Vegan burgers will be on the menu as some of Wales' leading food and drink producers display their latest wares at one of the country's leading food expos.
The Harlech Foodservice Food and Drink Expo 2020, now in its 42nd year, is expected to welcome more than 2,000 visitors and be attended by more than 160 suppliers.
The two-day trade event is being held at Venue Cymru in Llandudno on Tuesday February 25 and Wednesday February 26.
At the heart of the expo is a designated area, known as Welsh Street, which has been created specifically to draw attention to the wealth of quality food being produced across the country and particularly in the North Wales region.
This year there will be at least 30 Welsh suppliers using the event to talk directly to key customers in the UK-wide leisure, education and health industries about their latest produce.
One of those there will be Ruthin-based Patchwork Foods who will be providing tasters of the Vegan Punk Zero Bull burger, launched in January, a vegan burger developed by an award winning burger chef which takes its healthy, plant based credentials very seriously.
Gill Blease, Marketing Manager for Harlech Foodservice, the growing food distribution firm with its headquarters in Llanystumdwy, near Criccieth, Gwynedd, which organises the expo, said:
“There is no doubt that Welsh sells. It sells because of the quality of the products and because of the stories behind the food producers and the love and care which goes into creating that top quality food product.
“These are the reasons why supplying the products to our customers is so important to Harlech Foodservice and they are extremely popular.
“The food and drink expo gives these Welsh suppliers an opportunity to tell their story direct to their customers, and potentially win new ones too.
“We live and work in a beautiful region with the most outstanding scenery where food producers make the most of the nature around them to create stunning food. With that comes a passion for the region and its food products which we want to put front and centre at the expo.
“We are proud of being a major employer in the North Wales region so it makes sense for us to support local food producers in this way and in turn support local business and the economy.”
Rufus Carter is Managing Director at Patchwork Foods, which has its own homegrown story to tell. It was set up in 1982 by his mother Margaret, a talented home cook, who found herself divorced with three children to look after and started the business by selling her delicious homemade pâtés to pubs nearby.
“When my mum set up the business 28 years ago, she vowed she would never produce anything that she would have to apologise for and it’s a guiding principle for the firm today.
“The same love, care and attention has been put into creating our new Zero Bull vegan burger.
“It has been developed in partnership with Dave Ahern, a multi-award winning chef with a particular passion for burgers who won a place in the Top 10 Burgers in London from respected bar and restaurant guide Fluid London.
“While he was head chef at a restaurant in Battersea, Dave launched his own burger pop-up Burger Breakout which took London by storm.
“Working with Dave, we realised that many vegan burgers already on the market are ‘ultra processed’ and loaded with saturated fat, salt and artificial additives.
“We have created a much ‘healthier’ burger which is aimed as squarely at non vegans, or vegan tourists as we call them, so those who are looking for ways to reduce the amount of meat in their diet without compromising on taste and enjoyment of their food.
“Our aim is that people eating Zero Bull burgers would sit beside someone ordering an eight ounce beef burger and not feel like a poor relation.
“The result is a vegan burger made from 100 per cent natural ingredients, 25 in total, which is manufactured by a family firm in the UK and is genuinely healthy. It cooks straight from frozen too which makes it an excellent choice for the trade market. It has been designed by Dave, very much with other chefs in mind.”
Rufus added that he was delighted to be taking part in the Harlech Foodservice expo again and said:
“Wales produces some of the finest and most fantastic food in the world and so the importance of events such as the expo can’t be underestimated.
“You cannot scratch and smell or eat a photo in a catalogue. You cannot portray the passion and care which has gone into making that product. The expo gives us a chance to talk directly to existing and new customers and share our story with them. They can taste and see the product for themselves in real time which can result in an invaluable business boost for us.”
Other businesses on show in Welsh Street will be the Wrexham-based family-run Village Bakery with their Gluten Freedom range, South Caernarfon Creameries with various cheeses including their Welsh slate cavern aged cheddar and Pembrokeshire’s organic milk and milk product producer Daioni with a new chilled coffee range.
Harlech Foodservice will take the opportunity to champion its new range of Brongain Farm Welsh beef products which have just secured European Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status.
It is a new partnership struck up with the Pickstock family and their 680-acre farm, in Llanfechain, Powys, which sees Harlech Foodservice selling top quality steaks, roasting joints, diced beef and mince under the Brongain Farm brand.
The Welsh Government will also be in attendance at the event, on Welsh Street, represented jointly by Food & Drink Wales and Visit Wales.
Dilys Parker, of Food & Drink Wales, said:
“The food expo is a fantastic opportunity for local food suppliers to showcase the unique qualities of their produce and to celebrate how special that produce is to them and the region as a whole.
“Welsh food and drink is an important part of the visitor experience. It’s about sense of place, telling the story of the food and drink and helping visitors uncover our local, culinary gems – by championing the regional distinctiveness of Welsh produce.
“Supporting local suppliers in this way, at an event like this, can also help build the area’s brand and increase revenue in the regional economy whilst promoting an unique sense of place.
“On our stand we will be highlighting the latest visitor research on food trends and menu ideas.
“In the Value of Welshness research commissioned by the Welsh Government, over 80 per cent of consumers in Wales surveyed preferred to buy Welsh food and drink whilst 75 per cent of UK consumers surveyed believe that Welsh food and drink brands signify great quality.”