An innovative programme to support the Northwest food and drink sector through closer links with tourism businesses will be developed following funding approval from the NWDA.
The £1.5million ’Taste’ programme for the Northwest region aims to raise the quality of local produce, help tourism businesses to source more local produce and improve consumer awareness of tourism outlets selling locally made food and drink.
The key element of the programme is the expansion of the ‘Taste’ quality accreditation scheme across the whole of the region. The ‘Taste’ brand will celebrate the uniqueness of and raise awareness of the region’s high quality food and drink.
Funding comes from the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) which is funded by the EU and Defra, while managed in the Northwest by the NWDA.
David Hunter, Head of Rural Development at the NWDA, said: “Some of the finest produce in the country comes from food and drink businesses based in the Northwest. This programme aims to support their work by exploiting the natural link between food and drink producers and tourism businesses in order to benefit both and grow the rural economy.
“The Taste accreditation scheme will be an essential tool in helping to build business confidence and quality. It will be a boost for local food and drink producers who will sell more and get their brands better known, while raising awareness of tourism operators selling fantastic produce made on their own doorsteps.”
The Taste quality accreditation scheme will build on the successful ‘Taste Lancashire’ programme* which began in 2008 and newer Taste programmes in Cheshire and Liverpool.
The Taste Lancashire initiative will be the benchmark for the ‘Taste’ brand across England’s Northwest. Places which currently have the ‘Taste Lancashire’ distinction are those which have consistently provided high quality food and use local produce. The website www.tastelancashire.com lists those establishments which make the grade.
As part of the wider programme beyond the accreditation scheme the following will take place:
• A website will be developed to advise businesses on how they can benefit from the scheme.
• Tourism operators such as hotels, B&Bs, cafes and attractions that serve food will be encouraged to source more local produce through specially produced guidance.
• Businesses shortlisted for food tourism awards will be given additional support.
• Accredited businesses will be supported through marketing such as promotional flyers and leaflets.
• Groups of tourism businesses will be encouraged to work together in order to share best practice.
The project will go live in May next year and by 2013, the aim is to establish the Taste accreditation scheme for England’s Northwest as self financing and a brand respected by industry and consumers. The target is to have a minimum of 750 new businesses participating across the region.
Nick Brooks-Sykes, Director of Tourism at the NWDA, added: “The Taste accreditation scheme and wider Taste programme support two key sectors in rural areas and provide an excellent opportunity for farm diversification.
“We want to create a service which delivers valuable information for visitors and business that leads to increased productivity and profitability in both sectors.
“Tourism is a £14.3billion industry in the region while the food and drink economy is worth about £9.5billion but the potential for mutual benefits has not been fully harnessed so far. By bringing them closer together we can improve both sectors and secure a sustainable economy in rural areas across the Northwest.”
It is anticipated that rural businesses will be the primary beneficiaries and many of the tourism establishments in England’s Northwest are located in rural areas. The supply chain nature of the programme also means that other rural businesses will be indirect beneficiaries.
It is anticipated that the programme will safeguard 90 jobs and create 45 across the region.
Source: Northwest Regional Development Agency