Business Sheffield announce Sheffield Food Producers Meet the Buyer event
Business Sheffield originally planned to hold this event on 24 and 25 January. However, considering the current high level of COVID-19 infections and the particularly challenging period that many businesses are going through, they feel that this wouldn’t be the right thing to do.
They’re looking for another date to hold the event later in the year. Meanwhile, they want to use the time to get to know their buyers and suppliers even better. So if you’re interested in the event, please do still sign up (if you’re a buyer) or apply (if you’re a supplier). They’ll be able to talk through their plans and your needs, and keep you updated on the rearranged event.
Back in November 2021, Sheffield was allocated funding from the £50m England European Regional Development Fund to support the safe reopening of the city’s high streets and commercial areas.
In order to best utilise the money, and to help as many businesses as possible, the council set about creating a team of seven Information Officers contracted to Business Sheffield who would help help make sure that, at a time of high levels of anxiety for business owners, they felt supported and encouraged to find out exactly what funding they had access to and how to get it.
One of the team tasked with creating links on the high streets and in the neighbourhoods of the region was food consultant and place maker, Esther Morrison, who has helped businesses in areas including Spital Hill, Kelham Island and Firth Park.
Explaining the role, Esther said: “The job we were tasked with was to make sure that everybody had a point of contact in their neighbourhood. We could help deal with misinformation, act as a conduit between businesses and different areas of the council and answer questions that they might have.
“People are under a lot of stress, they’re short of time and they don’t always read emails or social media, so we were making sure that they were in the best position to navigate the application process by physically being in those communities, face to face.
“We were split into different areas and we each have specific neighbourhoods that we look after, but when we get together as a team, there’s a lot of information sharing going on so we quickly know about any issues starting to come through on the ground that otherwise the council wouldn’t necessarily know about.”
The team quickly realised that the main difficulty for businesses to navigate in those early days of reopening was understanding how the grants process worked, and what funding they were actually eligible for.
Esther explains: “An easy example would be restaurants who had pivoted to doing takeaway only during lockdown. In the minds of a lot of business owners they were open because they were trading, but what they didn’t understand was that their primary operation, the thing that they were registered as a business to do, wasn’t operating, so therefore they were actually entitled to a closure grant.
“We helped to make it possible for them to apply by giving them the right information. It was a way of making sure that as many people as possible got the money that they were entitled to.”
Businesses that benefited from the service include Wasteneys Butcher (locally sourced meats) in Grenoside, Leaf and Shoot (Kelham, microshoots and leaves) and Sheffield Bakery (Spital Hill, naan only, 3 for £1), as well as shops like Coles’ Corner in Abbeydale Road that showcase local suppliers.
Aside from business getting the support they needed, a positive upshot of these interactions has been a greater understanding of what matters to businesses in Sheffield. “It’s been amazing being part of the team, encouraging all the different elements of the council to understand how small businesses and high streets were impacted,” says Esther, “Sheffield [City Council] have made big strides in collaborating across different services because they’ve now got more people on the ground talking to businesses.
One of the projects that has come out of these conversations is the upcoming Sheffield Food Producers Meet the Buyer Event, which will be held at the Town Hall’s Reception Rooms on 24 and 25 January, from 8am- 7pm. Local buyers from across the North of England will be invited to discover the wonderful independent producers we have to offer, in turn helping the producers expand their customer base by peddling their wares to the largest possible audience for two days.
Esther tells us that that The Meet the Buyer event came from a meeting she had with four of Business Sheffield’s food clients who were all looking at making the jump to the next stage of their development, that intermediate grey area that’s between doing artisanal food markets and looking for a factory or manufacturing type facility.
The businesses were all saying, ‘we don’t know how to reach out to different types of buyers’, and it was during those conversation that they came up with the idea of creating a big commercial event, where Business Sheffield would invite Sheffield farmers, growers and food producers to the Town Hall, where they will be met by supermarkets, the National Trust, local museums, farm shops and delicatessens from across the North of England.
The businesses involved with developing the idea for the event include a local homemade chorizo maker, a sauce brand, a crisp company and a baklava producer, and any business registered as food producer in Sheffield is invited to apply.
“The diversity of food that is available in Sheffield is amazing, and an awful lot of foodies won’t necessarily know about it,” says Esther, “A lot of hospitality businesses will be buying their fruit and veg from the local greengrocer, or their meat from the local butcher, but they’re not actually celebrating that point.
“One of the things that we’re going to be looking at going forward is encouraging people to celebrate those local links that people are making naturally, but aren’t making a fuss about. Research shows that, whilst people may not care about specifically where their local produce comes from, they care that the person they buy it from cares!
“People want to pay for quality, they want to pay for local and that leads to the multiplier effect, where if you spend a pound in your local community, more of that stays in your local community than if you spend money in a chain supermarket. It does become a win win.
“The Sheffield food scene as a whole, I think, is as healthy as it could be under the circumstances, and that’s why the council is pursuing this meet the buyer event; we want to really celebrate the quality and range of foodstuffs right across the whole city.”
The Sheffield Food Producers Meet the Buyer Event takes place on 24 and 25 January 2022 from 8am- 7pm in the Sheffield Town Hall Reception Rooms. To find out more call Business Sheffield on 0114 224 5000 or email Esther@rosiabay.co.uk . Business Sheffield will keep businesses up to date should arrangements change due to COVID 19