MORE than 60 food and drink producers from across the south came together to showcase what they have to offer to fellow businesses at an annual event.

The Local Produce Trade Show was back at the Hilton at the Utilita Bowl (formerly Ageas Bowl) for its 16th year.

The event organised by Business South with the support of organisations such as Hampshire Fare invited food and drink producers and buyers to make new connections and encourage them to shop local.

Hampshire Chronicle: Hampshire Fare at the showHampshire Fare at the show (Image: Adele Bouchard)

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The trade show, on Tuesday, February 6, opened with a chefs' panel, where top cooks were questioned over sustainability, buying local and what the customer is looking for.

Matt Whitfield, executive chef of the Ideal Collection, Andrew Gault, executive head chef of Street Pub Co, Simon Hartnett from The Queens Hotel, Southsea, Jamie Holmes from Hilton at the Utilita Bowl, Martin Dawkins, The Rustic Chef and James Wills, founder of event caterer the Blackboard canteen.

Mr Wills, who left his role as head chef at Chesil Rectory to set up his own business, said: “Carbon footprint is really important especially for a company which is predominantly catering for on location music festivals because we produce quite a lot of waste. We generally avoid all single use plastics. You’ve got to be really conscious.

“For me local means finding the closest and most high quality produce for the festival we’re working at. Wherever we are we do the research in advance.”

Richard Butler, of Butler Country Estates, was exhibiting at the show for the fourth year. He opened The Troutlet in Winnall in October. Although always he has always been a keen fisherman, he was inspired to launch his own business when his wife bought him a smoker. When people came round for dinner, they liked his pate so much they asked to buy it.

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Hampshire Chronicle: Richard ButlerRichard Butler (Image: Adele Bouchard)

Mr Butler, who lives in Badger Farm, said he “wouldn’t miss the trade show for the world.”

He said: “It all started in my kitchen in 2019 and now I’ve got five employees. We supply to local shops and restaurants like Honey and Harvey.

“It’s lovely to have customers come to our stall here, taste our produce and then come back to do business. The benefits from this event are huge and we’ve gained so many opportunities through Hampshire Fare. This is the best trade show in the south.”

Chris Pullinger was there representing Flower Pots Brewery in Cheriton. He said: “We’re Hampshire’s oldest independently owned brewery. We have six core beers which are all inspired from areas around the village such as Stottidge and Perridge which are named after fields.

Hampshire Chronicle: Chris PullingerChris Pullinger (Image: Adele Bouchard)

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“It’s very important to get involved with events like these and talk shop with other business and the problems we might all be facing. It’s great to forge relationships with new suppliers. As a brewer and a public house there are lots of cross-overs.”

Sarah Kennedy and her husband Richard launched their business Lusso Leaf in Stockbridge three weeks before the first lockdown in 2020, meaning they had to quickly adapt from selling to chefs and restaurants to packaging up their microgreens for retailers.

Hampshire Chronicle: Lusso LeafLusso Leaf (Image: Adele Bouchard)

The couple have recently taken on their son Caleb and two other part time members of staff. Sarah said: “We’re going to continue to build our business. Today has been brilliant, we’ve met lots of chefs and potential customers. Everyone can see what local produce is all about.”

Hampshire Chronicle: Paul MasonPaul Mason (Image: Adele Bouchard)

Paul Mason, of Test Valley Venison, in Chandler’s Ford, was at the show for the first time. He managed to secure partnerships with top chefs such as Matt Whitfield who was promoted from head chef of Kimbridge Barn to executive chef of the whole Ideal Collection before Christmas.

Mr Mason, who launched the business three years ago and hunts in the Farley Mount, Stockbridge and Romsey area, believes people will be eating more venison as a healthy meat option.

He said: “It’s full of vitamins and minerals and naturally low in cholesterol. We’re quite unique in how we do everything from field to fork. There’s a record number of deer around so we’re selectively culling the deer to protect food crops and habitats and provide this wonderful nutritious meat.”

Natasha Dochniak, commercial manager at Hampshire Fare, said: "It was great to see so many Hampshire Fare members showcasing their products and produce to potential buyers from the hospitality, leisure and retail sectors. It was a pleasure for me to host the skills panel and my three p’s of Hampshire Fare - people, produce, passion shone through as a reoccurring theme among panellists. We are extremely lucky to have so much incredible local produce here on our doorstep and today was a shining example of that."