Swansea Bay has become home to a host of up-and-coming food and drink producers, with new ventures booming across the region.
Many are being helped by Cywain – a Menter a Busnes project that supports the development of growth-orientated businesses in the food and drink sector in Wales.
In recognition of the rapidly growing number of small and new food and drink businesses singing up to the project, Cywain has appointed a dedicated Development Manager covering Swansea, Neath, and Port Talbot.
Ffion Jones will continue working with existing Cywain clients, bring on new clients and enhance Cywain’s network of support, and help producers operate in as sustainable a way as possible. All the while increasing awareness of quality food and drink produced in the Swansea Bay area.
“Cywain has helped a wide variety of food and drink businesses in and around Swansea, Neath, and Port Talbot. And some of them have gone on to achieve listings with wholesalers and retailers.
“Cywain has seen a surge in the number of new enterprises looking for support and advice, as well as a desire to grow by more established smaller businesses, throughout Wales over the pandemic.
“As a new Development Manager focused on the area, I’m looking forward to building on the excellent work already done and helping more producers in Swansea, Neath, and Port Talbot realise their ambitions and potential. If there are any producers who would like to have a chat about their plans they can contact me via [email protected]”
Among the growing food and drink businesses in the area, helped by Cywain, is Babita’s Spice Deli.
The award-winning business formed by Babita Verma in 2016 has become a popular part of Wales’ burgeoning street food scene. Babita’s Spice Deli is based in Swansea and operates from a 5* rated commercial kitchen. It is there she creates her predominantly vegan and vegetarian traditional Indian and street food dishes.
These are usually sold at local markets – such as Mumbles, Uplands, and Swansea Marina, farmers markets, and festivals including The Gower Show, Cardigan and Aberystwyth. With outlets gradually opening back up, Babita is keen to share her dishes.
“Cywain’s help has been second to none. The support available has been quite invaluable, and it has really moved my business forward during the past year.”
All her food is made from scratch, and the freshly ground spices bring out the best flavours in each dish. The fresh spices, she says, make the dishes more flavoursome and increases the level of antioxidants.
“Using freshly ground spices compared to pre-packed is as different as using instant coffee to freshly ground coffee. It brings food to a different level.”
Using those same fresh ground spices, she is currently working with Cywain and the Food Centre Wales on developing a range of cooking sauces. She also has plans to create a frozen food range to introduce more people to the flavours and dishes from North India and freshly ground spice packs.
Babita passionately believes in educating people about food, and in particular, recipes from her family’s home region of Delhi in North India.
She implies simple ingredients such as vegetables or lentils and a few spices can transform a dish and bring out the best flavours. If it local, it’s even better, and if it is local and organic, it is better still.
“I try and build a relationship with my customers and talk to people about how to cook using ingredients about which they are curious. My customers want good healthy food, and our method of cooking retains the nutrients, adds flavour and is high antioxidants.
Covid has changed people’s eating habits, and people are cooking more at home. They want to replicate what they enjoy and hence the development of the spice packs and cooking sauces.”
Sustainability and working to help the circular economy (the continual use of resources to eliminate waste) are part of the Deli’s ethos. Customers are encouraged to bring their own containers and bags.
Babita has also been developing the use of Tiffins – stainless steel portable, stackable compartmental boxes that can last a lifetime and have multiple uses.
“The help I have had from Cywain and the expert one-to-one mentoring I have received has been very beneficial. Not only has it aided my business, but it has helped me develop personally too. Its business experts are extremely knowledgeable, and their breadth of knowledge is current and practical. I am very grateful to have benefited from the support Cywain has given me.”