A retail and drinks industry expert from Northwich has stepped into a new role at a Welsh centre of excellence.

Conrad Jones has been appointed operations director at Bodnant Welsh Food Centre in the Conwy Valley, North Wales.

He was previously in charge of Edinburgh University Students Association’s multi-million pound operation, overseeing the success of its bars, catering outlets, shops, fine dining and entertainments programme, including for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Conrad, whose family still live in Arley, went to Sir John Deane School before heading to Durham University. He says his priority at Bodnant will be getting to know every single aspect of the business.

Named Welsh Retailer of the Year for 2015, the centre has gained a string of awards for its produce, including UK Farm Shop of the Year by the influential BBC Good Food magazine.

Locally-sourced produce

According to Conrad, who has more than three decades of experience at the highest level in the food and drinks industry, he was attracted to returning to the retail sector by the growing move towards locally-sourced produce.

Conrad, who will be succeeding managing director Chris Morton, said: “I was totally blown away by the set-up and the ethos at Bodnant Welsh Food and the potential to build on the fantastic success it has achieved already.

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“My aim is to continue the growth the centre has enjoyed whilst strengthening the links with our existing artisan suppliers and developing links with new ones.

“I can’t wait to get started - this really is a dream job for me.

“My background is in bars, restaurants and country hotels, where we looked to serve locally sourced food. At Edinburgh I moved away from national suppliers - all our food products come from within 30 miles radius, they are all locally sourced.

Massive potential

“You can see the trend, there’s massive potential for places such as Bodnant Welsh Food. It is the centre of excellence for Welsh food and produce, both the great food we make here and the food made by local artisan producers, and it will continue to be recognised for that,” said Conrad.

“More than half of all products sold in the shop are produced at the centre, and three-quarters of what we sell comes from Wales, including specialist foods from over 100 artisan producers.

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“The centre also supports local farmers, with our PGI beef and lamb reared at nearby farms - I can see that customers appreciate that the provenance of fresh meat is shown on blackboards in the farm shop.

Exciting stage of development

“Bodnant Welsh Food is entering an exciting stage of development and my role will be taking people who work here on that journey, expanding out into new markets and new products.”

Chris Morton said: “We were delighted to appoint somebody of Conrad’s calibre to this pivotal role at Bodnant Welsh Food

“Conrad has a great mix of retail and technical knowledge - he really understands the business that we are in and has excellent plans for the future development of Bodnant Welsh Food to take the centre on to the next stage of its expansion.

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“In addition, he has lived for much of his life in this area and so is committed to promoting locally-sourced Welsh produce. As well as having all the right credentials, his philosophy is also a perfect match for Bodnant Welsh Food.”