16 May 2019

Open to the creative and innovative food and drink start-up community, the UK Future Brands pavilion at Food Matters Live 2019 will connect UK buyers looking to meet and do business with the UK’s most promising brands of the future. UK companies up to 2 years old are invited to apply for a place on this prestigious pavilion.

Application entry is free and each start-up will receive feedback on their application from the influential buyer panel, including Paul Hargreaves of Cotswold Fayre, to help inform future business development. Paul explains his background, and gives some insight into what he thinks a future brand should look like.

Tell us about yourself and your background in the food and drink industry

I founded Cotswold Fayre, a speciality food wholesaler, 20 years ago from my house in London. It grew to become the leading wholesaler in the sector and now supplies nearly 2,000 outlets within the UK and beyond. Its success is down to creating a great place to work and one that focuses on changing the world for better. Cotswold Fayre is certified as a B Corporation, which are companies that meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance. I also have written a book, Forces for Good, aimed at encouraging businesses to look not just at profit but also at how to make the world a better place.

How has the food and drink industry changed over your career?

Cotswold Fayre is 20 this year, and we have seen an amazing amount of change in that time. There are a massively higher number of niche brands at the premium end of the market, with many more retailers open to stocking brands that aren’t corporate and well-known. There are also far more niche brands being taken on by supermarkets and more consolidation, as retailers get bogged down by number of producers they are dealing with.

What do you like best about being involved in the buying process, and what are the biggest challenges?

With the pure number of new brands coming into the market, it can be overwhelming and increasingly difficult to make the right decisions. Just having a great product with great packaging that tastes fantastic isn’t enough anymore. Now you must really have investment and a large marketing budget to make a brand fly, even if you are only supplying independent retailers. True innovation is hard to come by. Many new products are simply a re-hash on an old idea. However, over the last two to three years, it seems that more innovation is happening, particularly in the environmental area with packaging, vegan alternatives to meat etc.

Is this an exciting time for food and drink and what role are start-ups playing in the industry?

Yes! The number of small brands makes life challenging and exciting at the same time. I wouldn’t be anywhere else. Genuine start-ups help define the sector and we would much prefer to deal with them rather than a large corporate 'pretending’ to be a small brand for the independent sector.

What will you be looking for as a judge, and a buyer, from new food and drink start-ups?

Products that are helping to reduce their carbon footprint, through the manufacturing process, packaging or any other means. I will also be looking for genuine innovation, something genuinely new that hasn’t been done before and companies which, through manufacturing or other means, are looking to alleviate poverty or help disadvantaged communities.

Paul Hargreaves will be on the panel of the Food Matters Live UK Future Brands, providing feedback on every application to help shape start-ups' business development. To find out more and apply for your start-up click here.