Jane Hogan - meet the new woman at the helm of Taste North East
PUBLISHED: 12:01 03 May 2012 | UPDATED: 21:22 20 February 2013
A regional food group is helping to give producers the taste of success, as Paul Mackenzie reports
Four-year-olds Phoebe and Caitlin Hogan are being given the best possible food education. The twins are on a tour of some of the North Easts finest food producers.
It helps, of course, that their mum Jane is the new business development
manager for Taste North East, the group which supports and promotes producers of food and drink across the region.
They trail around with me on a grand gastronomic tour of the North East, Jane said. I have no problems getting them to eat, in fact they like nothing better than a nice curry.
Jane took up the post at the beginning of February and despite not having a background in food, and the government cuts in funding to regional food groups, she has set herself a series of challenging targets.
My job is to grow the commercial membership and I have done that before, she said. It doesnt matter if youre dealing with research and development or business or food, if you have a commercial membership scheme you want to grow your number of members and to engage with them and provide the best service to them.
Our membership needs to grow dramatically. I have set myself a target of increasing it by 20 per cent month on month and we are just about on target, although it is a tough target. We have increased our twitter followers by 25 per cent in the last month, were on Facebook now and hits to our website are going up. People are becoming aware that theres a lot going on at Taste North East.
Jane, who lives about a mile from the home in Durham where she was born, added: Essentially, what we are here to do is very simple we need to focus on routes to market, promoting local businesses to people who might not otherwise know of them, and we need to be a hub for information which will keep our members completely up to date.
We have half the staff and none of the budget we had before but we still want to ensure that everyone, from a family to a football club, can find out about local food and can put it on their plates.
We are working with a wider range of people than before. We are helping people know about shops, delis, attractions that are selling local food. All restaurants, markets, pubs and food outlets and producers have their own fanbase and were here to connect them up.
Taste North East was launched last June to build on the work of Northumbria Larder and the North East England Food and Drink Group. More than 50 producers of everything from tea to chilli sauce and marmalade to beer are members of the group and Jane added: In the same way that Im not qualified to run a food and drink business, producers are not necessarily marketing, promotion and branding experts.
Membership of Taste North East costs 10-20 a month and it makes sense to have an organisation like us because even in these difficult times people are still looking to support local businesses.
If you know you have spent your money on food produced locally, not only does the food tend to be better, but that money stays in the local economy. By helping local food businesses, you are generally helping a rural business to grow and its virtually impossible to help the hospitality industry without making jobs and helping tourism.
Jane grew up in Warwickshire but returned to the North East to study at Newcastle University and she said: I am a foodie. Ive always been passionate about food, Ive always shopped at farm shops and have always understood the difference between locally produced food and stuff that could come from anywhere.
If hotels, restaurants and pubs let their customers know about the provenance it helps create more of an experience. Food adds to experience of everything and everybody and it can make a good experience a great experience.
Jane Hogan will begin a monthly column about Taste North East and the regions food in next months North East Life.
The print version of this article appeared in the May 2012 issue of North East Life
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