Alan Davies AM, Minister for Natural Resources and Food
The Welsh Government is strongly committed to the growth and development of our food sector. This is a critical sector for our economy but also reflects our culture, history and identity. Food is important to us as a nation and our relationship with food is one which will impact not only economic policy but also education, health and social policy as well. I am acutely aware that we need to continue to support growth in the sector and to achieve this aim it is important to celebrate and promote the excellence of Welsh food and drink both at home and further afield.
In order to help achieve our ambitions and objectives, I have concluded that the current strategy, Food for Wales, Food from Wales, is no longer fit for purpose. I will publish a new strategic Plan for Food in the autumn. This new strategy will be focused on clear targets for growth of the sector and will describe our vision for food in Welsh society. The Plan will be informed by the recommendations of the Food and Farming Panel which reported its final recommendations in the spring. The Plan will also take account of all sub sectors and cross cutting priorities such as health and tourism.
I have been reviewing the current True Taste / Gwir Flas branding in recent months. The brand was designed to be consumer facing and was launched by the Welsh Development Agency Food Directorate in 2002. There was an annual competition and awards aimed at raising awareness of the innovation and excellence in the food and drink sector in Wales. Award winners could display the True Taste logo. There was associated promotional and marketing support for winning products in Wales, the rest of the UK and overseas.
True Taste met the needs of the Welsh food and drink industry at that time when the public perception was not one of particular quality. It is now more than 10 years since the introduction of True Taste; the industry has developed and grown considerably and it is right that True Taste should be reviewed to determine whether it continues to meet the needs of the food industry and consumers now and in the future. The provenance of Welsh food and drink is of paramount importance in branding and this should be clearly understood by the consumer. It is apparent that although True Taste has had a number of positive aspects over the years, it is not doing enough in this respect and is not going to meet the industry needs going forward.
I have decided that there will be no True Taste Awards in 2013. We will continue to develop the new ‘Food and Drink Wales’ branding that was used at the 2013 International Food Exhibition. This is a trade identity rather than a consumer brand and I believe that it is instantly recognisable, obviously Welsh and modern in approach. This reinforced the excellent display of quality foods and the feedback from exhibitors was the most positive ever recorded. Our Marine and Fisheries Team has also successfully trialled the same identity and Hybu Cig Cymru has welcomed the change which it sees as more appropriate for joint promotional activity.
The emphasis on ‘Wales’ in the marketing of a whole range of products from Wales, including the tourism offer, is emerging strongly from the branding work currently taking place across Government. Our national emblems such as our flag will have a prominent place in this activity and help make our marketing distinctive and effective.
I want to ensure that the future identity and promotion of Wales’ food and drink meets the needs of this growth industry which has the potential to go from strength to strength and I want to hear the views from food producers and consumers on the trade identity approach and on other options to enhance the promotion of Welsh food and drink.
I also want to hear suggestions as to how we should celebrate the best of food and drink produced in Wales and whether we should continue to have a Welsh Government sponsored specific competition and awards or instead consider a different approach. The Governments’ agenda has a strong focus on business growth and development, and the True Taste Awards with their focus on product taste were not designed to address this priority.
For these reasons I will be consulting in the autumn on developing the food sector in Wales, when I will outline my Plan for Food which will build on the recommendations of the Sector Panel. The consultation will also invite views on the future promotion of food and drink from Wales. In order to create a new opportunity for producers and buyers to network and negotiate new business I will be introducing a new Wales’ Food and Drink Trade Event. This will be a celebration of our food and drink and is something that food producers have being asking for. This will be the first Wales specific event on home turf, and will offer Welsh producers an opportunity to demonstrate the best of their produce to buyers from the UK and elsewhere. The planning for the ‘Celebration of Wales Food & Drink’ event is starting and a date will soon be announced which is likely to be early next year.