Food and Drink North East is a community of local business owners and experts who understand the challenges the sector faces and is working together to solve them.

We’re not a fish – we’re the pond. A network that connects, enables and encourages collaboration across the region. 

A movement of like-minded people who understand that when the tide comes in, all boats will rise.

For too long the North East’s food and drink sector has been overlooked. While other regions have flourished we’ve hidden in the shadows of our industrial past.

We believe this region offers something truly unique and that it’s worth shouting about.

From artisan craft producers and niche products to established names and entrepreneurial brands, the North East is witnessing an unprecedented upsurge in innovation. 

We believe the time is right to come together. To engage this vibrant community. To focus our efforts, share knowledge and get the word out. To grow from the grassroots up.

We believe we have all the ingredients to build a world-class, sustainable food and drink offer right here in the North East. One that can compete on a national and international level. One with a strong local identity and a flavour of its very own.


To grow the sector’s contribution to the regional economy to 10% GVA by 2025, build a global reputation as a food and drink destination with heritage, sustainability, innovation and community at its heart.


Food and Drink North East is a CIC that will build a vibrant and engaged community that champions positive trade, promotes a sustainable, circular economy and acts as a collective and inclusive voice for the region’s food and drink sector.


Des Kennedy


A practising design professional for over 30 years, Des is a creative thinker

with a strategic yet pragmatic approach. 

He has expertise in design

thinking, UX design, agile software development, marketing and digital

transformation and has managed projects for major clients in higher

education, healthcare, charity, culture and heritage from across the UK.

Experienced in working across teams and disciplines he regularly facilitates

workshops and ensures stakeholder engagement for organisations

undergoing significant change or looking to embed innovation.

Jamie Sadler


Managing Director and founder of Food Nation, an award winning and nationally recognised social enterprise creating learning experiences and environments that inspire people about healthy and sustainable food. 

Leading the development of Newcastle’s first ever food focused city plan with Food Newcastle and Harissa, an award winning sustainable restaurant. 

Born and bred in a pub in North Yorkshire, studied Nutrition at Newcastle University and Food Policy at London City University. Passionate about food, drink, travelling, sport (especially football) and the North East. 

Laura Foster


Currently working as a management consultant with some of the North

East’s fastest growing businesses, Laura has a 20-year background in communications, business development, and marketing. 

Her experience spans a myriad of public and private sector industries at a national and North East level and she has successfully managed numerous, complex multi-agency projects. 

Well-connected and an expert relationship manager, Laura has established string links with the Food and Drink sector through her work with Scaleup North East.

Ian Pilkington


20 years experience in food and drink industries, 10 in the Far East, 10 in UK. working with large organisations such as Nestle and Arla Foods.

Globally and regionally networked to provide high quality business development and advice to clients - from start up to blue chip manufacturers.

Ian specialises in strategic planning, change / project / performance management as well as assist in building a culture of manufacturing excellence and continuous improvement across the food industry.

John Jenkinson


John is an international trade and development specialist working with companies to develop their international strategy and achieve their business objectives.

Having graduated from Newcastle University with honours in Linguistics and Chinese,  John moved    into consultancy roles  before spending time studying overseas in Asia’s first City of Gastronomy, Chengdu.

John has organised international trade missions on behalf of the UK Government, and led UK food and drink delegations in global markets representing North East food and drink products at some of the largest international trade shows in the world.

Georga Spottiswood


Give customers a reason to do business with you.