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William Sitwell: Northamptonshire is the most foodie county in the UK

“If there was a Food Battle of Britain,” said Masterchef judge William Sitwell, “Northamptonshire would win it.”

He was speaking at the launch of a huge publicity campaign for the county’s food and drink sector the Northamptonshire Surprise year of Food and Drink.

Rockingham Castle was the venue and was packed with Northamptonshire food and drink VIPs, as well as a smattering of politicians for a surprise within a surprise – more of which later.

William, now something of a brand himself for uncompromising honesty, told the audience how he came to his conclusion about his home county.

“Cornwall has its pasties, Lincolnshire has sausages and Yorkshire has rhubarb. Derbyshire boasts its Bakewell Tart, there are Melton Mowbray pies in Leicestershire and great cheeses in Somerset, while counties like Kent and Hampshire produce wonderful wines. Across Britain we are becoming a fabulous nation of food and drink.

“But when you analyze the output of the food and drink sector in Northamptonshire – from the 3.5 billion biscuits made each year by Weetabix to the fact that 95 per cent of British households own a product containing a herb or spice from British Pepper & Spice – not to mention hundreds of great pubs, restaurants, small producers and drinks firms in between – you can see that Northamptonshire wins the Food Battle of Britain.”

The Northamptonshire Year of Food and Drink campaign will see escalator advertising in Euston and Kings Cross, a loyalty card scheme to get discounts at local producers and a web campaign promoting local food producers and events.

It follows on from Britain’s Best Surprise campaigns for stately homes and churches in Northamptonshire.

As if tempting us to consider the potential benefits of being better known for what we do so well, the launch was also chosen for the joint signing of a formal invitation to China’s President Xi Jinping to visit the area.

Chinese businessman Andy Wang has put several years work into developing links between Northamptonshire and China. He is keen to establish an International Enterprise Zone in China that can link up with economic hotspots in the UK.

Andy Wang and Northampton Borough Council Leader Jonathan Nunn

He said: “I began working with my father on this initiative a number of years ago. When he died in 2017 he made me promise to keep working on it. I studied in the UK and have always been impressed by what the country has to offer.”

China is also promoting a Belt and Road initiative, revitalising Silk Road and maritime trade routes. Is this the future of post-Brexit international trade deals for Northamptonshire food and drink producers?

To find out more about Northamptonshire Year of Food and Drink go to www.northamptonshiresurprise.com

The campaign is on Facebook at @NNBestSurprise and on Twitter @NN_BestSurprise

I'm the editor and owner of The NeneQuirer.

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