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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Decision time

WREXHAM manager Denis Smith will give his out-of-contract play-ers time to decide whether their futures lie at the Racecourse, writes Paul Wheelock.

WREXHAM manager Denis Smith will give his out-of-contract play-ers time to decide whether their futures lie at the Racecourse, writes Paul Wheelock.

Although the boss wants to avoid a repeat of the situation he encountered with Lee Trundle two summers ago - when the striker's contract negotiations dragged on before he eventually left on a free for Swansea City - he is prepared to bide his time.

Smith, who only has eight of his squad on deals lasting longer than June, said: 'I've spoken to a lot of the players - but not all of them - and left it in their hands. I know everybody wants to know who is exactly coming and going, but I think that's too frivolous.

'This is players' futures we're talking about here so I can't say who will be staying or leaving because they have until June 21 to decide.

'But obviously I would prefer to hear before then because I need to plan for next season.'

One player who will not be playing in League Two with Wrexham come August is Welsh international Steve Roberts, who on Monday left on a free transfer to team up with brother Neil at Doncaster Rovers.

Although Smith is disappointed to lose the home-grown 25-year-old, he understands his reasons for going.

He said: 'He's left on the best terms because he's only doing what he feels best for his future.

'He's an organised lad who's getting married shortly so he needed to get something sorted. We would have

loved for him to stay here but we couldn't offer him a contract earlier in the season because the club simply wasn't in the position to do that.

'He'll be playing in a higher division but hopefully it won't be too long before we're facing him again.'

Dragons fans are fearing Roberts's departure will be the first of many, with the promising Craig Morgan wanted by Milton Keynes Dons and Swansea, while Carlos Edwards and top scorer Juan Ugarte are being tracked by Championship teams.

Smith admits they will be tempted by the prospect of more money and a higher standard of football. But he feels there are plenty of reasons for them to put pen to paper on new deals with Wrexham.

Smith, who is out of contract himself but says he wants to stay on as manager, said: 'This is a lovely area to live. The Racecourse is a tremendous place to play your football and we've got top-class training facilities.

'The potential is here for us to get better and if we get new owners on board we can get back up.' * Wrexham have arranged their first pre-season date, at Witton Albion on Wednesday, July 13.

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