“The magic of food is in the story behind it”

27 October 2020, 12:09 PM
  • James Osborn, general manager of The Flint & Oak Farm Shop, discusses the power of local in engaging customers and offers his tips for cashing in on local provenance
“The magic of food is in the story behind it”

James Osborn’s love of English food and drink first sprouted when he was working with Young’s Brewery in Wandsworth. Now the director of the English wine estate Squerryes on the North Downs, James works to grow the 2,500-acre estate’s brand portfolio in food and drink to future proof their business.

“We have a wine brand, farm shop and café – The Flint & Oak Farm Shop – and a restaurant. About 80% of our products are sourced within 50 miles of the farm shop. 40-50% are less than 25 miles,” James says. These figures fluctuate due to the seasonality of local products, so during red fruit and asparagus seasons, James says there is “a lot more hyper-local to us”.

Sourcing locally requires detailed research via Google and Instagram, James says. “And we do a lot of work with Produced In Kent, who introduce us to producers on our doorstep.” These relationships are essential, but they take time to nurture and grow. “I don’t think it’s something that can magically happen over 24 hours.”

Once these relationships do blossom, the payoff for fine food retailers keen to establish a strong local identity within their community is huge. “We have some great relationships, which has allowed us to become less reliant on wholesalers and build our own bespoke supply lines,” James says.

Having recognised the power of local in engaging customers with The Flint & Oak Farm Shop, James urges more brands to tell the stories of their locally grown produce. “The magic of food is in the story behind it. There needs to be more storytellers in our world to engage people of all ages.”

James’ tips for cashing in on local provenance

    - First of all, believe in making a change, because if you don’t it’s going to be a big waste of your time and money
    - Find your point of difference and expertise – explore who you’re competing against in the area and how you can shine and stand apart
    - Reconnect people back to the land and involve your community in doing that. Do it well and you’ll have a very powerful groundswell of support and ambassadors that will help you grow your business
    - Our weekly newsletter focuses on local content as much as possible, as does our social content – this goes a long way in getting people to understand where their food has come from and connect with the brand behind the product
    -It’s about engaging all of the senses and getting people to stop and think, and get involved. It’s all about the community

For more exclusive insight from sustainability pioneers, download your free copy of A Sustainable Future 2020, produced in partnership with Speciality & Fine Food Fair.


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