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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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Foundation trust bid for area’s hospitals

HALTON Hospital could become part of an NHS foundation trust if plans being drawn up by hospital bosses come to fruition.

HALTON Hospital could become part of an NHS foundation trust if plans being drawn up by hospital bosses come to fruition.

The hospitals in Runcorn and Warrington are currently operated as part of North Cheshire Hospitals NHS Trust but bosses want greater control over what they do and are demanding the independence that being a foundation trust brings.

A foundation trust is a not-for- profit organisation which is outside the control of central Government while remaining part of the NHS.

A North Cheshire Hospitals spokesperson said: ‘Becoming a foundation trust would give us a lot more freedom to do the things that we and the local people want, and we would be able to do things quicker.’

The planning application to change status is expected to take at least a year and a public consultation is to begin in January.

During the process the trust will be recruiting members to support its bid.

A spokesperson said: ‘We would be looking to get between 5,000 and 7,000 members.

‘Any person who has been a patient or lives in the area can become a member and membership is free of charge.’

If the application is approved next summer by the independent regulator Monitor, it would be a seal of approval for the trust’s hard work after being beset with financial difficulties.

In 2006-07 the trust lost £6.6m although it is forecasting a surplus of £3.5m for the current financial year.

He said: ‘Becoming a foundation trust would be a sign that we have sorted out the problems of the past few years.’

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