Rising start-up The Buxton Pudding Company was one of only seven fledgling companies in the Midlands to be honoured at a government initiative recognising food and drink entrepreneurs.
Some 50 “Food Stars” from across the country were selected from hundreds of award-winning businesses to receive a great accolade and meet leaders from the British food and drink industry, which reached a record value of £103 bn last year.
The event, held at Defra headquarters at Noble House in London on Thursday, February 26, was the launch of an initiative to support food and drink entrepreneurs at a time when micro-businesses are cumulatively the largest employer in the county and food and drink production surpasses the aerospace and car manufacture industries combined.
Owner of Buxton Pudding Company, Dom McCall, 47, said: “The whole day was very busy, we had masterclasses in accessing finance, which is always an issue these days, branding and marketing, exporting - they were giving us access to people you wouldn’t dream of getting advice from.”
Among other guests were the Secretary of State for Environment Elizabeth Truss, former CEO of Sainsbury’s Justin King and Dame Fiona Kendrick, CEO of Nestle UK and Ireland.
Dom added: “It was really important to tap into those expertise because it can be quite a lonely experience here when you’re just ploughing on with work, and you can be in danger of forgetting how important these things are.”
“They were encouraging us to think in terms of exports as well, to China particularly where people are enchanted with British products and the quality we can produce.”
The business has been going for two years now, supplying higher-end farm shops and delis with hand-made puddings - which so far have won 18 Great Taste awards. It employs four people and produces thousands of products each week.
The first initiative of its kind, the Food Star scheme aims to help winners grow their business and get more produce on supermarket shelves in the UK, as well as abroad.
Environment secretary Elizabeth Truss said: “The Midlands has always been a place where sparky entrepreneurs come up with great innovations in food and drink, people with the ambition to grow and take on the world.
“Now is the time to celebrate that success, which is helping to grow our economy - that is why we’ve created Food Stars to recognise the bright innovators of today and support them to become the major players of tomorrow.
“From street food to gin, coffee to baking kits, Midlands Food Stars truly represent the best of British and demonstrate the creativity and determination in this country. Our Food Stars show if you want to see a vision for Britain’s bright economic future, look no further than the UK’s food and drink industry.”
Food and farming employs one person in eight in Britain. In 2013 entrepreneurs set up 30,000 new food and drink businesses generating thousands of jobs in the sector.
Exports of UK food and drink are also booming with almost £19 bn shipped to more than 150 countries.
Following Thursday’s launch and lunchtime trade fair, the 50 Food Stars will receive a package of continued support from the Food and Drink Federation and Cranfield University over the next year. This includes a tailored information service and access to a range of events and development opportunities in agriculture and food, the environment, management and leadership.