A leading food wholesaler is feeding 150,000 school pupils across North Wales every week and championing Welsh produce at the same time.
According to Harlech Foodservice, which has bases in Criccieth, in Gwynedd and Chester, they’re keen to reduce food miles and make the most of the Welsh pound to boost the economy.
Since April 1 this year, they have provided over three million nutritious school dinners to primary and secondary schools across North Wales and into Merseyside.
Among the Welsh brands they carry are Jones Village Bakery, Edwards the Welsh Butcher, South Caernarfon Creameries, Llaeth y Llan Village Dairy, their own Bwydlyn Butchery and Radnor Hills still, sparkling and flavoured spring water.
It comes at a time when the Welsh Government have announced they are rolling out free school meals to all of Wales' approximately 272,000 primary school pupils by 2024.
The initiative has come about thanks to a deal between Plaid Cymru and the Labour Welsh government.
They say the policy will be extended to around 6,000 nursery-age children
Harlech Commercial Director Mark Lawton said:
“It’s very encouraging for us and for our policy of trying to use Welsh food producers whenever possible.
“We do this because we believe in the high quality and reputation of Welsh produce which is recognised on both sides of the border and because we make every effort to reduce food miles.”
Harlech’s expansion now sees them deliver to customers across Wales and their commitment to using Welsh producers has been an important factor in winning new contracts.
Nick Beadman, Head of Commercial at South Caernarfon Creameries, said:
“We’re proud to be one of many Welsh producers supplying schools and their pupils across North Wales.
“Our award-winning cheese is a testament to itself, produced here on the Llyn Peninsula and made using only Welsh milk from our farmer co-operative members.”
Owain Roberts, Managing Director of Llaeth y Llan Village Dairy, was equally enthusiastic.
“It is vitally important for children to be offered North Wales-produced food at our local primary and secondary schools.
“Harlech Foodservice have been really progressive. They’ve secured a number of long-term contracts which have provided new markets for Welsh producers like us and showcased the quality of the food we produce here.
“At the same time as parents we want to know that our children are being provided with high quality food made from fresh ingredients which is travelling the shortest possible distance from field to school canteen.”
Harlech, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, is also a major supplier to care homes across North and Mid Wales and has seen growth in that sector too with their customer base increasing by 55 per cent and their deliveries by 56 per cent.
Mark Lawton added:
“In these days when it is important for customers to make their supply chains as sustainable as possible ensuring that products are locally produced and reducing food miles makes even more sense.
“We can help them reduce their carbon footprint by supplying them with more sustainably-sourced products and by our own efforts to be greener where we are looking at options for switching our delivery fleet to electric or hydrogen power.
“At the same time the work we are doing to cut carbon use is impressing customers and convincing them we are a company that can help them achieve their own renewable goals.”
That has been helped by the opening of their depot in Chester which means that deliveries – including next day deliveries for orders made by school head cooks – are more conveniently made for customers in North East Wales and the North West where they also supply schools in Knowsley on Merseyside.
Those reduced food miles also helped them win a contract to supply Keele University in Staffordshire and Salford Catering College, in Greater Manchester.
Harlech Foodservice employs around 200 staff at Criccieth, in Gwynedd, and Chester and runs a fleet of vehicles to deliver up to 5,000 product lines to cafés, restaurants, pubs and public sector customers across North and Mid-Wales, Shropshire, the Midlands and the North West.
For more on Harlech Foodservices go to www.harlech.co.uk