Labour of Love
May 17, 2012 at 9:37 AM
Toby Drought is a man on a mission: as founder of ‘Love For Local’ – which sells and distributes food from selected South East producers direct to farm shops, delis, cafes and pubs – he’s dedicated to supporting British food producers and farmers and getting more of the good stuff to a great shop near you. Here, we uncover why he’s so committed to spreading the love for local.
Have you always been a ‘locavore’?
I lived and worked on an arable farm in Buckinghamshire for most of my life and so witnessed production of food firsthand. Because of this, the need to support British farmers and producers was instilled in me at an early age!
How did Love For Local come about?
In 2009, I was working in a nine to five job as a sales manager for a publisher but gradually realised I wanted to get back to my roots in food, and that I wanted to run my own business. My wife and I moved to Brighton for a year and came across lots of amazing food producers there, but the two things that kept coming out from my conversations with them was the challenges they faced going to retailers and saying ‘buy me’, and then getting that produce from A to B. Having been in sales, I knew I could sell, and I could also drive a van – so Love For Local was born!
How does Love For Local work?
I try to keep the business as simple as possible: I have a brochure of food producers that I give out to retailers and if they like what they see, they phone in their order before 4pm on a Monday and I supply the food they need. I select producers by quality first and then on how well and how often they can supply me. That doesn’t mean to say I don’t have newly established ‘kitchen-table’ style enterprises on my books, but they need to be able to supply me regularly and consistently.
Do you get a good reception from retailers?
I’m pushing against an open door, as they say. Local food is definitely very topical at the moment so the majority of retailers are very interested in having at least one line of local produce. However, no shop can survive on just local produce really because people have become used to variety and tend expect foods which have to be sourced from further afield, like olives and bananas.
Why should shoppers look for local?
Over the last 25 years there’s been a huge improvement in the way food is produced in this country – we’re no longer the laughing stock of Europe – and we have English sparkling wines that rival the world’s great wines, fantastic cheeses, artisan bread –you name it. I think the challenge lies in educating shoppers about local food, that it’s not just a fad or a phase but something that should be important to all of us. I genuinely believe a number of factors – whether it's water shortages or the growing population – will make it essential that Britain becomes more sustainable in its food production system. People need to start asking themselves “why would I need to go to the furthest reaches of the world to buy my food when there’s so much great stuff on my doorstep?”.
What does the future hold?
I’ve been running the business for two years, so it’s still at a fledgling stage, but I already have 40 producers on my books. It might not sound much but I don’t like to do a broad-brush sweep; the producers are all carefully selected. I need to form strong relationships with these people because ultimately I will be representing their products. With more and more producers popping up over the South East, I hope to expand the range and keep growing – I’d like to become a champion for local produce in the South East!
Three ‘Love For Local’ foods to find near you…
Gary and Maarit Best certainly know their beans – roasting every single bean they sell by hand in small batches to make single estate coffee that really is a cup above the rest. Gary travels the world to find quality coffee farmers that he can trust, and he’s even come up with his own Fairtrade-style stamp of approval, ‘Real Trade’, based on “fact, firsthand observation and experience, and not on a brand, logo or hype”. Read more about Coffee Real
Roux brothers-trained chef Patrick Le Mesurier has brought a taste of Michelin-starred restaurants to the kitchen table with 19 gourmet chutneys, relishes, mayonnaises and sauces more commonly found in fine-dining restaurants. Patrick takes traditional recipes, the best ingredients and adds a signature twist. Don’t miss a drop! Read more about Le Mesurier gourmet condiments
Anila’s Authentic Sauces
Born in Zimbabwe, Anila Vaghela’s love for food started at young age, helping her great grandmother, grandmother and mum grind spices and make curries, pickles, chutneys – and even poppadums. Today she pours this experience and passion into her authentic curry sauces, spice packs and pickles and chutneys, bringing a world of flavour to each jar. Read more about Anila's Authentic Sauces and Indian Cookery Demonstrations.