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06.06.03
Now is the time for action, food and drink industry told

New research into the state of the Cornish food and drink industry has resulted in a call to action for the region's producers and processors. The study has revealed that a wealth of opportunities exists for business development and growth if they are explored and exploited without delay.

The results of the research project, called 'Prospects and prosperities: exploring the potential of the Cornish food and drink industry', were unveiled today at the Royal Cornwall Show in Wadebridge by Objective One gateway project Cornwall Taste of the West and Exeter University's Centre for Rural Research, which jointly carried out the research.

It is thought to be the first regional food and drink review of its kind in the UK, and goes into unprecedented detail. As well as investigating the state of food production and processing in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, the study - a partnership project between Cornwall Taste of the West and Cornwall Agricultural Council - also examines existing and emerging UK markets and cross matches the two, revealing the gaps and matches between national consumer demand and regional supply.

According to Ruth Huxley, who oversaw the research as market intelligence manager for Cornwall Taste of the West, there are considerable opportunities for businesses prepared to think laterally. "Many of the markets that Cornwall is renowned for such as potatoes, cauliflowers, red meat and cream, have been revealed as some of the most difficult in the industry. The nation's tastes are becoming increasingly cosmopolitan, and Cornwall needs to do more to ensure the food it produces matches the buying trends of consumers. The results of this research are priceless in terms of providing clear and undisputable signposts to where the opportunities lie, but only if we grasp the nettle and begin to take positive action now."

One of the key findings of the research is the scope for developing the food processing sector in Cornwall. At the moment, primary foods produced in the area are often processed elsewhere, whilst local processors are using raw ingredients from outside Cornwall, often because they have outgrown the local supply capability. The recommendation is for food producers and processors to become more aligned, so that together they can meet consumer demand for convenience food better. As the huge demand for processed foods looks unlikely to reverse, primary producers should also consider gaining a foothold in the processing sector themselves, which will combat the decline in demand for raw ingredients and ensure a share of the most profitable part of the food chain is kept in the local economy.

A need to invest in specific projects for certain food industry sectors has also been revealed. For example, poultry meat consumption in the UK is almost double that of beef and five times that of lamb. Currently an estimated £9m of poultry meat is imported into Cornwall each year just to satisfy local demand, so if Cornwall had its own hatchery, much more of this demand could be met from within the region, which means that up to £9m would be ploughed back into the local economy.

Overall, the research concludes that there are many viable opportunities for the development and growth of the Cornish food industry, but if these are not acted upon it will not be able to sustain itself and meet the needs of the market place in the long term.

The research overview recommends two principles for future growth and prosperity. The first is to raise public awareness, particularly of the origin of ingredients in ready prepared foods. One of the anomalies revealed by the research is that the products marketed most aggressively as Cornish often contain few locally grown raw ingredients, whilst genuine Cornish produce is largely bought up by big processors or retailers and manufactured into a mass produced food which makes little of ingredient origin.

The second principle is to ensure the food produced in the region matches consumer buying trends. This may mean, for example, making better use of Cornwall's mild and temperate climate to grow crops that satisfy the growing consumer demand for more exotic fruit and vegetables which is currently supplied by imported goods. This would require horticultural producers to consider growing different crops, or to increase their capacity for growing under glass. Alternatively, the area's already famous dairy produce is crying out to be made into ready prepared desserts - a market growing at 5% each year and worth over £1 billion and as yet virtually unexplored by Cornwall's dairy industry.

"The research reveals a critical need for more awareness of changing trends," says David Rodda, senior agricultural co-ordinator for the Cornwall Agricultural Council. "Food producers need to keep pace with change in order to meet their potential and it's just as important to let people know what's on offer. But in the long run, there's no reason why Cornwall shouldn't be anticipating and even setting trends in consumer eating habits."

The 'Prospects and prosperities' summary and the full reports are available free to any businesses based in Cornwall or the Isles of Scilly online via www.cornwalltasteofthewest.co.uk and www.cornwallagriculturalcouncil.org.uk, or call Ruth Huxley on 01579 349363 to order a hard copy (businesses outside the region will be charged £30 for each report or £50 for both). Ruth Huxley is also available to discuss the implications of the findings with individual businesses, as part of Cornwall Taste of the West's free market intelligence service.

To view the results of the research project, click on each of the three documents listed below:

Prospects and Prosperities: exploring the potential of the Cornish food and drink industry

A Review of the UK Food Market

A Study of Food Production, Distribution and Processing in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly

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Editor's notes:

A list of key research findings is attached.

Cornwall Taste of the West is a £3 million Objective One umbrella project, funded by the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF), the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and private matched funding. It is part of the Taste of the West regional food group. Cornwall Taste of the West's four year project includes a trade development programme and a marketing grant scheme, available to small and medium sized food businesses that produce, sell or process foods in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

Exeter University's Centre for Rural Research (CRR), building on the established reputation of the former Agricultural Economics Unit, represents a new focus for a wide range of rural studies. Headed by Professor Michael Winter, newly appointed Professor of Rural Policy, its remit is to develop a broad research programme that enhances the regional profile of the university. Professor Winter can be contacted on 01392 263837 (email: D.M.Winter@exeter.ac.uk).

