Voting set to open for East of England Co-op's Producer of the Year 2019
PUBLISHED: 06:00 29 December 2018
Rae Shirley/East of England Co-op
Food and drink producers from across the East are set to battle it out in a bid to become 2019's locally-sourced heroes.
A public vote is set to open for East of England Co-op customers to back the six finalists in the Producer of the Year competition, now in its seventh year.
The awards are a celebration of produce from across Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk with two companies from each area represented in the shortlist.
Last year’s winner was Essex pig farmer Fergus Howie of Tolleshunt Major-based Wicks Manor Pork, who says he has seen a big uplift from the prestigious win.
“I’m extremely proud to run a business that is recognised for actively and proudly selling great local produce made on our family farm in rural Essex,” he said.
“It meant so much to have the hard work of the whole team acknowledged and it was especially meaningful to reach the final, which is solely down to votes from the public.
“Becoming the East of England Co-op’s Producer of the Year for 2018 has given us additional credibility and customers another reason to choose our products to serve to their family on the dinner table.
“Since the award was announced earlier this year, the business has gone from strength to strength. Wicks Manor has grown over 10% this year, which in uncertain times, and with a very competitive retail sector, has been a great result.”
Roger Grosvenor, joint chief executive at the East of England Co-op, said: “East Anglia is packed full of businesses which produce some of the most diverse and delicious products in the UK.
“From fruit, vegetables and cereals to meat, poultry and fish, we place a huge amount of emphasis on food provenance and a vast array of the products on our shelves are produced and packaged locally.
“Producer of the Year aims to celebrate the success of these businesses and I would like to urge everyone to vote and show your support for the six firms that have been picked to showcase the best of Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex.”
The vote will run from January 21 to February 21. Shoppers are encouraged to vote for one producer per county and in return, those who vote will have a chance to win £500 of vouchers to use in-store.
Following the vote, three county champions will be selected, before a panel of food and farming experts visit each nominee to judge who will be crowned overall Producer of the Year 2019.
To find out more about each of the shortlisted producers and to vote see here
Who’s in the running?
Ian Akers and David Wright, The Cake Shop
The Cake Shop has baked using traditional methods handed down over three generations.
The multi-award-winning bakery business has expanded in recent years to increase its wholesale operation and even roast its own coffee.
David said: “I think what sets us apart from the competition is our mission to make brilliant bakes affordable and create strong links to the local community. We have a commitment to our customers who have supported us through thick and thin over the years. So many small bakeries disappeared from the high street but we’ve managed to survive. My father Peter always instilled in me the need to evolve and adapt to the ever-changing needs of our customers.”
Vernon Blackmore and Jamie Symons, Choose Spice
This two-man team has created a range of curry pastes inspired by the tastes of South East Asia.
Vernon said: “My mum is Chinese Malaysian and she is a passionate cook and professional chef and I picked that up from her.
“To start with I created three curry pastes based on my mum’s recipes.
“We only use fresh ingredients and our aim is to take the work out for the customer, so they can enjoy the delicious tastes of East Asia from the comfort of their own home.”
Vernon’s mother still gets involved in their creations and often pops into the kitchen to taste test.
Matt Raynor and Karen Potten, Raynors
Innovation is at the forefront of this family-run sandwich business in Chelmsford.
So much so that the company has released a vegan range, aims to be entirely plastic free by Easter 2019 and grows its own vegetables on site to keep its carbon imprint as low as possible.
Matt said: “We grow our own veg in our newly commissioned hydroponics farm, so our cress is hyper-local with zero food miles.
“As far as we are concerned, when it comes to our business the sky is not the limit. We intend to go beyond the sky and make the first sandwich on the international space station.”
Pele Heydon and Leah Riley, Thursday Cottage
Based in Tiptree, Thursday Cottage produces jams, marmalades and curds and prides itself on “traditional values and traditional methods” as well as packaging that hasn’t changed in 55 years.
“We are very conscious of our values,” said Pele. “All our fruit is hand-checked and all our jars are hand-poured. Every batch is perfect, and every jar is perfect.”
The fruit for the jams is hand-picked just 400m from the production room.
David and Rachel Holliday, The Norfolk Brewhouse
This successful husband and wife team based its business in a redundant barn on an arable farm in north Norfolk.
Rachel and David produce their own distinctive beers and believe that local produce, particularly the finest Norfolk Maris Otter Barley, is the key to their success.
David said: “This is a beautiful county full of great artisan producers and we are proud to be part of that.”
Rachel added: “To think how far we have come since we started in 2012, I am very proud of what we have created.”
Bob Bullock and Neil Bain, Woodfordes Brewery
Based on the Norfolk broads, Woodfordes is Norfolk’s largest brewery.
Absolutely everything the company does, from the water and the yeast to the shape of the vessels it uses, contributes to the flavour of its beers.
Neil said: “We put our heart and soul into what we produce. Attention to detail is vital and we do 50 or 60 checks on our beer before it’s complete.”
The team has an impressive 133 awards for the beers that it has produced.
It also has a pub and restaurant on site – the Fur and Feather – which serves its drinks and uses its beer in batter and pies.