Expo was the launchpad for the first food promotion agency for any English region ­ South West Food & Drink. Backed by £600,000 from the south west regional development agency, DEFRA, the MLC and the local meat industry, the agency will provide an overarching banner to promote food and drink from Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall. Launching SWF&D, National Farmers' Union regional director Anthony Gibson, said: "We're not just adding another brand to an already overcrowded market. "The agricultural output of this region is actually greater than that of Scotland and Wales. When you think of the south west you think of sunshine, sea and food. "We have to make more of the marketing advantage our countryside, coastline and food offer. See what Bord Bia has done for Irish food industry." Taste of the West chief executive Diane Lethbridge said: "There are over 3,000 food and drink producers in the region. Hopefully most of them will sign up." The agency will group producers into clusters, such as meat, dairy, export and organic. Meat South West, the first cluster to launch at the show, brings together farmers, abattoirs and processors into one organisation to promote meat from the region. While Taste of the West has done a huge amount of work with small, speciality producers, commodity and volume areas have been neglected, said Lethbridge. Meat South West will use its cash ­ about £120,000 of the £600,000 available ­ to commission research into the unique selling points of meat from the region. This can then be taken to retailers to develop ways of merchandising and promoting meat from the region more effectively. l More than 16 companies from the region used Expo to showcase products. {{NEWS }}