The CRR undertakes research across a wide range of rural issues. Key themes are farm economies in transition, alternative food systems, rural identities, nature and landscape and rural policy. For more information visit www.ex.ac.uk/crr.

The Cornwall Agricultural Council (CAC, formed in 1989) is an apolitical grouping of 90 organisations with interests in Cornwall's agricultural, horticultural, food and land based industries. When Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly were awarded Objective One status, an elected board of eight people from its membership became the Objective One Agricultural Task Force. This Task Force, through an Agricultural Development Team, helps Cornish producers and processors access Objective One funds.

For more information contact David Rodda
Telephone: 01872 322888
Fax: 01872 322841
Email: david.rodda@cornwallenterprise.co.uk

PROSPECTS AND PROSPERITIES – EXPLORING THE POTENTIAL OF THE CORNISH FOOD AND DRINK INDUSTRY

KEY FINDINGS

Cornish food economy - is estimated to be worth £1bn, and accounts for at least 12,500 jobs in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. The relative importance of employment in agriculture, forestry and fishing is much higher in Cornwall at 4.6% than in the rest of the UK at 1.3%. This underlines how critical ongoing development and growth in this sector is to the Cornwall's economy as a whole.

primary production - dairy produce, red meat, potatoes and other vegetables are the focus of primary food production and are well suited to the landscape and climate of the area.

market potential - overall, the markets currently being catered for have limited scope for growth and development, whilst the overriding current consumer trends towards convenience, snacking and healthy eating are not generally being addressed by the Cornish food industry. These represent key areas of opportunity.

processing - much of our primary produce leaves Cornwall for processing elsewhere, whilst local processors generally use products not produced in Cornwall. For example, apples are brought in from elsewhere for cider and juice making, whilst almost 80% of our orchards – 114 hectares – are non-commercial, where apples are often left to fall from the trees and rot. There are all sorts of partnership opportunities here for cider and juice makers and orchard owners – commercial and private.

climate - around £2.5 bn of fruit and vegetables are imported to the UK annually and this figure increases year upon year. Cornwall's mild climate could be taken more advantage of to produce sub-tropical fruit and vegetables, the markets for which are currently dominated by imported produce.

marketing - consumers trust brands, and the research reveals that very few Cornish brands are recognised on a national scale. An opportunity therefore exists for new brands to be developed to help market Cornish produce nationally and inspire greater consumer awareness and confidence in it.

dairy - this is the biggest single agricultural production sector in Cornwall, worth over £92m. Whilst being something of a beacon to other food sectors, there are still market anomalies. Nationally, yogurts and chilled desserts are the fastest growing area of the dairy industry, with 5% expansion a year, yet production is currently not well developed in Cornwall (likewise the development of dairy-based drinks such as drinking yoghurts and smoothies).

Also, goat's cheese is proving very successful as a Cornish dairy product, and whilst there are a number of successful dairy goat operations in Cornwall, we are still importing goat's milk to meet the needs of local goat's cheese production. Both these show the massive scope for new, expanded or redirected dairy operations in Cornwall.

meat - an estimated 11,500 tonnes of Cornish beef (£5.5m) and 2,000 tonnes of Cornish lamb (£4m) are sold out of Cornwall each year. Whilst red meat consumption is growing slightly in the UK, the best growth area is in poultry meat – we eat twice as much poultry as beef and five times as much poultry as lamb – yet Cornish poultry production is hampered by the lack of a hatchery in Cornwall. Currently we import £9m of poultry meat just to meet local demand – with a hatchery that could be up to £9m potentially invested back into Cornwall's economy.

fruit and vegetables - over 2000 hectares of Cornwall's land is used to produce cauliflowers, yet research shows this to be one of the worst performing vegetables in the UK market. There is a much brighter outlook for semi-exotic varieties of fruit and vegetables given Cornwall's climate, and year-round consumer demand. Despite the capital investment required, there are good returns to be made from growing crops under glass or in polytunnels. For example, 1% of Cornish soft fruit is grown under cover, but yields 9% of Cornwall's total income from soft fruit – this illustrates how easily the soft fruit season could be extended and expanded to encompass the more profitable early and late seasons.

fish - as much as 80% of the fresh fish landed in Cornwall is being exported to other European countries, even though a 2002 Cornwall Taste of the West survey indicated that locally caught fish is one of the main items local residents would like to buy more of but are unable to find in the shops.

drinks - the Cornish drinks industry is quite in tune with consumer tastes, with many fine alcoholic and non-alcoholic products being produced. There are a number of breweries, vineyards, cider makers, mead producers, spring water bottlers and juice producers. However, not all are able to source their raw materials locally and the research reveals much more scope for collaboration between producers and processors.

For more press information please contact:

Veronica Newport at npr
Telephone: 01363 866927
Fax: 01363 866093
Mobile: 07808 063053
Email: veronica@npr1.co.uk

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Jason Clark
Communications Manager
Objective One Partnership Office
Castle House
Pydar Street
Truro TR1 2UD
Tel: 01872 241379
Fax: 01872 241388
jason@dclark.co.uk

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