Why is food important to place?
There are so many reasons why food and drink captures the essence of place . The French have a word for it ‘terroir’. Terroir is the flavour of the local produce comes from the land on which it’s grown. We go further. People in the place can and do influence the flavour of their food and drink. The Food and Drink from around Cumbria is from a place on the edge of nation ( England or Scotland). So we have learned to be more self-reliant whilst maintaining strong links to our national market place.
What we do
As Thomas Jardine & Co, our day job is to work with individual businesses in the area. We help identify their pinch points and then develop solutions that either help them grow or become more productive. We also help bring the national focus onto the great business culture that exists in our unique area.
Taking Cumbria to the Nation
In April we were proud to be part of ‘This is Cumbria’ taking a wide selection of our great food and drink producers down to the Farmshop & Deli Show in the NEC. The joy of this was that ‘This is Cumbria’ was co-created by a group of like minded businesses. It wasn’t delivered with external support offered to national stands there from Wales or Scotland. It worked so well that we are doing it all over again in 2020 (give us a shout if you want to know more).
In May Thomas Jardine & Co revisited the DEFRA offices in London representing the Cumbrian Local Economic Partnership (LEP). The meeting gathered LEPs from around the country who are developing a focus on the food and drink sector. The conversation on the day covered the best use of our ‘natural economy‘ and the encouragement of a ‘circular economy’ . In layman terms this means not destroying natural assets (land, water supply, air quality). It also encourages you to get the most out of everything you use. The final focus from DEFRA was on Public Sector Procurement where they highlighted a software system from Crown Commercial that would allow local producers to supply Public Sector bodies. This is a particular aim of Carlisle Food City so it would be great if we could persuade them to test this in our place.
Celebrating our food and drink
In May Carlisle Living ran an excellent set of features on the Food Revolution going on in Carlisle celebrating the new food movement going on in our city. The old CN Group always celebrated the sector in style with their Carlisle Living Awards and it is hoped that the new owners will continue with this.
Places in the conversation
We keep on meeting people from the SW of England who have the same opportunities as up here in Cumbria. Consequently, we are developing similar solutions. There has got to be something in Cumbria and Cornwall working to develop solutions that benefit the whole of the UK. At the same time we are also talking to more organisations based in Manchester. So part of the answer must also lie in working closely with stakeholders from our region.
As border country we are also working with business and groups from both England and Scotland. Learning form each sides differing approaches to looking after its resources and supporting its businesses. This attitude is part of what lies behind the growing ‘Borderlands’ project. Our area is well aware that the line between Scotland and England only exists on a map or political boundary. Unless we build a wall will have a fluid movement of local goods and services across it. To be honest, history shows that even if Scotland and England go their own way again I am pretty sure us border folk will find ways of continuing their business activities with or without their nations blessings : for extreme examples just check out ‘border reivers‘ on google.
Come and talk to us
In July we are going to talk about food and place at the national Revive and Thrive Conference in Manchester would be great to catch up with any of you who want to talk about how food and drink works with your place.
It is a joy to see our work help individual business and to bring our place into the national conversation. So if we can either help you as an individual business to get over that nagging issue at the back of your mind or you want us to help raise the attention of our place at a national level then please get in touch.
First published in revive and Thrive
Future Support for Business
It’s the time of year we all tend to reflect on what’s just happened and plan for what we do differently. So, we thought we would share part of our thinking for an interview schedule we are using to identify the future support businesses may require.
All problems have a degree of impact on business from just plain annoying to ‘business killers’ that threaten the future of the business. Good businesses find solutions to these problems themselves or look to support from outside.
For these businesses there are two types of problems to focus on. These are the problems that stop them getting things done on a day to day basis and the problems that stop them from moving their business forward.
Good businesses have to be really good at problem solving and tend to have solutions for the day to day ‘business killer problems’ quickly (things like cash flow). They then manage those ‘day to day’ problems that have a higher degree of impact with dedicated internal resources or with trusted external expertise. These problems tend to revolve around market competition, regulations and skilled personnel. The problems that tend to need new solutions are those that are getting in the way of them taking up opportunities that could drive their business forward.
So, for part of our research we are asking our businesses to identify the opportunities that would have the greatest impact on their business. Then we are asking them if they can take advantage of this opportunity without support, if they can that’s great and the business can move forward. If they need support and they can identify where to get it from that is also good and shows that there is a network of support available for that business sector.
Short term and long term impacts
What will be concerning is if our businesses interviewed can see an opportunity that they can’t take advantage of because they don’t have either internal systems or external resources to support it. If our place cannot find a solution for these businesses then they will not take advantage of the opportunity they can see. This is not a problem in the short term but if we as a place continue to not offer relevant solutions then eventually our businesses will move to a place that can find these solutions. This is because the problems stopping businesses taking opportunities in the future eventually become the problems stopping businesses function on a day to day basis. For example, thirty years ago a problem with IT was not a ‘business killer’ now not linking your sales directly with your stock ordering could be.
