Keeping it local: Henry Roberts of Taste North East speaks to bdaily

“We want both the local and visiting consumer to buy local and eat local,” says Henry Roberts, Chairman of Taste North East.

Taste North East is the renamed and rebranded result of the amalgamation of Taste NE the North East England Food and Drink Group, and Northumbria Larder. It is now hoped that even more of the businesses in the field will benefit from this all-encapsulating organisation.

“We are looking to promote the sector as a whole – food, drink, tourism and hospitality,” explains Henry, “We believe that if we put food and tourism as a package together, we can raise the profile of what the North East has to offer.”

The new organisation will provide members with the opportunity to market and promote their goods, and Henry, in conjunction with the rest of the Taste North East team, is keen to use his own knowledge to support regional businesses.

“I spent several years working at Dairy Crest and Diageo, and during this time I was always actively encouraged to walk the shelves in the major multiples to look at things from a marketing perspective.

“I’m now hoping to bring this knowledge into the North East market. We’ve got an excellent range of food and drink companies who sell into a range of customers - both retailers and in the hospitality sector. We are working very hard to support members to sell to a broader customer base underpinned by good marketing and web support.”

Increasing numbers of the big supermarkets are stocking local produce, but Henry believes that they still need to do far more:

“I feel very strongly that we need to get more larger companies to support organisations like ourselves to stimulate jobs and wealth creation for SMEs,” he explains. “We are beginning to approach the big regional players for support because it’s in everyone’s interests that we have a sustainable food and drinks industry in the North East.”

Taste North East is a not for profit organisation, and will be funded through membership subscriptions. Though many in the sector have suffered financially over the past few months, Henry believes that the pricing is reflective of the value individuals get from being part of the organisation.

‘While it is undoubtedly a difficult time, due to the withdrawal of public sector funding in this area, further investment is still needed to raise the profile of the region itself.

“We’ve really tried to get the balance right with membership costs, and we believe it offers real value to companies through business-to-business contact, and the microsite each one will receive.”

While Taste North East is dedicated to promoting the produce the region has to offer nationally, it is also capitalising on increasing consumer awareness of shopping locally:

“People are becoming more aware of the effects their carbon footprint can have on the environment, and are increasingly choosing to buy local products over imported ones,” Henry explains. “Ultimately what people need to realise is - the quicker the route to market, the better it tastes.” 

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Local food
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web support
sustainable food
Henry Roberts
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Comments (1)

  1. NE England Farmers’ Markets - the umbrella group for farmers’ markets operators in the region - looks forward to working with Taste North East.
    Farmers’ markets are the nursery for many food & drink sector business start-ups, offering low cost retailing opportunies and immediate customer feedback.