A group of ‘Rising Stars’ from the Welsh food and drink industry put their products in the limelight at Wales’ premier food and drink event - BlasCymru/TasteWales 2023.

Held at the International Convention Centre Wales at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport (October 25-26th 2023), BlasCymru/TasteWales brought together food and drink industry buyers, suppliers, and businesses eager to network and discover new products. 

The flagship Welsh Government event featured 120 Welsh food and drink businesses, giving them the opportunity to showcase and meet some of the industry’s most important contacts, including 270 buyers from the UK and abroad. 

Among the displays were a 3,000 product showcase of ambient and chilled products, sampling bar and ‘food to go’ display areas, as well as exhibits from the Food and Drink Wales Seafood Cluster and a feature on protected Welsh Geographical Indication Scheme products.

A new products display featured over 200 products from across the food and drink sector in Wales, with buyers voting for the most exciting new product.

The event included a ‘Rising Stars’ showcase, coordinated by BlasCymru/TasteWales working with Cywain – which is a Welsh Government funded project supporting the development of growth-orientated businesses in the food and drink sector in Wales.

This year’s ‘Rising Stars’ featured 14 burgeoning Welsh food and drink producers  who are ready to scale up and sell wholesale. Each young business featured at Blas Cymru/Taste Wales 2023 has achieved – or is working towards – SALSA or BRC accreditation. BlasCymru/TasteWales and Cywain arranged a preparation programme for the event by devising a series of workshops and mentoring sessions.

Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales, and Trefnydd, Lesley Griffiths said, “BlasCymru/TasteWales has once again provided an important opportunity for Wales’ food and drink sector to demonstrate and showcase its ingenuity, skill and successes. It has been great to see such a fantastic display of Welsh food and drink and to meet with the producers behind them, including the 14 Rising Stars, whose dedication and enterprise are driving the sector forward.”

Among this year’s Rising Stars was Wrexham company Grazed Bakery, owned by Mark and Renee Thompson.

Renee said, “It’s been amazing; this show is great, really well organised. It’s our first time here, and we felt super important having been picked as a Rising Star! We’ve had so much help in the run up too.”

Mark said, “I think it’s especially good for small businesses; this being our first time, the thought of it can be quite overwhelming. I feel like this has been a very informal and relaxed setting, which has allowed us to be ourselves and get our product across in an informal manner.”

Renee added, “It’s been an opportunity for us as a small business to get in and meet people who otherwise you would never meet and who would often take years for you to meet eventually. It’s been a wonderful opportunity.”

Another Rising Star featured was Caernarfon-based Fungi Foods. The company’s owner, Gareth Griffith-Swain, said BlasCymru/TasteWales had been an amazing experience, with the bonus of meeting the Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths.

Gareth said, “It’s been fantastic speaking to other business owners; sometimes I feel it can be a bit isolating as a business owner, so it’s really nice to come here and meet other people who are going through similar things to what you’re going through on a daily basis.

“It’s been good to educate myself as well on what’s required, too, from other buyers, thanks to being a Rising Star. It’s been a real knowledge exchange,”

Manon Llwyd Rowlands, Cywain director, said, “We were delighted to be able once again to support some of Wales’ growing and most exciting food and drink producers on their journey to BlasCymru/TasteWales. As they develop their businesses, it is important that producers have the opportunity to showcase their flavour and flair to potential food and drink buyers, and BlasCymru/TasteWales is the perfect event.”

Previous ‘Rising Stars’ said attending such a prestigious event brought a wealth of opportunities integral to their business development.

Richard Abbey, from Cross Hands-based Do Goodly Dips, was among the 2021 Rising Stars. 

He said, “The main thing about being chosen as a Rising Star is the amazing access it gives you to showcase your products to contacts across the industry. This, alongside support from Cywain, meant that we were able to get a number of listings from retail customers, as well as a vast range of contacts, which ultimately step-changed our business.

“It was wonderful to be able to return this year to showcase even more new products to a wide and influential audience!”

Fellow producer Lucy George of the Peterston Tea Estate in the Vale of Glamorgan said, “Being chosen as a Rising Star in 2021 was hugely beneficial to our business journey. We are very much breaking new ground in the world of tea and kombucha and continue to face many challenges in consumer and market awareness; however, our business is developing and growing far beyond my initial expectations.

“The help we have had through Cywain has been fundamental to this development, and it has enabled us to establish a strong business identity together with marketing and financial planning strategies. We would certainly not be in this position without the support we have received. We are beyond grateful.”

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