The South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) is delighted to announce that it has awarded funding to a campaign called ‘Buy Local South East’, which will support the local food and drink sector across Essex, Kent and Sussex.
The campaign will enhance and improve the economic health of the SELEP area’s food sector through the development of more connected business networks, new business relationships and increased consumer awareness. It will be managed by Produced in Kent, Natural Partnerships CIC in Sussex and Rural Community Council of Essex, harnessing a wealth of experience across the rural and food and drink sectors.
Growers, producers, retailers and hospitality outlets in the three counties will benefit from tailored regional marketing campaigns, including virtual campaign launches and social media and press exposure. The initiative will also support local food and drink businesses by leading a series of business recovery activities. Businesses will be able to access training, coaching and even one-on-one support to aid their recovery.
Due to the current social distancing guidelines, these industries are in greater need of a robust online presence and a way of connecting to showcase their products as we move to a more digital society. To map assets across the SELEP region, boost B2C and B2B sales, and create a regional business network, a new website and regional map will be created to help business growth and employment in the current climate.
Building on the successful HelpKentBuyLocal campaign, which was launched in Kent 48 hours after lockdown began, it will support each county’s food and drink sector during the recovery phase of COVID-19. The new expansion initiative will be called ‘Buy Local South East’.
Rural Community Council of Essex Executive Director, Nick Shuttleworth said, “RCCE is delighted to be involved in this partnership initiative. We have a wealth of local producers in Essex but we are only too aware of how food and drink businesses in Essex have been affected by the current situation and we are excited to play a part in their resurgence.
Natural Partnerships CIC co-director Paula Seager, who manages the Sussex food and drink map, says, “This is a fantastic opportunity for us to build on our work to support local producers and the businesses which serve and sell their produce. Now more than ever, it is important that people protect their local community and the environment by choosing local produce and our map makes it easy for everyone to find it.”
The HelpKentBuyLocal site has seen more than half a million interactions from businesses listing and customers searching for the best way to source food and navigate the uncertain situation caused by COVID-19. The ‘Buy Local South East’ project aims to build on this and promote and empower the regions’ supply chains.
COVID-19 has highlighted the pivotal role that the food and drink industry plays in our local economy and communities. ‘Buy Local South East’ will further raise the public’s awareness of the locally grown produce that is available and help support the regional economy. The campaign will also open up new business opportunities and collaboration networks, and promote a connected, healthy and happy community.
Says chief executive of Produced in Kent, Floortje Hoette:
“The launch of ‘Buy Local South East’ builds on the success of Produced in Kent’s HelpKentBuyLocal campaign. We want to work together with the surrounding regions to create real change in consumer habits.
“Over the past few months, we’ve seen an enormous increase in local shopping but now we have to sustain this change. For this to happen, it’s got to matter, it’s got to be personal and relevant to each and every shopper. Buy Local South East will support the food and drink sector’s recovery and it will bring new drive and purpose to the whole region.”
“The success of the HelpKentBuyLocal campaign highlighted the growing demand for local produce, as well as the very real and pressing need for it during the current crisis, when supply chains and consumer behaviour have been impacted. With this comes questions surrounding how we get food on our tables, and by encouraging residents to buy locally, this helps to alleviate those concerns and has an incredibly positive impact on not just the local economy, but the green agenda across the South East.
“The launch of Buy Local South East will take the groundwork already laid by the HelpKentBuyLocal campaign and expand it across the region, creating a self-sustaining, long-term circular economy.”