Local food and drink producers are looking to do business with some big names at a ‘meet the buyers’ gathering. KATHARINE CAPOCCI gets a flavour for the event
A FLAVOURED coffee company is full of beans at the prospect of generating business at a Food and Drink Meet the Buyer event.
The event on July 3 at Xcel Centre near Darlington will bring together dozens of local food and drink producers who are looking to make deals with buyers from some of the UK’s biggest companies, including Asda, Morrisons, Baxters Food Group, Nisa-Todays and Fenwick.
Among the local producers signed up are Beanies The Flavour Co of Newton Aycliffe.
The company, whose core products include luxury flavoured roast and ground coffees, instant coffees and coffee sticks, employs 10 people.
They export to several countries and sell their coffees in fine food outlets, convenience stores and shops and delis up and down the country, as well as Fenwick, Costcutter and Nisa in the region.
Flavours include everything from amaretto, cappuccino, cinnamon and hazelnut to mocha orange.
John Evans, affectionately referred to as Old Bean, is a senior executive at the firm, and in charge of strategy.
He explains they attended the same meet-the-buyer event last year and found it very beneficial for business.
John says: “We got leads and we got business from it.
“We were aiming to generate listings in the convenience stores and we got listings with Nisa which led us on to a relationship with Epicurean at Consett.
“We are an international company but we value our local links very highly so if there’s a way of networking locally that can get us to a national or international platform we always take it.”
Most of their coffee beans are sourced from South America and they flavour, grind and pack them at their manufacturing plant in County Durham.
The company is always looking to develop new lines and flavours and is hoping to present some new products at the forthcoming buyer event.
These include a new flavoured coffee more suited to all-day drinking, their complete all-in-one drinks, containing coffee, sweetener and creamer, and iced coffees.
“We’re presenting them to a number of buyers. We’re hoping to pick up with some of the big and small names. “We have no barriers. We want to cover the whole market sector. The appointments are made so we are there.
“It’s good for local networking too. We’re always looking for opportunities to develop flavours.”
John says the company will be looking to the skies when they hope to have their flavoured coffee sticks on aeroplanes from August.
“We have got a listing with Skytrac and we’re hoping to launch in August. We should be on a considerable percentage of the world’s airlines.”
Meet the Buyer events have been run by the Business & Enterprise Group’s event management team for over 17 years in various industry sectors. At a recent food and drink Meet the Buyer event 33 buyers exchanged contracts with new producers.
Amanda Nichol, project manager at the Business and Enterprise Group, adds: “We’re inviting buyers from major national and regional companies to come and get a flavour for some of the excellent food and drink producers in the North East and Yorkshire.
“This is a major event and increasingly popular due to the potentially huge contracts on offer and a fantastic opportunity.
“For buyers, it gives them the chance to meet with large numbers of quality regional food producers in a time-efficient way.
“For the producers, it gives them the opportunity to showcase the food and drink they produce to buyers they otherwise might not get a chance to meet.”
Another local producer who did well out of a previous buyers’ event was Carroll’s Heritage Potatoes, based at Tiptoe Farm in Cornhill-on-Tweed.
Anthony and Lucy Carroll met with many different buyers and secured business with the Marriott Hotels at Metrocentre, Durham, and Sunderland, supplying them with a weekly delivery of a range of Carroll’s heritage potatoes. They secured other business with a number of restaurants in the region.
Lucy says: “It’s really difficult for smaller companies to meet the decision-makers so these events are a fantastic way to do business.”
The Carroll family has farmed at Tiptoe since the 1930s and in 2002 decided to specialise in potatoes. Today the 60-acre farm supplies its 17 varieties of heritage potatoes to restaurants and hotels across the UK, Holland, Italy, and Singapore.
Buying Carroll’s Heritage Potatoes was Raoul Lemmerling, general manager at Marriott Newcastle Gateshead and Marriott Sunderland. As well as potatoes, Raoul also placed business with other producers he met at the event and arranged contracts to supply ice-cream and tea to the North East’s three Marriott hotels.
Raoul said: “Meeting suppliers face- to-face gives me a chance to get to know them, their products and their businesses. It’s great to keep up-to- date with what’s available and the emerging trends in the food and drink industry.
“I meet with producers who have a passionate story to tell. I pass these stories on to customers who increasingly want to know the source of the food they eat.”
Another local producer considering attending this year’s event is sweet chilli sauce maker Red Rascal.
Louise Bailey, who runs the business with her husband Steve, sells the sauce across the UK through the Wyevale Garden Centre Group, in delis and at Fenwick in Newcastle.
She started making the sauce from home, but demand grew quickly and they now use the commercial kitchens at Westfield Girls’ School in Gosforth at weekends and in the evenings. Their 12-year-old twin daughters Lauren and Liberty attend the school.
Louise, who lives in Nedderton, in Northumberland, reckons it’s a good opportunity to network.
“We haven’t made up our minds yet. A lot of the buyers we deal with already but it’s really to be introduced to other buyers, that’s what it’s all about.
“The buyers all have appointments and it’s a chance to take your products along and sell yourself.”
The company was earlier this year nominated for the prestigious Made in Britain scheme by Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah.
The project, launched by Business Secretary Vince Cable, aims to highlight the best in British manufacturing and industry.
Red Rascal makes two sauces, a rustic sweet chilli sauce and a sweet chilli ketchup.
“We probably produce about 1,000 bottles of chilli sauce a month. We’re small but definitely growing. We have got some interesting things in the pipeline. Our sauces are low in calories and we are currently talking to Slimming World.”
Places are still available to buyers and producers wanting to attend the Food and Drink Meet the Buyer event on Tuesday July 3, Xcel Centre, Darlington.
For more information or to book a place email Amanda.firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0191 426 6333.