Years of working in the mass grocery market inspired one woman to get back to the roots of good eating.
The approach of a new year brings with it the inevitable new year’s resolutions to live better and eat healthier.
One campaigner is hoping to help us all live up to our own expectations, by encouraging consumers to make ‘eating local’ their new mantra for 2015.
Suzannah Hepworth, 34, is the owner of The Local Pantry in Pool in Wharfedale, a local food shop, kitchen and cafe in one.
After many years working as a buyer for a major supermarket chain, and becoming disillusioned with the processes of the mass grocery market, she decided to get back to the roots of good living.
“Working for one of the UK’s biggest retailers for a number of years, there was a lot that I saw,” she says.
“The way that they treat suppliers and producers, there’s no negotiation. Yet these people are the experts, they have all the knowledge.
“I was coming in as a buyer and I was telling people what to do. But now I can ask them and draw on their knowledge. It’s a much more collaborative way of working.”
Today, Suzannah works with a growing network of Yorkshire based suppliers, selling and using only items produced on her doorstep.
This could be milk from a farmer in Bramhope, seasonal year-round vegetables grown in Pudsey, chocolate made in York and even cleaning products produced in Horsforth,
With 50 businesses already in her network, she is keen to spread the message of supporting local farmers, growers and producers.
Suzannah is driven by the twin goals of getting people to consume locally grown produce that is ultimately better for them, and supporting under-pressure local businesses.
A recent report by accountancy firm Moore Stephens revealed that supermarket price wars had sparked a 28 per cent leap in the number of local food firms supplying large chains going out of business in the last year.
“I am passionate about supporting businesses that advocate ‘home-grown’,” Suzannah said.
“I set up the Local Pantry to provide a place for people to buy and enjoy locally sourced produce, with the focus on offering local suppliers an alternative place to sell their products and to receive a fair price.
“It makes me increasingly angry to see small businesses squeezed by the large supermarket chains.
“Whilst price wars make products cheaper to buy, ultimately it devalues the food industry, reduces quality and only provides a place for mass producers who can take a hit on their margins.”
Suzannah is on a personal and professional crusade to urge consumers to spend their money in the shops and markets that serve their community.
She acknowledges that for many hard-pressed households, the cost factor is the most important.
But she believes in “value in the truest sense of the word – quality and price”.
“It’s about buying smart and being more sensible,” she advises.
“Some would say it’s about shopping in an old fashioned way.
“The key will always be good value. You don’t have to eat meat at every meal. And you can stretch it and make it go further.”
She believes that the quality and craftsmanship that smaller producers offer is “worth the investment”, because “your money stays within the local economy and environmentally it is a far better option too.”
Another of Suzannah’s passions is ensuring no food goes to waste. That is why not a scrap of food that comes through her doors is thrown away.
Leftover vegetables are turned into soups and salads.
Food items are also donated to good causes like the Real Junk Food Project in Armley – a ‘pay as you feel’ cafe that is itself a trailblazer – and scraps go for feed for local livestock.
But above all, she says, it is important to celebrate Yorkshire’s vast potential as a producer.
“We are one of the biggest food producing counties and becoming bigger. We have fantastic produce,” she says.