From jams to jalapenos, cheese to chocolate, cottage industries and kitchen table firms are big business. According to a new report by entrepreneur organisation, Enterprise Nation, and Direct Line for Business, these home-based businesses now contribute more than £300 billion to the UK economy each year.
The North-east is no exception. Artisan food and drink producers have experienced something of a resurgence in recent years, fuelled in many cases, by the down-turn in the fortunes of the oil and gas industry.
On Sunday 16th September, the Deeside Local Food Festival, in association with Kippie Lodge Sports and Country Club, returns for its fourth successive year. It will feature a staggering 62 produce stalls and food outlets, 94% of whom hail from the local region. This year the festival will take place at Cults Academy, Quarry Road, Cults, during Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight. At the heart of the event will be an expanded local produce market, where around 50 stallholders producing local food will have the opportunity to showcase and sell their produce.
A number of these have gone through a career change to enter this lively sector or are indeed running their businesses while simultaneously pursuing a career in an entirely different sector. Pete Dignan and Richard Pearce of the Lost Loch Distillery, for instance, combine their passion for producing craft spirits such as gin and absinthe, with life offshore, working for Bibby Offshore and Conoco Phillips. Pete said: “I am very much looking forward to introducing our locally sourced, handmade craft spirits to a wider audience at the Deeside Local Food Festival.”
Aberdeen café, Melt, will also be serving up their signature snacks to hungry festival-goers. Launched in 2016 when owner Mechelle found herself redundant for the second time that year from her career in the oil and gas industry, the career change has certainly paid off, with Melt firmly established as a favourite for comfort food in the city.
Fellow stall-holder, Ellie Louise Sinclair, of VegCo, completed a degree in Media Studies, before joining the family business, Sinclair Agricultural and Recycling Services Ltd. She uses an anaerobic digester to power an indoor greenhouse, where she currently grows a range of tomatoes and chillies and produces a small range of cooking sauces and jams and meat rubs.
Festival organiser, Rachel Gambro, who has also experienced a career change from Manufacturing Engineer to food festival organiser, said: “The festival offers a unique chance for residents and the local community to come together and enjoy a family day out, while supporting local food businesses. It also provides an opportunity for these businesses to showcase their high quality, artisan produce to a large number of potential new customers.
“Stallholders at the event have commented on how engaged customers are, and the feedback from visitors has been resoundingly positive. They particularly enjoy being able to speak with local food producers, as well as trying the delicious fare before they buy, not to mention the relaxed atmosphere at the festival and the variety of fun activities on offer for all the family.”
“This year we are delighted to have Kippie Lodge Sports and Country Club on board again as our main sponsor. With their proud tradition of providing fun and healthy activities for all the family, they are a wonderful fit for our focus on young people at this year’s festival.”
Aberdeen City Council Culture Spokesperson Councillor Marie Boulton said: “Aberdeen’s food and drink larder is absolutely bursting with quality produce, and I’m looking forward to the Deeside Local Food Festival showcasing the exceptional selection of food and drink producers we have in the city and surrounding areas.
“Aberdeen City Council is delighted to support the growth and delivery of the Deeside Local Food Festival, and events like this help smaller food and drink businesses to realise their growth ambitions. Collaborative working in partnerships such as these demonstrates our commitment to development and diversification of the city
“Our local produce companies are continuously innovating to deliver exciting new product lines to an ever-expanding global marketplace, and we hope the public come out in their crowds to support it.”
As well as the local produce market, there will also be an array of cookery workshops, demonstrations with local chefs, talks and tastings running throughout the action-packed day. A highlight of the day will see four top chefs from Entier Services, the Chester Hotel, the Rothesay Rooms and McWilliam Aberdeen creating ‘The Great Aberdeenshire Menu’, with each cooking a course inspired by locally produced, seasonal food. Their taste-buds suitably tingling, visitors will have a variety of options for lunch in a street café, whilst listening to live music from local artists.