Chichester a 'key player' in the country's £120billion food chain
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The food and drink industry is the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, contributing £29bn to the economy annually – outstripping all other manufacturing sectors, including automotive and aerospace.
Chichester’s local food and drink businesses, produces a wide range of high-quality products and are central to the success of the sector in the South East, which (excluding London) is responsible for more than eleven per cent of the UK’s food and drink manufacturing businesses, according to the Food and Drink Federation.
Chichester benefits from a long growing season – a district situated in a gap the South Downs, it boasts an ideal eco-climate, which is maximised by growers.
Businesses here make land work harder than in other places, using tech and creating a cluster with economies of scale.
Home to some of the UK’s most successful businesses, its community-orientated and pioneering ethos creates the ideal commercial climate for encouraging sustainability and innovation.
Natures Way Foods is an industry-leading innovator, which began in 1994 when the Langmead brothers had the idea to combine the freshest lettuce with the latest food manufacturing technology.
Investing in new technologies from factory design to automation, it is market leader in fresh convenient food, with its range of salad products stocked across most of the UK’s leading supermarket as well as being the producer of Hellmann’s Coleslaw and Leon Salads.
Most of the UK season crop is farmed locally, and its manufacturing sites are located just south of Chichester’s beautiful cobbled streets.
The Summer Berry Company has sustainability and stewardship of the land at its heart and supplies almost the entire UK supermarket industry with quality, fresh raspberries, strawberries and blueberries, and the family-owned Selsea’s Fish and Lobster Company are responsible for sourcing and distributing products across the UK.
There has been a 90 per cent increase in vineyard coverage in the South Downs National Park since 2016, according to a report commissioned by the South Downs National Park Authority and carried out by Vinescapes.
The area’s 51 vineyards and eleven wineries employ 358 people, attracting approximately 33,000 visitors a year and contributing directly around £24.5m to the local economy and £54m to the wider economy.
They include award-winning Ashling Park Estate.
Managing director, Gail Gardner, said: “Sussex is the sunniest county in the United Kingdom, according to Met Office records and Chichester’s annual growing season temperatures are higher than the regional average.
"With relatively warm and frost-free conditions and the Isle of Wight and the Downs providing shelter from strong winds the gentle rising coastal plain attracts high light and UV levels, making it ideal for vineyards.
“This little micro climate has encouraged us to invest £6m becoming a wine tourism destination. At our estate we now offer tours, tastings, restaurants, overnight stays, a gin school 50 bee hives, meeting facilities and a shop or as it called in the trade ‘cellar door’.
“Sussex has its own PDO (protected designation of origin) for wine and has become a wine region in itself with more Gold medal winners in wine competitions than any other county, Chichester is striving to be the capital of this wine region which adds value to our market positioning of excellence.”
Councillor Tony Dignum, Chichester District Council’s Cabinet Member for Growth, Place and Regeneration, said: “We are very proud to have such an array of high-quality producers and growers in our district.
“This region has some of the best light in the UK, which, together with the ground-breaking innovations that many of the businesses in the food and drink sector are pushing forward, we are excited about how bright the future is for this area.”
Simon Conway, MD of Vitacress Herbs, said: “As the market leader of fresh herbs in the UK, Vitacress Herbs has been a part of the Chichester community for 10 years.
"With over 12 hectares of glasshouses and a packing facility which delivers over 80 million herbs a year, it’s safe to say we’re heavily invested in the area. Aside from feeling lucky to be based in an area of outstanding beauty, Chichester provides us with access to transport links across the country.
"Known to be one the ‘sunniest places in Britain’, the climate contributes to growth of our herbs. With a progressive District Council and a City which welcomes over 16,000 students a year, there’s a wealth of opportunity and innovation in the local area.”