A Welsh centre of excellence has been named the best retailer in Wales.
Bodnant Welsh Food Centre has scooped the title in the prestigious Farm Shop and Deli Awards – dubbed the industry’s Oscars.
Customer votes along with secret visits by a panel of judges to the Conwy Valley centre, which stocks produce from more than 100 Welsh artisan suppliers, helped secure the prize.
Bodnant, which this weekend is hosting Wales’ first Chocolate Festival, will now go head-to-head with nine other regional winners – farm shops, delicatessens, butchers, bakers and food halls – in next month’s contest for the title of UK Retailer of the Year.
Chris Morton, Bodnant Welsh Food Centre managing director, said: “I am extremely proud and delighted that we have been named as the best retailer in Wales.
“This award is the result of votes by our customers, as well as the views of a panel of independent judges. That makes it extra special as it’s a real vote of conference from those who use the farm shop on a regular basis.
“Winning the award means a lot to everybody here at Bodnant because it shows that we are getting right. Also, it will help to put the produce of North Wales firmly on the map, and help raise the profile of the wonderful food and drink from this region. “
The awards recognise the very best standards in the UK’s independent, speciality retail market by celebrating the highest levels of service, product knowledge, initiative, innovation and community involvement. They are held in partnership with Olives Et Al, with category sponsors Lakeland Computers and Pidy and Hider.
The public were invited to vote online for their favourite, with a shortlist judged by a team of expert judges from the world of speciality retail, fine food and food media, who carried out a series of ‘secret’ visits in December 2014 to see the entrants in action.
The national categories include awards for bakers, butchers, cheesemongers, fishmongers, delicatessens, food halls, online businesses, greengrocers and local shops.
The overall winner will be announced at the Farm Shop & Deli Show on Monday 20 April 2015.
Food and drink writer Nigel Barden, chairman of the judges, said: “There are some truly brilliant regional winners, many of whom source produce locally and it’s marvellous to see that there’s a good spread of outstanding retailers in both urban and rural settings.
“Some of the further-flung winners offer a great service to their community, but are also worthy of destination shopping and they are savvy enough to have linked up with quality hoteliers, restaurateurs and publicans in their area to make the journey even more worthwhile. The British food and drink offer has never been better.”
Fellow food writer and co-chair of the judges Elaine Lemm, said: “It was both an honour and an unenviable task to choose regional winners from the wealth of talented, passionate finalists in the Farm Shop and Deli Awards this year. Everyone who reached this stage is already a winner and for a good reason, because they are the best. They should all be proud of their achievement in getting this far. ”
Bodnant Welsh Food Centre has its own dairy making cheese, butter and ice cream using milk for a neighbouring farm. There is an on-site bakery and butchery with award-winning pies, wine store and tea rooms plus the Hayloft restaurant and farmhouse accommodation, and a cookery school.
Last year the centre won the Daily Post Achievement Wales Tourism Award, while farm shop was named as the best in the UK by the prestigious BBC Good Food magazine – bringing a congratulatory tweet from Prince Charles, who officially opened the complex in 2012 with his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall.
In addition, the centre’s home-made produce, from cheese to pies, picked up a host of awards, including Rising Star at the UK FARMA Awards, while the Hayloft restaurant was named as a Good Food Guide’s Little Gem.
Visitor numbers at the £6.5m centre at Tal y Cafn in the Conwy Valley are continuing to rise, thanks to the wide range of products and events such as this weekend’s Chocolate Food Festival, the first in Wales, added Chris Morton.
“More and more people are seeing us as a day-trip destination – a place to visit and enjoy themselves – as well as a good place to stop off and pick up something delicious to eat,” he said.
“We have a growing band of loyal customers, who return time and time again, to buy the products we make on site – our range of cheeses, ice-cream and butter, plus our pies and butchery goods.”
More details about what’s on at Bodnant Welsh Food Centre or to order from the Farm Shop call 01492 651100 or visit www.bodnant-welshfood.co.uk
For more information about butter made at Bodnant visit http://www.bodnant-welshfood.co.uk/product/bodnant-butter