Norfolk and Suffolk food and drink producers have banded together under a new brand – McCarthys Fine Foods. Founder Sam McCarthy tells East Anglia In Business how a simple grain of an idea has become a thriving recipe for success.
McCarthys Fine Foods was launched a couple of months ago at a special event in Norwich.
The new service – which champions small artisan food and drink producers across Norfolk and Suffolk – is the brainchild of Sam McCarthy, whose family business is regarded as East Anglia’s leading wholesaler of fresh fruit and vegetables.
With over 145 years in the trade, McCarthys knows a thing or two about the region’s tastebuds, and currently supplies a wide range of shops, delis, farm shops, restaurants, and hotels. So, when MD Sam McCarthy spotted a gap in the foodie market, he was quick to act.
Working alongside the Broadland Food Innovation Centre, Sam realised that many of the local producers he met through its food Innovation Cluster events had no route to market, despite the unique quality of their wares.
He explains, “By meeting and speaking with producers at trade events, and indeed at the Broadland Food Innovation Centre, it became clear that a lot of producers don’t have a distribution network in place which can create a real stumbling block for their growth.
“After a few conversations and being asked if we would be interested in stocking ‘the odd product’, we realised that we could launch the Fine Foods initiative.
“A lot of the producers’ target markets were already customers of McCarthys, so it became clear that with a sufficient range it might be that McCarthys could curate a range of high-end goods.”
Sam continues, “Farm Shops and Food Halls have mostly evolved to stock many other products than Fresh Produce, so after speaking to customers, McCarthys realised that they could be seen as an alternative to other suppliers in the industry.
“Supporting the work of the Broadland Food Innovation Centre Project and building the region’s food community benefits everyone involved.” (The Centre is part of a major funded food innovation project which supports and fast-tracks the growth and success of food and drink businesses across Norfolk and Suffolk).
He says, “Farm Shops and Food Halls have adapted over the last 20 years to stock a plethora of goods – we are working with a lot of them already for their fruit and veg, so if we can stock dry goods, drinks, charcuterie and fresh meats and dairy products, it stands to reason that we have a chance of supply these to our customers as well.”
McCarthy’s Fine Food range, featuring over 30 suppliers and 350 lines of goods, was launched at the showcase event at their Norwich HQ, attended by over 100 buyers. Speaking at the launch, Helen Adshead founder of gluten and dairy free cakes and bakes brand Weddell & Turner, said, “This event was so valuable for small businesses like us. We have reached so many people it would have taken us years to meet and frees up so much time.”
The service works through customers placing orders via McCarthys, who then source the products before arranging delivery with their usual Fresh Produce orders. He adds, “Orders are currently to request but the next goal is to be stocking products ready for customers to order freely.”
The response, not surprisingly, has been amazing. Sam continues, “Despite the difficult times we’re all feeling as businesses and consumers, it seems that there is always a market for quality.
“Almost all the producers have great backstories which are fantastic sales tools. It’s been fantastic to meet so many like-minded individuals who all want to champion the best of British Produce.
Sam says,” There are some well-known names in our range, but there should also be several which are new to a lot of people, and which we are extremely excited to promote – beetroot pickled quails’ eggs is a particularly striking one – but everything has been chosen as something we already think is top quality.”
In fact, feedback has been so positive that McCarthys Fine Foods is already considering widening its distribution and supply chain ‘horizons’. Sam says, “For some producers, we’re the first wholesaler they have spoken to, so we’re hoping that by working closely with each other we’ll be able to steadily build sales and production before expanding the range and distribution network.”
Any other plans in the pipeline? “Of course,” Sam concludes, “but for now we want to focus on giving this project the greatest chance of success that we can.”
However, the final word must go to one of McCarthys’ new partners, Suffolk Salami, based at Lane Farm. Spokeswoman Rebecca Miles says, “We are really excited to be working with McCarthy’s. They are a family business like ourselves following the same ethos, and they have already helped us get a couple of new customers who we are seeing repeat orders. For us, this is really important!”
About D&F McCarthy
D&F McCarthy Ltd has been a family business since 1877 when it was founded by Thomas McCarthy. Originally set up as a fruit and vegetable stall on London’s Drury Lane in 1877, Thomas’s son Daniel opened a stall in Great Yarmouth as the family moved to East Anglia.
Daniel’s son Daniel Jnr then formed the business as a limited company in 1939. Now with the sixth generation at the helm, McCarthys are based in the Broadland Business Park, Norwich, where their state-of-the-art facilities allow them to wholesale fruits and vegetables across East Anglia, serving businesses from bespoke coffee shops through to independent supermarkets in the region.
McCarthys Fine Foods producers from Norfolk include: Old Rectory Preserves, award-winning makers of jams, chutneys, and marmalades and loyal customers of McCarthys for the fruits and vegetables used in their preserves; and Norfolk Spirits Company, producers of Norfolk Rum, a triple distilled spirit using 100% pure molasses and other local ingredients and botanicals including Norfolk honey.
Producers from Suffolk include well-known names such as Hillfarm Oils and Tosier Chocolates to smaller, newer businesses including Humber Doucy Brewing Co and Mallard Moat Farm, a supplier of quail eggs and pickled quail eggs.