A strong and growing demand for natural and locally sourced food is helping strengthen bonds between the hospitality sector and local farmers and food suppliers. Bill Lumley reports
Serving locally produced food is a winning strategy for inns across the UK, at breakfast as well as lunchtime and dinner in the restaurant. According to a recent Nielsen report, locally sourced food is fresher, environ- mentally friendly, healthier, helpful to the local economy, and helpful in making connections with the local farmers. It adds interest to your menu and it can help you earn more money. And it is highly fashionable among the type of guests that innkeepers welcome to their property overnight.
The demand for locally sourced food is so of-the-moment that the term ‘locavore’ has been newly coined to indicate someone who is interested in eating food that has been locally produced and not moved long distances to market. One common definition is food that has been grown within 100 miles of the point of purchase or consumption.
All this means that the origin of some if not all the food served at inns should be identifiable as local.
The regional Be My Guest events this year have featured exhibition stands presented by local food producers who have been able to display their goods to potential buyers – the owners of inns, guest houses and hotels from the same region.
One such supplier is Devon-based Westaway’s, which showed off its highly flavoursome and lo- cally produced sausages at the South West edition of the event in Torquay last month. Westaway’s has been a premium UK sausage producer for over 100 years. The Baughan family that owns the brand is proud of its strong agricultural heritage, and its award-winning range of recipes is supplied into retail, foodservice and wholesale markets both nationally and internationally.
Westaway’s is a pork-only site that boasts British Retail Consortium (BRC) AA Grade ac- creditation. The bespoke factory produces artisan Butcher’s-style sausages made with fresh British Pork sourced from Red Tractor accredited pig farms in the South of England. Only using what it describes as the best British Pork ensures that the sausages are of the highest standard, and that they deliver on more than just taste.
The UK Government has recognised them as one of just 50 Food Stars, an award that recognises the rising stars of Britain’s food and drink industry.
The sausages are 100% British Pork, made with fresh meat and individually quick-frozen – meaning the meat retains texture and its fresh pink colour. IQF meanwhile means the customer can take out the amount of sausages required to cook, minimising wastage.
Westaway Sausages managing director Charlie Baughan says: “Our sausages are perfect for guest houses including inns, as you cook them straight from frozen. You can even deep fat fry them for convenience cooking.
“Being frozen of course results in an Increased shelf life,” he adds.
He says: “We strongly believe in local food to local people and feel that everyone within a 20-mile radius of our factory in Kingsteignton should be eating Westaways. This is also reflected in the number of local customers we have who run inns, hotels, cafes and so forth – we also sup- ply the local schools, rugby club and many of the South West tourist attractions with our products.
“Although the occasional customer collectsdirect from our factory, our IQF Honey roast sausages are available through almost all the ma- jor food service providers in the South West, and regionally in Booker and Makro Stores.”
People today are asking more questions about their food and where it comes from, he says. “We only use fresh meat from British Farms, and it is traceable back to its farm of origin.
“More recently we have embarked on the jour- ney of reducing the amount of plastics that we are using in our production process. Our retail packs are now packaged in biodegradable card- board trays, which over the course of the year will prevent 1822 wheelie bins of black plastic from going into landfill. We are hoping to transition all of our products over to fully biodegradable packaging in the near future.
“Being based in an area surrounded by beau- tiful countryside, we know that it is going to grow in importance to our local customers to be buying products that impact upon the landscape as little as possible,” he says.
He adds: “By offering customers biodegradable packaging it is ensures that wherever our pack- aging may end up, it should cause no long-term impact to the environment, and ultimately works towards protecting the provenance in which we have built our brand.”
It is not just locally sourced high-quality meat that is sought after both by innkeepers and their discerning guests, with producers of high-quality jam able to equip your establishment with out- standing-tasting preserves to accompany arguably the most important meal of the day.
Family-owned Boddingtons business own- er Phil Boddington tells Innkeeper magazine: “On the ingredients front we are 80g of fruit content in 100g, compared with a lot of standard strawberry preserves, which are often half that. The biggest difference arises from the fact that we don’t use any artificial gelling agents, unlike most national jams.
Pectin can help the ingredients go further, and it is a cheaper method of making jam.” The cook- ing process is quicker, he says, and there is a taste of apple from the pectin in all such preserves.
“Our jams are just made with fruit and sugar, cooked to a natural selling point. We cook the water out of the fruit in the same method followed before the war. The result is a taste of fruit and sugar rather than fruit, acidity regulator and pectin.”
