A new Cumbria-wide collective of food and drink producers has delivered instant success after being showcased at a major national event.

This is Cumbria attended the Farm Shop and Deli Show, the sector’s leading event at the NEC in Birmingham attended by 30,000 buyers.

At the three-day event the This is Cumbria showcase, organised by Keith and Jacqui Jackson of Thomas Jardine and Co, and Sue Howorth of the Family Business Network, and led by Maria Whitehead, of Hawkshead Relish and Lisa Smith, of Ginger Bakers, involved independent food and drink producers from across the county.

The concept, which was built on collaboration among the Cumbrian businesses, was supported by legal firm Cartmell Shepherd and not-for-profit lender Enterprise Answers.

Jacqui said: "Going under one brand gave us a power and a confidence that we wouldn't have had if we had gone as individual businesses.

"We came across as a bigger player which helped us attract more attention than if we had been individual, isolated businesses.

"It was very well received. It attracted buyers to the range and diversity of the food and drink producers across the whole of Cumbria, not just the Lake District.

"Getting that message across about the diversity, and about the whole of the county, was really important and we definitely achieved that.

"People know of the Lake District and they know about Hadrian's Wall, but not many we met knew Cumbria as a destination for food and drink. It was a revelation for some. It was great to show what great food and drink we have.

"There was a real openness and collaboration between all the Cumbria businesses. It helped some of those businesses who hadn't attended trade shows of this scale before, and we saw them develop a lot over the three days in understanding how best to approach buyers. There was a lot of sharing of tips and advice which was great to see."

The Pie Mill, Molly Rose Drinks and Shed 1 Gin, were all part of the Showcase Area and Enterprise Zone, designed to give emerging Cumbrian businesses on a limited budget the opportunity to showcase their products and services on a national footing alongside larger business.

Amanda Wilson, who owns The Pie Mill at Blencathra Business Centre near Keswick, has already seen benefits to her business from attending the event.

"Being part of the This is Cumbria initiative was great because I have never done a big trade show before. It gave me more confidence and more ability to sell more product,” she said.

"The advice that we got from the likes of Hawkshead Relish, Kin Vodka and Ginger Bakers was a huge help. There was real collaboration between the businesses, helping each other out with advice."

Traybakes, based near Penrith, was among the bigger Cumbrian businesses who are no stranger to such events. It is the fifth time in 10 years they had attended the Farm Shop and Deli Show.

But Judith Keating, Traybakes’ sales and marketing manager, said as part of the This is Cumbria group they still met new customers.

Judith said: “It brought us new customers. We have had a handful of customers who have already contacted us since the event and which has resulted in business orders. It also gave us an opportunity to see customers that we otherwise wouldn’t see.

“The power of the group bought us a good position right next to the theatre. We also really enjoyed the community element of it and the drinks reception with Nigel Barden who did a great job.”

Top freelance Cumbria chef Martin Frickel also hosted a This is Cumbria chef demonstration to a packed-out audience.

Martin, who is based near Kendal and is head chef at Mathilde's at the Heaton Cooper Studio in Grasmere, said: "I really enjoyed it. It was an amazing couple of days. Being Cumbrian born and bred it was great to shout about Cumbria.

"It was great to see the collaboration and businesses pulling together to help each other. It was wonderful to support them and to be a part of it."

Those behind the This is Cumbria group have already booked double the size of display at next year's show.

Peter Stafford, managing director of Cartmell Shepherd, said the moment they were told of the This is Cumbria initiative, after Maria Whitehead at Hawkshead Relish had booked the event space last year, he knew it was something he wanted his team and his business to support.

"It's what we love. It's all about Cumbria. It's all about family businesses. And these businesses have done everything themselves. They are the real success stories of the county. But up until now they don't shout about themselves. You might not even know they existed, yet they are run by inspiring people and are producing this fantastic food and drink."

The businesses representing Cumbria included John Farrer & Co Tea & Coffee Merchants, Hawkshead Relish, Ginger Bakers, Traybakes, Lakeland Artisan – Cumbrian Delights – Lakeland Liqueurs, Kin Vodka, The Toffee Shop, Pennington’s Spirits & Liqueurs, Shed 1 Distillery, The Pie Mill, Molly Rose Drinks and food safety consultants ML3 Technical Services.

Among the other Cumbria businesses who supported the initiative were 32West, We Are Eclectic, and Printing Plus.