Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival to put spotlight on Suffolk produce
Food producers in Suffolk say their industry has gone from strength to strength in recent years, with an even brighter future ahead.
The comments come as thousands of visitors are expected to flock to Snape Maltings this weekend for the 12th Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival, which itself is estimated to bring around £1.6million to the county’s economy.
Organisers of the festival, which kicks start a fortnight of fringe events, say it is “widely acknowledged as one of the best in Britain” and helps showcase Suffolk as a “top producer of very fine food”.
Lady Caroline Cranbrook, the festival’s president and a campaigner for local food, said the event had become a great success for Suffolk food producers – and the county as a whole.
“It’s a flagship for local food but also a flagship for Suffolk,” she said. “The festival had undoubtedly put Suffolk on the map for food.”
Lady Caroline said Suffolk’s growing reputation for food had enabled other towns to hold festivals of their own, such as Sudbury and Bury St Edmunds, which helped connect food producers with their customers and educate the public about the importance of the industry.
“I don’t think the general public are fully aware of how important Suffolk is as a food producer in almost everything,” she added.
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“We have fantastic chickens, pigs, cows and sheep, as well as a very good network of meat producers and our butchers are second to none.”
Bosses at the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership said the food and drink sector was one of the most important across Suffolk and Norfolk – with an estimated £3.6bn value to Norfolk and Suffolk in 2015, according to the LEP.
Around 80,000 people are employed in the sector, with the East of England contributing 11% of the nation’s agricultural output, the LEP’s figures suggest.
New Anglia LEP managing director Chris Starkie said: “The heritage and expertise of our agricultural and food and drink sectors go hand in hand.
“Such high quality land and produce gives our region a natural advantage, but it’s down to the skill, knowledge and experience of our food and drink producers to turn that into the high quality products found on our shelve and exported across the globe.”
Despite pricing pressures on the industry as a whole, Suffolk Food Hall’s Robert Paul said it was the county’s “nimbleness and innovation” which allowed it to excel where some national chains struggled.
He added: “Its relative size and the relative size of the businesses within it allows it respond to customer food habits and trends much faster than the globalised food producers can.
“As well as this flexibility, the core strength remains that the quality of local products and the customer loyalty to those products is much greater than that for the majority of food and drink products which are produced industrially with the sole aim of producing an ever increasingly cheaper product.”
Lady Cranbrook highlighted the success of the East of England Co-operative’s local food range as evidence of a growing interest in the provenance of Suffolk produce.
“There’s an enormous future in local food and the more than events like the Aldeburgh Food Festival can do to heighten people’s awareness of local food and what a pleasure it is to eat and to drink, the better,” she added.
A report produced after last year’s festival calculated it generated £1.6m for the Suffolk economy, with around two thirds of its visitors travelling to Suffolk solely because of the event.
But alongside Suffolk produce, this year’s event also celebrates cuisines from around the world. Austria, Cyprus, India, Japan, South Africa, Vietnam and Yemen are all represented by businesses, including newcomers to the festival as well as its regulars.
International chefs including Cyrus Todiwala, Tim Siadata, Thuy Pham, Jordan Bourke and Lope Ariyo will all be sharing some of their culinary skills.
New attractions at this year’s festival include the Adnams Drinks Experience featuring talks, tasting, demos and discussions within a riverside tent.
Wild Suffolk is another new area, which demonstrates the connection between the food we eat and the land where it comes from.
Visit www.aldeburghfoodanddrink.co.uk for more information.