Looking to 2019
So, looking back over 2018, what really got in the way of businesses based in your place? Then looking forward to 2019 what could stop them take advantage of those opportunities they see?
Could you have better helped them in 2018 and what are you planning to do to help them in 2019?
We at Thomas Jardine & Co are helping our place answer these questions, are you doing the same for your place?
The rise in consumer interest in the provenance of their food driven by food scares and a desire to understand what we are feeding our children is possibly going to become more polarised into ‘cost conscious’ and ‘food conscious’ consumers. The rise of retail mergers may mean ‘provenance’ becomes a key point of difference for certain retailers.
Retail is changing, Sainsbury and ASDA merging is part of a major shake up in food retail similar to that of the UKs retail banking industry back in the 70s and 80s . The large retail multiples only tend to merge when they run out of ideas to grow their market share organically.
The merging of the banks led to the disappearance of many high street names…first in the banks like Midland, Coutts, Williams & Glyns and later the disappearance of many Building Society Names through to Bradford & Bingley. It was not all closures…there was the appearance of new international players like HSBC and Santander and new startups like Virgin and online solutions …First Direct.
The merger of Sainsbury and ASDA may in some part be to new alliances of other food retailers, specifically Tesco’s merger with Booker which effectively brings many local high street names under one banner (One Stop, Budgens, Londis , Family Shopper and Premier will all be supplied by the new group); the Coops takeover of NISA brings the Costcutter and NISA brand into the Coops supply chain and Morrisons developing relationship with Amazon.
Large mergers are generally made to cut costs which usually means simplifying the supply chain. The discounters (Aldi and Lidl) simplify the chain by limiting choice this allows them to support provenance at a national level (allowing Lidl to promote Scottish Food), Tesco has tended to simplify its supply chain by cutting suppliers and reducing opportunities to celebrate provenance. Morrisons and the Coop both celebrate provenance at a local and regional level using this as a key point of difference.
It will be interesting to see where the focus of the new Sainsbury/ASDA group lies (reduction in suppliers or focus on regional/local provenance). The choice may well depend on the focus of us as consumers and interestingly last month saw the launch of Happerley an organisation focused on promoting genuine food provenance. If you have a genuine desire to see the growth of your local food industry we would suggest you check Happerley out, it was officially launched at the Farm Shop & Deli Show in April with support from amongst others Adam Henson (BBC Countryfile) Peter Jinman (Head of DEFRA Animal Welfare) & Philip Pononby (CEO Mid-Counties Co-operative) and if this works it has the chance to change the attitude of the food supply chain in the UK for ever.
Food provenance should not just be about supporting trendy/exclusive local food it should be about creating a genuine food supply for all that is focused on its area and genuinely supports a local/regional taste for our local high street food offering.
First published in Place Magazine for Revive and Thrive
if you want to talk food contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Every change is both an opportunity and a threat…it’s up to each place how we deal with change…here are four possibilities to ponder…
We are still part of a United Kingdom but no longer part of a united Europe. Does this mean places across the UK will become more insular with neighbouring towns high streets competing for each other footfall or will regional towns collaborate to promote their place in order to attract more visitors to the areas collective high streets?
Will Brexit empty our high street of EU workers or will our high street service providers adapt their business model to match whatever falls out of the Brexit agreement?
Will the pound fall and attract more foreign tourists to our high street or will the pound fall and reduce consumer spending on our high street?
With the coming of high speed rail links, will the rest of the UK start planning to become a commuter belt for London or will all of the London entrepreneurs relocate and only visit the capital when absolutely necessary?
I hope that you agree that as leaders of place you can only change what you can the rest falls into the ‘out of your control’ or ‘what will be will be’ box.
So as individuals we probably can’t effect Brexit or devolution but we can help strengthen the offer of our place by either focusing on our town/city or on our surrounding cluster of
towns/cities…the choice there is yours.
We probably can’t effect general migration movements in and out of the UK but we can support the local networks that create new business models suited to our place.
We can’t effect the value of the pound but we can support our own high street with our own spending habits …if we don’t spend in our own place then the businesses (large or small) there won’t survive…again the choice is ours.
New businesses set up in areas that most match their needs which include been close to market (physical or online), suitable staff, premises, connectivity and quality of life. If your place can create the right offer, then it will attract new business.
Whatever we choose to do will make a difference. Individually, we can only really change our own place BUT if we all do that then we will change the whole country. Here’s to 2018.
(Previously published in Revive and Thrive Place Magazine Issue 19)