A group of local producers and suppliers who have all received support from an innovation project showed off their new skills at an artisan fayre last weekend.
The suppliers were part of the “Beyond the Kitchen Table” learning and skills project which was one of the initiatives offered by the Hospitality, Innovation, Tourism, Supply Chain (HITS) programme.
The project supported small and micro food and drink businesses with a series of learning and one-to-one mentoring sessions to enable them to pitch their produce to the retail, hospitality, and food service sector.
They were able to practice what they had learned for the first time at The Autumn Artisan Fayre held at The Alnwick Garden, which was delivered as part of the HITS project.
Funded by North of Tyne Combined Authority and delivered by NewcastleGateshead Initiative, in association with Food and Drink North East and NBSL, HITS is aimed at helping businesses in Newcastle, Northumberland and North Tyneside to meet the challenges tourism, hospitality and supply chain businesses are facing following the pandemic by innovating and finding new business solutions.
To sign up for the event businesses were also able to use a new BuySupply portal set up as part of HITS. Designed to help make it easier for buyers and suppliers within the North of Tyne area access opportunities, the platform enables suppliers to showcase their products and services and lets buyers publish opportunities and connect to relevant suppliers.
Since it was launched this summer more than 300 businesses in the hospitality and food and drink sector have signed up to the portal. Businesses are still being encouraged to sign up to the portal and start taking advantage of the opportunities it offers.
Independent North of Tyne Mayor, Jamie Driscoll, said: “Our HITS programme was designed to bring new and creative ideas to the hospitality and tourism sector in the North East to improve the visitor offer.
“Whether promoting our local North of Tyne food and drink offer or bringing high-tech innovation into the hospitality sector, the programme has been a great success.”
Ian Thomas, Director of Visitor Economy at NGI, said: “As a small business or new start-up it can be daunting putting yourself in front of buyers but with a wealth of fantastic local producers and suppliers in the region. The HITS programme has been the initial step in helping to grown the hospitality and tourism supply chain.
“Creating a sustainable tourism sector is central to the work we are doing as part of our 10-year destination plan, so the work undertaken under this funding and initiative has helped pave the way for that larger piece of work.
“HITS has developed local connections and encouraged buyers to take advantage of what is on their doorstep, therefore helping to reduce their energy costs and carbon footprint, as well as bringing income into the region’s visitor economy.”
Chris Green, Hummingbird Drinks of Amble who attended the fayre said: “Getting the chance to put our product out in front of a larger audience was great for us, the feedback was excellent and we were extremely happy with the sales too. We sold over 100 cocktails across the two days which we weren’t expecting to do! Alongside that, getting the chance to network with other businesses was invaluable for us.”
The HITS programme has also seen 15 businesses in the North of Tyne area benefit from a share of a £300,000 grant fund to enable them to develop innovative business solutions. The fayre at Alnwick was the last HITS event before the programme came to an end, but the supply chain platform, podcasts, webinars and training resources are still available online. To sign up for the BuySupply portal or to access any of the other resources click here.