New network to support food producers

A support programme for food and drink producers in County Durham who need help getting their products to market has been launched.

The Durham Food and Drink Network, which is an initial 12-month programme, offers a minimum of 12 hours of business support for food producers based in the county.

It is the fifth key strand of the Durham Business Opportunities Programme (DBOP), which is part of Business Durham, and is being delivered by the county’s three enterprise agencies, East Durham Business Service, CDC Enterprise Agency and the South Durham Enterprise Agency.

Steve Robson is from South Durham Enterprise Agency. He said: “We know there are food and drink producers across the county who are making fantastic products but are struggling to find a route to market. What the Durham Food and Drink Network will do is identify those people or companies who could most benefit from assistance to take their business to the next level.

“The food industry is a significant contributor to County Durham’s economic prosperity, however there are still many barriers that exist which are preventing some of our smaller producers making the impact which their products have the potential to achieve.”

Durham Food and Drink Network will offer businesses the opportunity to take a minimum of 12 hours of support, some of which is funded and some of which must be paid for; however subsidised rates will be applied when businesses are making contributions.

Guy Bashford, business engagement officer with DBOP, said: “For all there have been a number of initiatives to promote and support County Durham’s food and drink industry, it’s clear we’re still lacking behind our regional counterparts in Cumbria and Yorkshire. What we want to do is identify companies within the sectors, and work with them to identify what factors are preventing them from growing. This could be a lack of understanding of how to properly label or market a product, a lack of resources within the business, or perhaps funding or cash flow issues which are holding a business back.

“We know there is enormous potential for the food and drinks sector in County Durham; the key is offering businesses within it the support which could enable them to take their product to a larger and more diverse audience of customers.”