Morrisons gives small Cheshire foodmakers a chance to shine

Liverpool Road store will be location for pioneering new scheme

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In Cheshire we have a wealth of independent food and beverage producers selling quality products like cheese, eggs, beer, gin and even pickled onions.

But how often do these hardworking artisans get the chance to put their goodies centre stage on the shelves of a supermarket giant?

The answer is probably rarely or never.

Now there are more reasons to shop at Morrisons as the supermarket responds to customer demand by giving local food makers the opportunity to showcase the 2000 ir wares from under its influential roof.

Morrisons is piloting the idea at some stores including its Liverpool Road outlet in Upton , Chester , as it strives to stand out in a competitive marketplace.

Morrisons supermarket at the Bache

To help decide which suppliers win the golden ticket, Morrisons held an X-Factor style competition at Lache Community Centre where producers were introduced to wannabe customers for a chat but also to share samples of their wares. Guests were invited to rate the offer on a score card.

Henry Cooke, a partner in Clotton Hall Dairy at Tarporley , said of the Morrisons initiative: “It’s great. I’m a very young company. I wasn’t going to touch supermarkets for quite a while but when they came to me and offered me the chance to take part in the local scheme I was very attracted by it. We started off with local shops but this was an opportunity we didn’t want to miss. Hopefully we will get something out of this.”

Explaining the product, he continued: “We’ve called it Cheshire clotted cream because there’s not really anyone around the Cheshire area that makes clotted cream. It’s more usually associated with the south west – Cornwall and Devon. We want to cut the food miles out, support our own farm, push local produce and people seem to be loving the final product.

“It’s taken a lot of work to get it where it is now. I think it’s starting to pay off.”

Brigid Killen, owner of Ellesmere Port-based Mrs Picklepot.

Brigid Killen, otherwise known as Mrs Picklepot of Ellesmere Port , sells a range of pickles, piccalillis and chutneys with an appeal that combines nostalgia for homemade recipes and a modern twist.

She said: “I’ve got a range of pickled onions and nine flavours. I’d been doing food festivals and markets before then. I had a stall at the butchers’ market at Wrexham. But I upscaled last year. In that year I’ve been taken on by some big wholesalers so just moving into the retail market now.”

“There aren’t any other flavoured pickled onions. I’ve got the classic and the traditional pickled onion, balsamic and the shallots and then I’ve got a range of another six flavours. I’ve got hot ones and then with honey, garlic, sherry, cider vinegar so it’s elevating the humble pickled onion! And it fits with current trends – it’s vegetarian, vegan, carb-free, low fat.”

Talking about the Morrisons pilot, she commented: “It’s really exciting and they are very understanding of the small producer, a small business. Normally you wouldn’t get through on the telephone to a buyer. You are small and they don’t know who you are. So this event is brilliant, plus you’re getting instant feedback because they’ve invited guests – honest feedback which helps the buyer.”

Mark Stanley, part-owner of Chester-based Cheshire Distilleries.

Mark Stanley is part-owner of Mollington-based Cheshire Distilleries which makes premium gin under the brands of Arrowsmiths and Cheshire Grins.

He said: “I think it’s really good. I think it’s excellent that Morrisons are looking to support local producers and hopefully we’ve done enough to be considered.

“Arrowsmiths is more of a product we’ve got in mind for volume because it’s a lower price point. Grins, the price point means it’s more of a considered purchase but both would sit well on the shelf. But in terms of volume, Arrowsmiths, with rhubarb-flavoured gin being so popular at the moment, it would really be a good seller."

Julian Bailey, public relations director for Morrisons supermarket.

Julian Bailey is public relations director at Morrisons.

He said: “The reason for do e9c ing it is that it is something that customers appreciate. They go into a lot of supermarkets. They might see a lot of the same brands – Mars, Nestle – but if we can provide something that is just from down the road they think, it’s supporting local businesses, it’s fewer food miles, it’s something that might be fresher because it’s come from down the road rather than across the country.

“It provides something that’s a little bit different to our stores.”

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A right royal appointment for proud Bob

A DEDICATED charity worker has been invited to party with Prince Charles to celebrate nearly three decades of working with young people in Mid Cheshire.

A DEDICATED charity worker has been invited to party with Prince Charles to celebrate nearly three decades of working with young people in Mid Cheshire.

Bob Barton, of Carisbrook Drive, Winsford, has been invited to a garden party at Buckingham Palace next week as recognition of Mr Barton's work with The Prince's Trust.

The 57-year-old has dedicated 27 years of his life to working as an assessor for the charity which helps people aged between 14 and 30, who have either struggled at school, been in care, in trouble with the law or are among the long-term unemployed, over-come barriers and get their lives back on track.

It gives them support including training, mentoring and financial assistance.

As an assessor for the charity, Mr Barton works with youths applying for grants to draw up a business plan and assess whether their needs can be met with funding from the charity.

His wife Glen says he should be proud of his invitation.

She said: 'This is an amazing achievement for him. These opportunities only come along once in a lifetime and I think for the amount of time and effort he has put in over the last 30 years, he deserves it.

'His work is vital in helping young people become independent and get on with their own lives. People who have benefited from Bob's work tell him that if it wasn't for him they would have gone off the rails. Bob's vision to help young people has encouraged them to stay on the right track and he has inspired others to carry on the work that he has done.'

Mr Barton, who also works for Cheshire Youth Service and has run youth centres in Winsford, will also be bending Charles' ear about funding, with financial problems hindering the Trust.

He said: 'I see patterns emerging in Cheshire where the money is needed. We invest a lot in people needing push bikes, driving lessons and fork-lift truck licences which can be quite expensive.

'But we are strapped for cash and it is causing major concerns. A lot of funding is being targeted at deprived, inner-city areas and unfortunately the financial support in Cheshire is minimal. I want to make sure that the Prince is aware of the problems.'

Mike Kennedy of the Grange Residents Association said: 'Bob has been an outstanding member of the community for over 30 years. His work with the youth, especially at New Images Youth Centre, means most people in Winsford know him by name and that's all down to his work with children.

'Anything that comes Bob's way is well-deserved, there is nobody more deserving. He puts so much effort into the youth services, it's above and beyond the call of duty.'

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