Voting is now open for the East of England Co-operative Society’s 2014 Producer of the Year Awards.
Six of the region’s best-loved local producers − two each from Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk − are hoping to garner enough support from members of the public to be crowned as champion for their respective counties next month, with the three winners having the chance of going on to claim the society’s overall Producer of the Year title which is to be announced in March.
Thirty produceers entered this year’s competition from among a total of 130 eligible growers and producers which contribute to the East of England Co-op’s “Sourced Locally” range.
They were judged on their achievements in areas including innovation, marketing, environmental impact and staff development, plus consideration of qualities which give their businesses a special “wow” factor.
The six producers who have made it to the shortlist are:
: : Buxton Potato Company, based at Buxton, in Norfolk;
: : Great Tilkey Honey, from Coggeshall, Essex;
: : Havensfield Eggs, based at Hoxne, Suffolk;
: : Lane Farm Country Foods, from Brundish in Suffolk;
: : Rossi Ice Cream, based at Southend-on-Sea, Essex; and
: : Yare Valley Oils, from Surlingham, Norfolk.
Society members and customers have unitl January 31 to vote for their favourites. Votes can be cast online at www.eastofengland.coop/2014producer . Each East of England Co-op foodstore will also be hosting an in-store voting event to help local shoppers get involved.
Every voter will automatically be entered into a free prize draw to win £100 of shopping vouchers.
The votes will be counted to decide the three county champions, which will then be judged by a panel of food and farming experts who will select the overall Producer of the Year.
All the winners will receive cash prizes, with an advertising package worth thousands of pounds for the overall winner.
Kevin Warden, East of England Co-op’s local sourcing manager, said: “These awards are a wonderful way for our members and customers to tell us which great-tasting local products they have enjoyed most this year.
“We work closely with our producers and the awards bring everyone together to celebrate and highlight their hard work and achievements over the year.”
Since 2007, the East of England Co-op’s local sourcing initiative has put £20million back into the regional economy, creating more than 100 local jobs in the process and protecting many more.
Its Sourced Locally range has grown from a few suppliers to more than 130 who provide more than 2,000 different local products for the society’s stores.
The Producer of the Year competition was first held last year, with the inaugural winner being Lindsey Lodge Farm from Hadleigh in Suffolk which supplies the East of England Co-op with strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, runner beans, pumpkins and Christmas trees.
Andrew Sturgeon, owner of Lodge Farm, said: “It means a great deal for the business to be recognised by the society and its customers, and we were delighted to be voted Supplier of the Year.
“At Lodge Farm we have always set high standards for quality and service and this award is particularly important for our team who work hard to maintain those standards.
“It gives us all a huge boost to know that customers appreciate our hard work and that we are successful in achieving what they want.”