Updates about the Horticulture Wales project, along with industry news and opinion.

Collaboration In Business Award 2014 Runner-Up – Taste Montgomery

05 December 2014

The runner-up in our Collaboration in Business Award 2014 is Taste Montgomery. Bringing together a number of small-scale producers and retailers to promote the Powys town as a food tourism destination, the group’s ethos has collaboration and partnership rooted to its very core, and has succeeded in helping to put the town firmly on the food map…

Horticulture Wales Collaboration in Business Runner-Up - Taste MontgomeryTaste Montgomery was initially established back in 2011 with funding from the Glasu scheme, which aimed to promote rural regeneration and sustainable economic development throughout Powys. The group was formed to develop stronger relationships between the town’s food producers and local shops, cafés, pubs, restaurants, hotels, and B&Bs, all with the aim of capitalising on Montgomery’s reputation as something of a ‘food powerhouse’ that punches well above its weight – ‘The Checkers’ restaurant in the town square run by chef proprietor Stéphane Borie has held Michellin star status since October 2011, while a study by Powys County Council found that tourism to Montgomery was predominantly food-led and that people who visited the town once tended to keep coming back for more.

Now a formally-constituted voluntary group, Taste Montgomery currently comprises around 20 members, mainly producers but also including a number of hospitality businesses, such as Glansevern Hall. Members range from an artisan baker, fishmonger, and Wagyu beef farmer, through to a butcher, a brewer, a fruit and vegetable grower, and an award-winning cider maker, Old Monty Cider, who nominated the group for our award. Owned by former teacher John Jenkins, Old Monty Cider was initially set up in 2006. Two years later John and partner Anita began planting a heritage orchard, which now comprises more than 100 varieties of apple plus 40 types of perry pear on one hectare of land in Garthmyl. Despite only focusing on full-time cider production in the past year since finishing his teaching career, John and Old Monty Cider have already won numerous awards, including four ‘Golds’, one ‘Silver’, and three ‘Bronzes’ at the Welsh Perry and Cider Championships.

John Jenkins Old Monty Cider (300px * 300px)Fruit and veg (300px * 300px)

Membership of Taste Montgomery is based solely on geography – businesses must be located within six miles of the town centre – with an annual fee of £50 per member charged to cover the costs of maintaining the group’s website and producing other joint promotional materials such as leaflets. While the make-up of the group is diverse in terms of the range of produce, there are many similarities amongst the membership – the majority are micro-businesses (a high proportion are single person enterprises) and working collaboratively under one central ‘brand’ or ‘banner’ opens up business opportunities that would probably otherwise be beyond them.

Formally, the members of Taste Montgomery work together in three main areas:

  • Food and Drink Trails – the initial focus of the project was to create and promote a series of food trails that combined the area’s stunning countryside with its diverse range of food and drink. A number of trails have been designed – incorporating stop-offs at Taste Montgomery members – to encourage walkers and cyclists to explore the town and nearby villages of Abermule, Bacheldre, and Berriew. These trails are promoted via a number of specific ‘days’ and ‘activities’, such as cider pressing at Old Monty Cider.
  • Events and Exhibitions – Taste Montgomery has its own fully-branded 10 x 6 metre marquee which is used by members to showcase their produce collectively at a range of local events and county shows, such as the Montgomery Show, Berriew Show, Montgomery Food and Craft Fair, and the Welsh Food Festival at Glansevern Hall. The marquee is also hired out for other producers and businesses to use at other festivals, for example, it has recently been seen at Caldicot Castle for the first ever Monmouthshire Food Festival, as well as the Newtown Food Festival.
  • Branded Website and Leaflets – through the central, bilingual website, local producers and hospitality businesses are given the opportunity to showcase themselves to a much wider audience. Similarly, the group has also developed two information leaflets that promote the town, the food trails, and individual members.

In addition though, as small businesses operating in a small town, much of the collaboration between members is on an informal or ad-hoc basis, for example flour produced at Bacheldre Water Mill is used in the baking process by fellow member Montgomery Real Bread. Slightly more left-field is the case of Ifor’s Welsh Wagyu, award-winning beef that is sold in the world-famous Harrods. Wagyu beef cattle are Japanese-bred, and folklore has it that they are fond of a tipple, namely sake or beer! To keep up with this tradition, owner Ifor Humphreys feeds his herd with waste beer not fit for human consumption from fellow Taste Montgomery member Monty’s Brewery, along with ‘cake’ residues left from apples pressed by Old Monty Cider.

John Jenkins 2 (504px * 1000px)

Similarly, skills and expertise sharing amongst members is a major benefit. For instance John Jenkins of Old Monty Cider knew very little about how to promote or market his business, but was able to call upon the expertise of Emyr Griffith, the current Chairman of Taste Montgomery, who is the former Marketing Director of the Wales Tourist Board and the founder of the renowned ‘Welsh Rarebits Collection’ guide to the best hotels and country houses across Wales. Other members pass on their experience of exhibiting at trade shows and how best to deal with larger retailers.

Taste Montgomery was the first such group of its kind in Wales, but its influence has now spread to similar organisations set up in places such as Dolgellau and Llandrindod Wells. It has also attracted attention from further afield, with groups of businesses from Yorkshire visiting the town to find out more and information passed on to clusters in Scarborough and Swansea – to name but two – interested in replicating the model.

As well as receiving recognition at our annual awards, earlier this year Taste Montgomery was also named as a finalist in the Tourism Partnership category of the Powys Business Awards.

Click here to read more about the Horticulture Wales Awards

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