Marketing needed to sell West Country potential

The West Country boasts some of the best food and drink in Europe but it is not being marketed properly, according to speakers at South West Excellence.

Michelin-starred chef Michael Caines, who has two restaurants in the region, told delegates at the food and farming conference that the region had the “best larder in Europe”.

It adds 2.8bn to the region’s economy and includes a quarter of national organic production.

“There is a huge untapped resource in the south west.

But there is another side of commercial farming that is being missed if you focus only on selling to the supermarkets.

“Chefs are coming to the region to showcase their talents so, as producers, you don’t have to go to London to sell something – you can come to my restaurant or go to Rick Stein in Padstow.”

John McInerney, professor of agricultural policy at Exeter University, said the key to sales was unlocking the potential of unique packaging and labelling.

“You have to develop awareness of your product and create an image.

“Take Welsh lamb:

It comes from a sheep that grew up on hillside in Wales and got shouted at by a shepherd with a Welsh accent.

Technically it may not be any better than anyone else’s lamb.”

Tourism leaders said that local food had benefited from marketing with the “South West England” umbrella brand, which has just been extended for three more years.

“Events like this one are starting to have an impact not just on local people, but also on people from the other side of the world,” claimed Robin Barker, marketing director of South West Tourism.