Why our food and drink businesses need us

PUBLISHED: 19:00 19 May 2020

Catching up with friends and family at a Suffolk pub or restaurant is an important part of life in the county. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Catching up with friends and family at a Suffolk pub or restaurant is an important part of life in the county. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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As sponsors of Suffolk’s food and drink awards, 11 local businesses are championing a sector that sustains life in the county through good times and challenging times

Fans of previous Eat Suffolk Food and Drink Award winner Hullabaloo cafe in Ipswich, will be looking forward to being able to visit their favourite cafe once the Coronavirus pandemic is over. Picture: RACHEL EDGEFans of previous Eat Suffolk Food and Drink Award winner Hullabaloo cafe in Ipswich, will be looking forward to being able to visit their favourite cafe once the Coronavirus pandemic is over. Picture: RACHEL EDGE

One of the things we miss most during lockdown is a catch-up with friends and family at a local pub or cafe, over a locally brewed ale and a plate of delicious, locally sourced food.

Food and drink are important to our life in Suffolk - they sustain us but they’re also part of our proud agricultural heritage. Our producers and farmers, and our hospitality industry make a huge contribution to our local economy, generating wealth for the county and providing employment for thousands of individuals and families.

The Coronavirus pandemic has been particularly tough on them. They’ve worked hard to adapt the and flex to serve communities in different ways - with deliveries and takeaways, for example - but for this industry a return to ‘normality’ is still some way off, and there are considerable challenges and hurdles to overcome on the road to recovery.

Now, more than ever, it’s important to support these businesses that work so hard to produce, prepare and serve some of the best food and drink in the whole of the UK. For more than a decade, Suffolk’s Food and Drink Awards have been one way in which we’ve been able to recognise the industry’s achievements so we asked this year’s award sponsors – 11 businesses, all leaders in their own fields of enterprise – to tell us what makes Suffolk’s food and drink industry so special.

The Unruly Pig at Bromeswell, a previous winner in the Eat Suffolk Food and Drink Awards, is a local business that contributes to Suffolk's wellbeing. Picture: CLAUDIA GANNONThe Unruly Pig at Bromeswell, a previous winner in the Eat Suffolk Food and Drink Awards, is a local business that contributes to Suffolk's wellbeing. Picture: CLAUDIA GANNON

“Never has food and drink seemed so important,” says Mike Bowden, group marketing manager of Cory Brothers, sponsor of the Food Hero category. “Lockdown has brought us all a higher appreciation of home cooking and the supplies we want, need and love. The fridge is under stress, the kitchen cupboards have been swept and we’re planning meals again. So many of us are home baking new recipes, experimenting with exotic curries and we now have more time to cook a full English breakfast.”

Access to good ingredients, therefore, has also never seemed so important, which is where Cory Brothers comes in.

“Cory Brothers love food and drink too,” says Mike, “handling the international supply chain of foods and drink, from avocado pulp, nuts and prawns to tasty fruit rolls and more. Your breakfast, lunch and dinner is likely to include commodities we handle for our customers. Ambient, frozen, tinned, tetra packed, loose or bulk, Cory utilise all methods and modes for supply chain using a global network of our own offices and agents.”

Established in 1842, Cory Brothers offers a comprehensive range of services for shipowners, charterers and traders around the world. With its global headquarters in Ipswich, location is very important to Cory Brothers’ business, not least because of the local ports at Felixstowe and Ipswich.

“Also because it’s where so many of our talented staff live,” says Mike. “We’re located in the middle of Ipswich town, with great transport links nearby for the A12 and the railway station, and with a bumper crop of amazing cafes, bars and restaurants. We’re spoilt for choice and hope they all manage to open again very soon.

“As a nation of food lovers, we have a very international mix of favourite foods and ingredients, all of which are usually so available that we now take it for granted. We’re so used to the vast array of global foods within easy reach that even the major supermarkets have dedicated aisles stocked with these amazing options.

“Getting these international favourites into the UK and on the shop shelves presents a few challenges that Cory Brothers manage regularly, being vastly experienced at handling so many different food, drink and ingredients.”

