The team behind Northumberland’s Doddington Dairy are celebrating a momentous award win at the BBC Food and Farming Awards.
The Wooler-based cheese and ice cream makers pipped top-flight national brands to pick up Best Food Producer at the awards ceremony in Bristol.
Speaking to The Journal on his return to the North East, Neill Maxwell, part of the Maxwell family which runs the venture, said the win was great recognition for Northumberland food.
He said: “It’s hard to think there is anything more prestigious than this.
“These awards look for the very best food producers in Britain, and attract an audience of food lovers from across the country.
“Our moto is principle before profit, and we always aim for a quality product above all else.
“Glendale, our home, is a poor part of the world and building a sustainable business in that environment is not easy but that’s what we have tried to do.”
He added: “It’s so important that we recognise the North East’s support for us. The region is very loyal to its local economy, and that is crucial for us.
“We’ve already had so many well wishers since the awards. The amount of support is really quite touching.”
The award was presented to husband-and-wife Neill and Jackie Maxwell by one of the judges, proprietor of Café Spice Namaste and celebrity television chef, Cyrus Todiwala, OBE DL.
It is not the first award for Doddington - since its launch 20 years ago, it has picked up a number of accolades for its products sold by shops and caterers.
The family’s dairy farm operation, based in the shadow of the Cheviot Hills, employs around 20 people.
Mr Maxwell added: “We’re one of the last dairy farms left in Northumberland. They’ve disappeared one-by-one, by slow attrition, which means the issue hasn’t hit the headlines.
“Some, like us, have tried ideas to add value to their milk — and we’ve done that in our own way.
“The judges of these awards said they were impressed by our use of real fruit and fresh products. For instance, we sometimes lose business on the basis that our stawberry ice cream isn’t bright pink, or that we won’t make a bubblegum flavour for someone. But we’re just interested in a quality product.”
Presenter of BBC Radio 4’s The Food Programme and founder of the awards Sheila Dillon said: “In the 15th year of these awards, we really wanted to find out from our listeners who the food heroes were in their neighbourhoods — anyone, any organisation, that through food was making life in Britain better.
“We’ve certainly been rewarded with thousands of nominations - and we’ve had a tough job narrowing down our list of winners this year.”