Food and drink businesses need to more adaptable to technological change than ever before.
This was one of the key messages from a roundtable discussion held with members of some of Yorkshire’s leading artisan food and drink firms.
The event, held jointly by The Yorkshire Post and global law firm DLA Piper at its Leeds office, heard how advancements in technology such as mobile apps, social media and so-called ‘dark kitchens’ – food preparation rooms based out of towns for the home delivery market – were changing consumer habits.
The event also heard how Yorkshire and the North of England’s image was helping to improve brand’s marketability and that, more than ever, consumers wanted authenticity and transparency in the food product choices.
Dirk Mischendahl, chief executive at ice cream firm Northern Bloc, said: “Technology is driving everything.
“Kids are coming out of school at 12 knowing more than someone with a three-year degree in IT. The reality is that tech is where it is at.
“It is about having to adapt to trends.
“Dark kitchens are the future. You lie down at home, go to Alexa, order a burger and it comes to you.”
Simon Phillips, operations director at the Humpit restaurant chain which has outlets in Leeds, York, Sheffield and Newcastle, said this trend was spilling over into physical restaurants too.
“Some restaurants have an app wherein you go in sit down and order through your app and do not deal with a waiter or waitress. There is no communication.
There is a lot about Yorkshire that allows us to market. We are a global law firm but we have a big regional presence. As long as you are bold about what you stand for you can go a long way.Eddy Steele, an associate with DLA Piper
“All restaurants are going to be doing it. They don’t want to wait for a waiter or waitress to come to the table, they literally want to sit down to eat.”
The strength of the Yorkshire brand to marketing food was one all attendees agreed upon as having significant power.
Karl Mason, chief executive of Masons Gin, referred to Yorkshire, along with Kent and Cornwall, as being the most marketable counties in England.
“When we launched Masons we deliberately did call it Yorkshire dry gin and it opened a lot of doors for us straight away.
“But at a certain scale it loses a bit of its relevance.”
James Feddo, founder of healthy snack firm Clearly Scrumptious, said events such as Tour de France had made Yorkshire much more marketable and that retailers had responded to that.
He said: “We started regionally and then went nationally and I don’t think that would have happened if all the other stuff going on in the region had not happened.
“And it’s building, it doesn’t seem to be dropping off.”
Jenni Ashwood, marketing manager, Spirit of Yorkshire, said that social media and the internet generally had opened a lot of doors for food and drink firms.
“The internet has opened up a lot of avenues,” she said.
“The one word that keeps coming back is transparency. That is one of the trends that stood out for us, being able to track everything. Things like blockchain has made that much easier too.”
Eddy Steele, an associate with DLA Piper, said: “There is a lot about Yorkshire that allows us to market. We are a global law firm but we have a big regional presence. As long as you are bold about what you stand for you can go a long way.”
Mr Mischendahl said that he felt the North over the last decade had been increasingly seen as a positive thing in business and marketing terms.
Likening the trend to that seen during the Industrial Revolution, he said the North stood for a “firmness of entrepreneurial spirit and innovation”.