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Growth stars in the region

The Sunday Times released their ‘Fast Track 100’ private companies yesterday and the most surprising aspect was that the list included so few digital businesses. Most of the companies with the biggest sales increases over the last 12 months came from more traditional sectors such as consumer goods, food and drink, leisure and business services.

The North East and Yorkshire fared well among the regions with 13 companies in the list, beating the North West (10) and the Midlands (10) and with a huge sales increase of 126%, Cawingredients, based in Leeming Bar, were the Region’s Growth Star in 13th position.

Andrew Cawthray set up Cawingredients in 2010 after having sold his previous soft drinks business, Macaw Soft drinks for £75m in 2005, which just goes to show how successful his business model is and on top of the current £44m turnover they are in the middle of huge expansion with bigger warehouse facilities, more bottling lines and another 100 jobs.

They supply Aldi UK and count several of the UK’s leading brands as their customers and Richard Harrison, their Chief Operating Officer has done a brilliant job of growing the client base along completely different lines to those of last business. Aldi in particular has seen a big increase in market share over the last two years.

Earthmill, Pure Gym and Xercise4less were at 17th, 18th and 21st in the list. Although based outside the Region, The Alchemist, part of The New World Trading Company was at number 20 and their latest outlet, The Botanist is due to open in Monument Mall next week after a £2m development and fitting out. Having had a sneak preview I can confirm it is the most exciting brand and bar/restaurant I have ever seen.

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Supporting the farming economy

I can remember times when no one knew a ‘poor’ farmer but those days have long gone and with the vagaries of EU farming policy and aggressive food sourcing of the major supermarkets there are many who struggle to make a decent living off the land.

As the Prince of Wales claimed in a recent foreword for Country Life too many of the population undervalue the farming role, especially aspects of the job taken for granted. Those in the cities and urban areas see the countryside as somewhere to enjoy a Sunday afternoon drive or a walk with the kids. The consensus is that they treasure the rural idyll but have little appreciation of the work that goes into maintaining the way the landscape looks.

In most areas farmers are the mainstay of the rural community and the thread that links the ecosystem. They maintain hedgerows and dry stone walls. They plough and furrow countless acres. They are the guardians of beautiful landscapes that form the backdrop for insects, birds, butterflies and bees. They provide jobs in areas where few exist.

Not only do we need to champion their role, we need to protect their very existence in the way we source our food. It helps but it is not enough to simply buy meat, eggs and produce locally. When faced with imported food on the supermarket shelf we need to back British even if it means spending a little more. That way we can keep more value in the rural food chain and make grocery buyers reflect that in the range of food that supermarkets stock.

Supporting the farming economy works both ways as the ecosystem becomes more sustainable and the beauty of the landscape is enhanced for locals and visitors alike. What price do we place on that? As more of the population polarises around urban areas then the more we will value escaping into the countryside for a holiday, weekend or Sunday drive. It’s worth keeping that in mind as you head to your favourite shop this weekend.