“One of the pleasures of living and working in the fantastic county of Suffolk is being able to support the local business and farming communities on a daily basis,” says Rebecca Gatens, senior associate, agriculture & estates team at Ashtons Legal. “Our ongoing sponsorship of the Field to Fork category is based on the fact that we’re proud to act for many clients who play a part in the local food and drink community, whether they are at the ‘field’ or ‘fork’ end of the chain or somewhere in between.”

Having specialist teams dealing with agricultural legal work, commercial property, corporate, employment, disputes, transport, and regulatory and licensing work means Ashtons can support businesses at all levels, although the firm’s involvement in the Suffolk community runs even deeper as it has strong links with a range of charities, sports clubs and arts organisations. “We see it as part of our role as a regional business to help ensure that Suffolk continues to thrive for the enjoyment of future generations,” says Rebecca.

Headline sponsor Bidfood, who also sponsor Young Chef of the Year, admire Suffolk businesses that put locally sourced products at the heart of what they do, the passion that they show towards the county and the talent of their chefs, owners and staff.

Bidfood are local foodservice providers and an example of a business that has adapted to the challenge of Coronavirus. Their Stowmarket depot has a dedicated team working in partnership with local companies, helping to support them in achieving their business goals. It employs over 200 local people and services over 2,500 customers across the east from Ipswich to Hunstanton.

Bidfood like to go the extra mile, making life easier for businesses and helping them to grow. They’ve invested in building an infrastructure that keeps them close to their customers, offering a truly unique local service.

Always looking for new ways to service customers they are now offering a click and collect service at the depot to businesses and home consumers. You can register on bidfood.co.uk/homeconsumer

Sudbury based Caribbean Blinds, sponsors of Restaurant of the Year, focuses on enhancing lifestyles. “What better place to live or work than in Suffolk where we are fortunate to be surrounded by endless countryside and some of the best hospitality and leisure establishments, all of which enable us to live our very best life and enjoy the alfresco lifestyle,” they say.

The second-generation, family owned and run business designs and manufactures luxury external shading systems that transform the use, functionality and enjoyment of all types of spaces, including al fresco dining areas for restaurants and homes. This includes stylish patio awnings that provide instant shade and shelter, innovative external blinds that provide solar heat and light control, and award-winning, Outdoor Living Pods that provide all weather protection.

They enjoy the great variety that the Suffolk eating and drinking scene offers. “There is so much choice, so whatever the mood, there is an establishment that caters for it. From smart casual dining venues to vibrant drinking holes and everything between, just a short journey and our needs are catered for.”

“Suffolk is a beautiful county with picturesque coastline and many areas of outstanding beauty. I love the fantastic range of pubs and restaurants throughout the region offering an outstanding selection of dishes and cuisines,” says Garry Gardiner, director of operations at Castlemeadow Care, sponsor of Best Tea or Coffee Shop.

Castlemeadow Care, is an award-winning, Norfolk based company that delivers care services throughout care homes and retirement living. Founded in 1999, it owns and operates care homes across Norfolk and Suffolk providing residential, dementia and nursing care.

“I believe we have one of the best breweries in the country having Adnams in Southwold with an outstanding selection of ales and spirits,” continues Garry. “I am very partial to their Copper House gin. Fish and chips in Aldeburgh are a must on a warm summer evening with a relaxing walk through the beautifully historic village. I really look forward to the time when we can all enjoy what Suffolk has to offer again.”

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Roger Grosvenor is joint chief executive of the East of England Co-op, sponsor of Best Independent Food and Drink Retailer, and the largest independent retailer in East Anglia, providing food stores and specialist services to towns and villages across Suffolk, Essex, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire.

“As a co-operative we are run differently than other big organisations. Owned by our members, colleagues and communities, our focus always has been, and always will be, supporting the local people in our region.

“Championing food and drink producers creating delicious produce here on our doorstep is an important part of that support. Being a part of the food and drink industry in East Anglia is like being part of a large family. We celebrate local produce in our stores each day, working with over 100 producers to bring thousands of products to our shelves through our multi-award winning Sourced Locally initiative.

“We’re proud to reconnect our customers with food provenance and make it easy to shop local. There’s always a new, local treasure to be found – it’s just one of the reasons why we love Suffolk.”

