Unique afternoon tea secures votes for Essex producers

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Two Essex food producers are vying for votes in a bid to be named the county winner of the East of England Co-op’s Producer of the Year. Raynors, a family-run sandwich business in Chelmsford are battling it out against Thursday Cottage, who produce jams, marmalades and curds from their farm in Tiptree.

The vote runs until Thursday 21st February. Norfolk and Suffolk are also voting for their county favourite, and three winners will then go up against each other before a panel of food and farming experts will judge who will be crowned overall champion.

To test the waters of the voting public, last week the pair merged their talents for a unique afternoon tea playdate between a Kelvedon based care home, St Dominic’s residential home and a primary school, Kelvedon St Mary’s Academy – asking guests for feedback on their cheese sandwiches and strawberry scones.

Pele Heydon from Thursday Cottage said: “This was a really charming event bringing together two generations and it was really lovely to see them enjoying our produce and chatting about their favourites.”

Matt Raynor from Raynors - a third-generation, family-run sandwich business in Chelmsford, added: “A classic sandwich never goes out of fashion and no afternoon tea is complete without one.

“We had a fantastic time chatting to the children and the older people about their favourite sandwich fillings and have come away not just with plenty of votes but full of new ideas too.”

They are two of six finalists from across the East – with two companies from Suffolk and two from Norfolk also vying for public votes.

These include bakery The Cake Shop and spice manufacturer Choose Spice in Suffolk and The Norfolk Brewhouse and Woodforde’s - both breweries – from Norfolk.

More than 28,000 votes were cast in 2018, when Maldon-based Wicks Manor – famed for its premium pork products – was crowned Producer of the Year.

Roger Grosvenor, Joint Chief Executive at the East of England Co-op, urged shoppers to get behind their local producers and vote.

“Raynors and Thursday Cottage have showed passion for their produce as well as their county and now they are looking to the local people to help them take the crown of the county’s winner.

“This year especially has been a close competition and I would urge everyone to vote and show your support for the producers that have been picked to showcase the best of Essex.

“Not only is it important to get behind local producers but there’s an added incentive for getting involved,” he added.

Those who vote will have a chance to win £500 of vouchers to use in East of England Co-op stores.