Local Food & Drink Co-ordinator update:

Local Food Business Network meeting

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Local Food & Drink Co-ordinator (LAG-led project) update - Ashley Robinson

Had the pleasure of organising a meet-up with the Local Food Business Network on Sept 12th! Alice welcomed us to the Inn at Kippen with lots of tea and coffee, alongside delicious fruits, some pastries from Riverside Bakery CIC, and surprise chocolate from IQ chocolate to keep us fuelled.

The Business Network has been meeting regularly since 2015 - organised by Forth Environment Link as part of their drive to support local food, and local food businesses across the Forth Valley.

The meet-up included a introduction and catch-up round of the producers, which showed the great variety of producers we have in the area. This included producers of venison, cider, tea, jams and chutneys, apples, sourdough bread, icecream, rose veal, raw & vegan cakes, chocolate, beer and gin, mixed arable & livestock, and gluten free oats - as well as those working in local food in other capacities such as coordinators, funders, nutritionists, and restaurateurs.

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Since the producers are small-scale and very (very!) busy people, these meetings give a chance to get together to socialise, meet new producers, swap news, and share best practice.This networking often proves fruitful - giving space for producers to be introduced to eachother and their products, resulting in collaborations and connectivity.

The main activity for the meeting was an engagement session for the Local Food & Drink Strategy - asking local producers their thoughts on the barriers to starting up, as well as the barriers to scaling up. It was a lively and interesting chat - the outcomes of which are summarised in the photo below.

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Threads of the discussion included:

- the need for flexible/low-risk commercial kitchen space (such as STEP but fitted with kitchen equipment)

- the need for a person resource to continue momentum of the local food group/activities (such as a food co-ordinator)

- the realities and constraints of small-scale production and local distribution in a global food system that favours large scale producers/distribution

- alternative routes to market that cater to small scale (such as a wholesale 'Food Assembly' model),

- more networking opportunities to continue sharing best practice and increase collaboration

- more avenues to celebrate/signpost to local food (such as a local food directory)

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And lastly, there was a Marketing and Branding workshop provided by Ceri from Connect Local - looking at how to develop, build and manage a recognisable and world class brand. Ceri went through the theory behind branding, guidelines and parameters, how to design your visual assets, and key considerations from the psychology of the consumer. This included identifying your USP, writing your own Brand Architecture, and using that to build a time effective, cost effective marketing plan.

As always, I find the most enthusiastic, passionate, and resourceful people in our local food economy are the small-scale producers, working long hours under extraordinary constraints to get local food to local people. So a big hearty thank you to those of you who could come along and give your thoughts - all of which will be fed into the Strategy and Action Plan, which will hopefully drive meaningful change.