A public vote has opened for East of England Co-op members and customers to back the best of East Anglian produce as part of the eagerly-anticipated Producer of the Year competition.
Now in its sixth year, the awards are a celebration of growers, farmers and producers from across Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk. The East of England Co-op has shortlisted two producers from each county to go head-to-head in the annual event. The 2018 shortlist is: Wicks Manor Pork and Ken Green Fish Merchants in Essex, Havensfield Eggs and Purely Pesto in Suffolk, and Buxton Potatoes and Gnaw Chocolate in Norfolk.
Throughout January, shoppers in the East of England will be encouraged to vote for their worthy winner and fly the flag in support of their county’s producers.
Following the vote, three County Champions will be selected, before a panel of food and farming experts visit each nominee in February to judge who will be crowned as the overall Producer of the Year 2018. The winner will then be announced at the East of England Co-op’s annual Supplier Supper in March.
Roger Grosvenor, Joint Chief Executive at the East of England Co-op said: “Producer of the Year celebrates the hard-working local people behind the great-tasting products our customers see on our shelves. Food provenance is incredibly important to the East of England Co-op and we are proud to stock hundreds of fantastic produce from across the region as part of our Sourced Locally campaign.
“Our shortlisted six are all eager to make it to the final. I would like to urge everyone to take two minutes to vote and show your support for some of our region’s best-loved food businesses.”
More than 19,000 votes were cast in 2017, when Coggeshall-based Great Tilkey Honey – famed for its 100% natural Essex and Suffolk honey – was crowned Producer of the Year.
Michael Coe, co-founder of Great Tilkey Honey with his wife Deborah, said: “Winning Producer of the Year was absolutely fantastic and a real privilege. The East of England Co-op is a great champion of local produce and has been so supportive throughout our journey as a small business. “Producer of the Year promotes the best food suppliers in East Anglia and I encourage the public to vote for their favourite producer. Every vote counts and from personal experience I know there is nothing better than receiving recognition from the people who enjoy your products.”
Votes can be cast online and in East of England Co-op stores on selected dates. Everyone who casts a vote this year will automatically be entered into a prize draw to win £150 of shopping vouchers.
To celebrate the shortlisted producers, the East of England Co-op has created six short films which showcase the real people behind the region’s favourite local produce. These can be viewed on the East of England Co-op YouTube channel.
The East of England Co-op works with approximately 100 local producers through its multi-award winning Sourced Locally initiative, which has generated over £57million for the regional economy since launching in 2007. Producer of the Year plays a vital role in continuing the Sourced Locally ethos by encouraging shoppers to consciously buy local and quality produce throughout the year.