That Colin Kiddell doesn’t know about the food industry in Norfolk and beyond isn’t worth knowing. Which is probably why he’s the new chair of Norfolk Food and Drink, the not-for-profit ‘go to’ organization when it comes to food and drink in the county.
Colin’s worked in the food industry – mainly in sales – for more than 40 years, working with major companies and selling to all of the major retailers in the UK.
It all began with Spillers Foods, after a regular at the pub he was working in at the time (what was then The Swan in Poringland) mentioned that there was a job going. He recalls: ‘I started originally as a trainee salesman, selling anything from Homepride flour through to Winalot dog food.
‘Then I joined Colman’s on the food division, selling Robinson’s soft drinks,’ adds Colin. He then got involved with the wine division. ‘A lot of people don’t know that Colman’s used to have a wine division, based in Westwick Street,’ says Colin (Colman’s had initially bought a company called Moussec, and had produced a Babycham style drink). People might not know this fact, either: ‘We were one of the first companies to launch the wine box!’
Following this, there was an opportunity for Colin to work for Bass, but it would have involved him moving his wife and three children to within a 50 mile radius of the site in East London. Colin, who was born in Beccles and has lived in Norwich all his life, decided to stay put.
‘I went from wine to milk,’ he says. He ended up working for Dairy Crest at Harford Bridge (where Tesco’s is now) as wholesale sales manager.
He then worked for Kettle Foods, when it was still based at Vulcan Road, ‘working with wholesalers on a national basis.’ And he has also worked for peanut manufacturer Trigon Snacks, which involved him working with a rather big brand called Pepsi Co (Walkers).
However, for the last 16 years he has run his own company, called CS Sales Management. It entails him working with a number of local, national and international companies in the food and beverages industry. On a local level, these include Linzer’s Bakery in Norwich and Algy’s Norfolk Popcorn. And, Colin adds, ‘I’m working with a start-up company, Novofarina, based in Bowthorpe, which is doing gluten free yellow pea flour.’
And since last summer, he’s been the acting General Manager for Marybelle Dairy in Walpole, Suffolk, a subsidiary of Pur Natur, a Belgian company he has worked with in the past.
And he adds: ‘One of my main clients is a company based in Northern Ireland called White’s – they are millers and produce oats.’
And now he has got the Norfolk Food and Drink gig. It came about after he attended a UEA event organized by the Gateway to China Project, which aims to support East Anglian food and drink producers who are keen to explore exporting opportunities. He was originally approached by outgoing Chair, Sarah de Chair, about becoming a director. And that quickly evolved into becoming the next Chair.
All the directors, both new and existing, work on a voluntary basis. Colin adds: ‘Sarah is still a director and has done a lot of great work.’
As the new Chair, he’s keen to recruit new patrons and new champions to the organisation, and Proudly Norfolk members. ‘We are going to invite Norfolk County Farms to become a corporate member,’ says Colin.
This year, the organisation is relaunching itself as Proudly Norfolk Food and Drink, with informative quarterly events for members and sponsors to look forward to. But the main event for the consumer will be the Proudly Norfolk Food Festival (formerly known as the Norwich Food and Drink Festival) on June 16, or Fathers’ Day.
Last year saw the last of the popular Battle of the Bangers contests. ‘This year we are going to do the Great Norfolk Sandwich,’ announces Colin. The contest will be the culmination of a new Norfolk Sandwich Week, when the top six sandwiches will face the public vote.
Ultimately, though, the 64-year-old is on a mission: having attended many food exhibitions in the UK and abroad, he’s been disappointed to see that, unlike other regions, food and drink from Norfolk has not been very well represented. He wants to change all that: ‘It would be great to put Norfolk on the national stage.
‘I think the food scene in the county has improved greatly and there are a lot of really passionate producers out there,’ says Colin, who is a big fan of Cromer crab! ‘If we can help put Norfolk on the map, then that must be what our aim is.’
Featured in issue 33 – February 2019