Date Published: 29-01-2018

The food and drink market has been rapidly changing over the last ten years, regardless of how you use the industry; whether you’re a consumer, manufacturer, distributor or retailer.

East Anglia itself has a strong foodie heritage being home to products that most people in the UK will have heard of like Cromer crabs, Bernard Matthews Norfolk black turkeys, British Sugar in Bury St Edmunds and of course Colman’s Mustard in Norwich.

We’re sure if you were to ask most people in the UK which city Colman’s is synonymous with, they’ll easily make the Norwich connection. The locality is what makes the announcement of the closure of their Norwich factory – less than two miles from our Norwich office – particularly sad to read about. It has been announced that production will move between Germany and Burton-On-Trent, but Unilever plans on opening a small processing plant for mustard powder in Norwich next year.

Whilst we’re seeing the closure of Colman’s, there is a lot of positivity in the food manufacturing sector in East Anglia with an abundance of small, independent food producers who are thriving and are up for the challenge of battling with the “big guys” to get their products on shelves.

Supermarkets are starting to notice these independent producers and the East of England Co-Op in particular is a champion of local produce, dedicating a shelf in each of its stores to put a spotlight on the great producers we have. Each year, they also celebrate local farmers, growers and producers in their Sourced Locally Producer of the Year Awards, which is now in its sixth year. These awards show the innovation and hard work that goes into building a catalogue of products.

There are some great companies in the running for the 2018 producer of the year award, and whilst we’d love to talk about all of them, here are a couple of our favourite examples:

Take Gnaw Chocolate for example; it was started by Matt & Teri Legon in Norwich in 2011 because they were bored of serious chocolate. They wanted to make good quality chocolate that still brings the joy and fun of childhood, with slightly oddball flavours. They’ve got a great range that also caters for those with low sugar or dairy free dietary requirements, to make an inclusive product and has no doubt added to their popularity.

Bringing some Italian flare to Suffolk, Gavin Battle started Purely Pesto in 2011 after taking a foodie sabbatical from his job as a chef to tour Italy. Now in its seventh year, Gavin is experimenting with making more untraditional Pesto, with cashew nuts replacing pine nuts, and using herbs such as coriander and sage.

Although we have a lot of established food producers in East Anglia, new ones are cropping up all of the time showing strength and growth in the market, and these companies are hiring. 2017 saw food manufacturing recruitment in the region rise by 26% over 2016, which shows that the industry is not showing any signs of slowing down, despite warnings of the “Brexit effect”.