Following a fiercely contested campaign, Wicks Manor Pork is enjoying sizzling success after scooping the East of England Co-op’s Producer of the Year 2018 crown.
The pork producer from Maldon, Essex, went the whole hog beating stiff competition from Norfolk and Suffolk county finalists, Buxton Potatoes and Havensfield Eggs. The announcement was made at the East of England Co-op’s annual Supplier Supper which celebrated the best of East Anglian produce at Wherstead Park, Ipswich.
The win marks the second in a row for Essex, after Coggeshall-based Great Tilkey Honey took the title in 2017.
Since 1967 the Howie family has been producing premium pork and today Wicks Manor Pork is run by brothers Fergus and Hamish Howie.
“Amazing, I am so thrilled we won, it is such a great accolade, particularly on this milestone year for the East of England Co-op as they celebrate 150 years in business”, said Fergus who collected the award at the ceremony on Thursday evening. “It means so much to have the hard work that every single member of the Wicks Manor Park team puts in recognised and is especially meaningful as we reached the final thanks to votes from the public.
“All the nominated producers are inspiring and it is a privilege to be part of the network of East of England Co-op Sourced Locally producers here tonight. We all do our part to make people proud of East Anglian food and drink.
“I cannot wait to take this award back to the farm and celebrate with the whole team.”
This year’s Producer of the Year competition proved to be a record breaking one as 28,638 votes were cast across the region in support of local produce; an incredible increase of 48%* from last year.
The campaign trail saw all nominated producers participate in a host of activities to generate support. From the Tremendous Tractor Taste Tour, a journey which took the producers the length of the region in a day with a tractor, to a blind taste test of their food by the most demanding of critics – children from The Co-op Juniors theatre group – the shortlisted producers worked hard to generate votes. The three finalists were then visited by a panel of food and farming experts last month to judge the winner.
All three county winners scored highly but following much deliberation by the panel, including Emma Hibbert from Adnams, Wicks Manor Pork achieved top marks with the family-run farm’s holistic approach to farming receiving particular praise.
Roger Grosvenor, Joint Chief Executive at the East of England Co-op said: “Many congratulations to Wicks Manor Pork and all our nominated producers for their hard work and deserved success this year.
“This competition has been a great way to encourage our customers to ‘think local’ and to champion our fantastic local producers. Thank you to all who supported Producer of the Year 2018 and I hope you continue to enjoy great-tasting local produce in our stores.”
The East of England Co-op works with approximately 100 local producers through its multi-award winning Sourced Locally initiative, which has generated over £62 million for the regional economy since launching in 2007. Producer of the Year plays a vital role in continuing the Sourced Locally ethos by encouraging shoppers to consciously buy local and quality produce throughout the year.