Henry Dimbleby said:
“It was inspiring to see the way the food and drink community from across the North East are pulling together to strengthen their local food economy. This is the kind of collaboration and innovation we need to see replicated more widely, as we build sustainable food systems that are fit for the future.
“Thank you to everyone who gave us their time and insights on the visit; we learnt such a lot and the food and drink was delicious!”
Ian Pilkington, Chairman of Food and Drink North East, added:
“We were extremely proud to bring Henry Dimbleby and his team to our region, which has both a proud heritage, and bright future, in the food and drink sector. While the North East faces biting issues around food poverty and, like the rest of the country, food waste and sustainability, we believe we have among the most creative and energetic responses to those challenges and it was hugely satisfying to showcase a small selection of those individuals and businesses at our launch.
“Over the next year, FaDNE will be focused on bringing together the food and drink community for collaboration and sharing of best practice, as well as representing our passionate, regional sector through national and international advocacy work, such as the Defra review.”