That so many of us enjoy such a wide variety of high quality produce is thanks to companies like Fisher & Woods. Sponsor of Chef of the Year, Fisher & Woods was founded on over 50 years’ experience within the fresh produce industry. The company is based in Saffron Walden, Essex, where is has new purpose-built, refrigerated warehousing, that enables it to deliver the finest fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy products and a delicatessen range – plus items to suit their clients’ individual needs – the length and breadth of East Anglia, the Home Counties and London.

Fisher & Woods has a strong focus on supporting local and UK growers, including the best of Suffolk where possible. “We are so fortunate that Suffolk produces some stunning produce such as strawberries, asparagus, brassicas and more,” they say.

Read about how local producers and farmers are meeting the challenges of lockdown

As a specialist e-commerce and marketplaces food and drink agency, Marketplace Amp, sponsors of Pride of Suffolk, is proud to work with and support local food and drink producers and suppliers.

“Our region has a plethora of highly talented and skilled individuals and businesses that really help not only put Suffolk on the map but on the world-wide stage too,” say founders Matt and Aime Anderson. “Our fab clients include Eat Natural, Stokes sauces, HillFarm Oils and many more.

“The Suffolk food and drink scene is so diverse and the integrity and provenance of the products are world-class. There’s nothing better, as a consumer, to know you are supporting and enjoying local, seasonal, sustainably grown produce, that’s lovingly made.

“Food and drink consumers are now more savvy and well-informed than ever before. They’re looking for healthy and responsible food choices, fortified and functional foods that look good and taste good too. Shoppers have a strong interest in not only what the product is but transparency in how it is made and by whom – food and drink provenance is key. Our Suffolk businesses offer all that and more.”

Prosper Hospitality recruitment, sponsors of Outstanding Front of House, helps hospitality professionals find the best roles in the Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex areas. Managing director Mark Skipper says hospitality in this region is second to none and always attracts the best talent both kitchen and front of house.

“I am a Suffolk boy, born in Melton, Woodbridge, and I grew up in the Easton area before my family moved to north Norfolk. Suffolk holds so many memories for me from my childhood.”

Prosper Hospitality was created in 2010 and has branches in Stowmarket and Norwich. “We act as ambassadors for clients which include some of the best eateries, hotels and gastro pubs in the county,” says Mark. “Coupled with schools and colleges we offer our candidates a one stop, time saving option to finding work – temporary posts, casual event work and ongoing chef assignments and permanent recruitment options where you work direct for the client.” In normal times, Prosper has more than 150 staff working seven days a week keeping the local hospitality industry booming.

At The KBB Centre, sponsors of Best Newcomer, not only are kitchens a huge part of their business but the team are also devoted foodies. KBB is a family run business in Ipswich, designing, supplying and installing beautifully designed kitchens, bathrooms and fitted bedrooms.

Brothers Roger and Patrick Peck, owners and managers, say: “We love all things cooking and food related and we’re passionate about supporting everything local. The local food and drink scene is a massive part of our county, not only attracting people to Suffolk but it’s also wonderful for us living here to be a part of it.

“To find out where our local game and dairy products come from, who’s brewing up special ales, who’s cooking up gastronomic delights, which local pubs and restaurants are serving local foods and how we produce and supply some of the finest food and drink in the UK. Local food and drink are an integral part of a sustainable future.

“There is so much more to food and drink than the just big brand names. We think it’s extremely important that consumers sway away from huge companies and corporations and support small or independently owned businesses and producers. Eating and shopping local is good for you, your community and your local environment and we’re proud to be part of anything that champions it.”

Sacha Seddon-Price launched The Suffolk Shutter Company, sponsors of Best Afternoon Tea, in 2016 as an independent supplier of composite or wooden plantation shutters to individuals and businesses within the Suffolk area. She is passionate about supporting local.

“I wanted to set up a local company supporting Suffolk home and business owners and only operate within a 30 mile radius of Ipswich to ensure I can remain competitive and use only my trusted fitters,” she says. It’s this provenance about her own product that drives her to support the county’s food and drink producers on her doorstep.

“The key qualities of The Suffolk Shutter Company, based in the IP12 area, are that the business is entirely independent and is not tied to one particular shutter manufacturer, enabling customers to get a range of choice options,” she says. Just like the food and drink industry, the standard of service offered is exceptionally high, and customers deal only with the owner, or an experienced fitter throughout the entire order and installation process.

Find out about the Eat Suffolk Food and Drink Awards

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