Another key aspect of Boddingtons is that the company is a dedicated strawberry grower. “We’re not in Unit 12B – it’s all made on the farm where everything is cooked, labelled and delivered,” he says.
Boddingtons is based in Cornwall, which is noted for its high-quality foods as well as being a tourist attraction. It uses national distributors and restaurant distributors as well as exporting some of its products abroad. In addition, all its products are available direct through the company website.
There is a growing demand for locally sourced food, Phil says, as well as a demand for naturally produced foods. “The process we use to make our jam makes it slower to produce and the higher fruit content makes it more expensive, but for the decent proportion of inns that are looking to offer a good quality experience, competing on quality, then using our product against a national or international supplier is bound to result in a better experience for the guest.
“If you are offering a cream tea or break- fast then cost your product, put your price up
accordingly and shout about the fact that you are offering high quality local produce. That way you are bound to get return customers,” he says.
The company does not just sell its products for breakfasts and cream teas, also selling a lot of welcome packs, and innkeepers have the opportunity to sell the jam as a retail take-home product for their guests, he adds.
Patrick Salmon is the owner of Grimsby smoke- house Alfred Enderby. He took over the business two years ago.
The smokehouse was this year awarded two Great Taste Awards for its smoked fish prod- ucts. The highly acclaimed awards, organised by the Guild of Fine Food, are the acknowledged benchmark for fine food and drink.
“Often described as the Oscars of the food world, the Great Taste logo is widely recognised as a sign you can trust when buying locally pro- duced food and drink,” says Salmon.
Alfred Enderby submitted both its smoked salmon and smoked haddock which were award- ed the highest three-star and two-star awards respectively. The Three-star ‘exquisite’ award is awarded to those foods classed as ‘extraordinarily tasty’ and is only awarded to 3% of all entries received, putting the company’s salmon in a class above the norm. The two-star rating received for the haddock is awarded to just 15% of entries received each year.
Feedback on the Alfred Enderby Three-Star Smoked Salmon included the following comments;
“A truly beautiful, near perfect looking side of salmon, glossy, burnished, yet firm fleshed.”
“The texture is fantastic – resilient, firm, yet melting in the mouth. The finish is lingering yet remarkably clean.”
“What a magnificent beast. We are salivating just looking at it. It is majestic, with glossy deep orangey-pink flesh. The smoky flavour gently supports the flavour of the fish itself. It is silky and smooth, sweet and succulent and cuts like butter It is just divine – a stunning product – congratulations!”
Its Two Star Smoked Haddock was also well-acclaimed:
“An attractive succulent piece of fish with great smokey aroma which flakes well giving excellent meaty texture, the smoke is natural and subtle bringing out the great tasting haddock.”
“A fresh tasting fish with light marine notes, with a firm but meltingly soft texture. Carefully judged smoking that builds in the mouth and lingers delightfully.”
Patrick Salmon explains: “We had never entered the Great Tastes Awards, but our customers tell us we produce the best product that is available, that’s why I bought the business two years ago from the retiring son of Alfred Enderby, Richard.
“My goal was to maintain the very high standard we had established over previous decades, refine and improve where possible and get it out to the public. People need to know this is available and the great taste awards are a brilliant opportu- nity to sign post fabulous products like ours.
“We have long serving loyal staff who diligently go about their craft proud of the Alfred Ender- by reputation but blissfully unaware of just how good the smoked fish they produce really is. I feel it is my job to seek the recognition and show the lads in the smoke house that their efforts are truly recognised.
“We pride ourselves on the high quality of skill and craftsmanship that goes into our product. And as such to gain a three- and two-star status from the Great Taste awards cements our confidence in our wonderful smoked fish – we are truly chuffed!”
The awards show that Alfred Enderby has some- thing very unique, he adds. “There is a lot of salmon out there, a large proportion of it very mediocre that I wouldn’t consider eating. To get three stars in our first attempt to apply for this vindicates our claim that we have something very unusual.”
He worries sometimes that people don’t find them, he says. “There are signposts around and we have protected geographic indication as well, the only such business in Lincolnshire.
“Ours is a unique process and we care very passionately about delivering the best product we can using a very old-fashioned approach.”
He says he does not eat out very much because it is mostly disappointing, but he says: “If you do eat out you like to know where the food you are eating is from and I always ask where everything is from, regardless.
“I can’t imagine why a restaurant or an inn wouldn’t say, ‘We source it from XYZ, these are the credentials – please enjoy it!’. It beggars belief that people have smoked salmon or smoked haddock on their menu without indicating where it is from.”
This feature story was originally published inthe Nov/Dec 2018 issue of InnKeeper Magazine