Small and medium sized food producers from County Durham are snapping up support to get their products to market.

The Durham Food and Drink Network is helping producers of all sizes, who are making tasty and distinctive food and drink products but don’t know how to take the next step to selling them on a wider scale.

In the four months since it launched, the programme has engaged a number of businesses from County Durham, including breweries, drinks manufacturers, meat processers, a specialist tea producer and Clean Bean, the clean eating café in Seaham, who are all being given tailored assistance to commercialise their products.

Durham Food and Drink Network is being jointly delivered by South Durham Enterprise Agency, East Durham Business Service and CDC Enterprise Agency as part of Business Durham’s Durham Business Opportunities Programme (DBOP), funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

Steve Robson is from South Durham Enterprise Agency. He said: “Following the launch of our network we received a number of enquiries from businesses that were keen to access the intensive support available.

“In the months since, the first cohort of micro and small businesses have tapped into the tailored packages of assistance which we developed for them, helping them to get their products to the point where they can be taken to market.

“The food industry is a significant contributor to County Durham’s economic prosperity, however there are still many barriers that exist which are preventing some of our smaller producers making the impact which their products have the potential to achieve.”

Statistics compiled by Business Durham show:

  • 7,000 food and drink manufacturing businesses in the UK
  • 97 per cent employ under 50 people
  • Companies within the food and drink sector employ 400,000 people and needs 140,000 new recruits by 2024
  • GVA generated was £28bn in 2016 – 16 per cent of total manufacturing GVA
  • Globally recognised for R&D with £430m invested in 2015
  • Regional turnover in food manufacturing £1.5bn in 2015 with GVA of £592m

Sarah Slaven, Operations Director at Business Durham said: “People are so much more aware of the food they eat and as a nation we are becoming increasingly foody, with a real desire to purchase products made locally.

“However, in the County Durham area we know there is so much more we can be doing to help our producers with a tangible route to market, as we are still lagging behind our regional counterparts in Yorkshire, Northumberland and Cumbria.

“What we want to do is identify companies within the sectors, and work with them to determine what factors are preventing them from growing. This could be helping them understand how to properly label or market a product, finding and managing resources and funding and overcoming issues which are holding their business back.

“We know there is enormous potential for the food and drinks sector in County Durham, the key is offering businesses within it the support which could enable them to take their product to a larger and more diverse audience of customers.”

Durham Food and Drink Network will offer businesses the opportunity to take a minimum of 12 hours of support, some of which is funded and some of which must be paid for by the businesses themselves – however subsidised rates will be applied when businesses are making contributions.

The programme will look at various areas which are perceived as constraints to growth, as well as opportunities which exist for producers to target new markets. These include:

  • Marketing
  • Access to networks
  • Talent attraction
  • Logistics and distribution
  • Labelling
  • Production equipment
  • Access to funding

The aim is to make sure that only those businesses that are serious about taking their products to market sign up.