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Welsh food centre's the big cheese; ? 214,000 visitors ? 57,800 cuppas ? 15,000 loaves ? 6 tonnes of Aberwen.

Byline: OWEN HUGHES Business Correspondent

A PS6.5M food centre opened 12 months ago by Prince Charles has welcomed more than 200,000 visitors and seen turnover hit PS1.75m in its first year of trading.

The Bodnant Welsh Food centre - which employs 84 staff in the Conwy Valley - celebrates its first anniversary this week with visitor numbers and sales "above expectations".

Staff have served up 57,800 cups of tea to 214,000 visitors, baked 15,000 loaves of bread and made 8,000 pies, while the dairy department has churned more than six tonnes of the best-selling Bodnant Aberwen cheese - the equivalent weight of a large African elephant.

The opening of the centre has helped pump around PS3.5m into the local economy.

They now aim to push on with a series of festivals planned over the summer to boost visitor numbers further. Bodnant Welsh Food managing director Chris Morton said that the centre would be stepping up its focus on showcasing the wide range of world-famous produce North Wales has to offer.

He said: "It's been a very encouraging debut year for us here at Bodnant. "We've gradually built up our services over the year, and we're really looking to push on over the next 12 months.

"The cookery school has really taken off, hosting more than 110 cookery classes since opening, and I've spoken to visitors from all across North Wales, the North West and Midlands, and even Germany, Japan and Holland.

"Our focus now is on creating real experiences for our customers - we want people to enjoy the sight, smell and flavours of the very best food Wales has to offer.

"We want to make Bodnant an even better and more enjoyable place to visit, and will be hosting a series of festivals over the coming months with a theme running throughout the centre.

"For example, we have a summer fruits and ice cream festival coming up, where produce featuring seasonal fruit will be sold throughout Bodnant, as well as an ice cream competition and seasonal cookery classes, and a beer festival featuring local breweries and food that goes with or features ale."

The first year of trading saw the eruption of the horsemeat scandal in the UK which put added focus on what is in the food people are eating - boosting Bodnant's appeal as a place serving local produce with that vital ingredient, traceability.

Their facilities already include a farm shop, restaurant, tea room and cookery school with an on-site butchery, bakery and dairy, plus a wine shop that's due to open within the next two months that will further increase the stock on offer.

As well as stocking more than 700 product lines, the majority of which have been made in Wales, the team at Bodnant has also stepped up its own production over the last year.

They have also come up with 14 flavours of Bodnant ice cream, and every weekend they're selling more than 100 packs of their own-brand butter.

Chris said: "There's an incredible depth of quality food from across North Wales.

"I'm really proud of the team we've created here.

"There's a real sense of achievement to providing a range of services at a very high standard."

CAPTION(S):

Farmer Arfon Jones (left), celebrates the success of his new artisan Aberwen cheese with Bodnant Welsh Food dairy manager Aled Rowlands - it's been one of the big hits in a successful first year for Bodnant's Welsh Food Centre, insets
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily Post (Conwy, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jul 10, 2013
Words:579
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