By Gerallt Jones,
Partner and Head of the Corporate/Commercial team,
Just a few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending the first Wales Food and Drink Awards in Cardiff, as a judge and sponsor.
It was both humbling and, dare I say, emotional to be with producers face-to-face again after such a deeply difficult period for the sector.
Over the last 2 years, my colleagues and I have been supporting hospitality and leisure clients through the pandemic and Brexit transition. We’ve seen first-hand how the industry has been impacted. Since 2020, the Welsh Government has invested some £450 million into sustaining the hospitality, leisure, and tourism sectors, providing vital support to thousands of firms. But some haven’t survived.
Against this bleak backdrop, however, many businesses have innovated, adapted, and managed to overcome extreme challenges. It’s been nothing short of inspirational. So, it was heartening to spend an evening at the awards immersed in some of these success stories, celebrating qualities like COVID resilience, innovation, sustainable values, scaling-up and local community support, amongst others.
Hugh James proudly sponsored the ‘Food Producer of the Year’ category and the award went to Llaeth y Llan / Village Dairy – the hugely successful family-run firm, based in Conwy. The dairy’s Managing Director, Owain Roberts, paid tribute to every member of his team for their unswerving devotion. Speaking to me after the event.
Without their dedication and commitment, we simply would not have achieved this. It has been a challenging few years for every food producer in Wales. The way our staff have worked together to overcome these challenges has been truly inspiring. We have to look forward, continue to innovate and drive additional sales. The next 12 months will be challenging but we have to navigate our way through it. We will continue to develop and invest in manufacturing capabilities. Our New Product Development team will continually look at our offering to see if we can improve or introduce new lines.
Just like Owain, I remain optimistic for the future of the sector. It remains passionate, committed, and agile, despite the ongoing global economic and political uncertainty. In the last few weeks alone, we’ve continued to support businesses as they’ve adapted and pivoted. This includes our advice to SA Brain & Co Ltd on its sale of a portfolio of pub investments to Song capital. The proceeds of the deal will enable it to invest in its modern, state of the art, Dragon Brewery in Cardiff. We’ve also advised Gareth Bale and his True Swing Ltd partners as they further develop their Par 59 golf-themed bar chain. These are two very different brands, but with a common goal in mind, which is to build sustainable and future-fit businesses that will take them into the next generation.
Welsh Government has set out its vision for the future of the food and drink sector in Wales, wanting to build a flourishing industry with a global reputation for excellence. I’m convinced it is already well on its way. Just last year, for example, we completed one of Wales’s largest M&A deals, with the sale of a majority stake in Capestone Organic Poultry in West Wales, to LDC – one of Europe’s leading poultry supply companies. This was a huge success story for Wales – with a home-grown business becoming a leading producer on an international scale.
So, I’m hopeful that the longer-term vision can be realised. We have many wonderful producers in Wales and the Wales Food and Drink Awards certainly showcased the best of them, in all their finery. While the future might be tough for the sector, it’s a diverse and exciting industry, and one I’m proud to work with.
About the author
Gerallt Jones is a Partner at Head of the Corporate/Commercial team at top 100 UK law firm, Hugh James, with particular expertise in the sport and food & drink sectors. He advises clients including the Welsh Government, the Welsh Rugby Union, Princes Gate Water, and the Development Bank of Wales.
The Food and Drink Awards
The inaugural event took place on 13 May at Cardiff’s Mercure Hotel.
Reflecting on the occasion, Liz Brookes, Director of Grapevine Event Management and Co-founder of the awards said:
Wales has such an array of passionate food and drink producers and we wanted to be able to shine a spotlight on this hard-working sector. To see everyone come together for a night of celebration after what has been the most challenging couple of years, was amazing. We had a fantastic number of entries to the awards; showing the sheer hard work and determination the industry has, and we are grateful for the support we have received from our sponsors to help bring these awards together to be able to recognise the Wales Food and drink producers.