BIG and small cheeses of the food and drink industry were out in force to give a taste of what Hampshire has to offer.

From wine and beer to game, fruit, confectionery and ice-cream, the county’s bounty was laid out at the business Solent Suppliers’ Showcase.

The event held at the De Vere Grand Harbour Hotel in West Quay Road, Southampton, yesterday saw up to 40 producers linking with wholesale food buyers, offering crucial face to face meetings and the all important opportunity to sample the goods.

Big name customers attending included Carnival UK, Saga Shipping, Forestdale Hotels and Southampton Football Club.

Hampshire Fare chairman Mike Wright said: “Even in this tough economic climate there is always a window of opportunity for Business development if you supply the right products and get the right people to talk to each other.”

The suppliers’ showcase was organised by Business Solent in conjunction with county food group Hampshire Fare, Hampshire County Council and Cavendish Ships Stores.

Business Solent chief executive Sally Lynskey said: “This event is a great showcase for local producers and an important event in the business calendar.

“Each year we have more stories of business being done as a result of this event and we are delighted to support it.

“These producers offer a consistently high standard of goods and the region should be proud of their contribution to the local culture and economy.”

Mike Smales, of Hampshire based Lyburn Farmhouse Cheeses, said the event was an important way of bringing his products to the market.

The Hampshire cheese maker hopes to top last year’s event, which saw him afterwards negotiating with customers from Southampton’s booming cruise ship industry. Now he delivers about 20 tonnes of his Stoney Cross and Winchester cheeses annually to Cavendish Ships’ Supplies, who then supply P&O and SAGA’s fleet.

He said: “As a result this has given Lyburn cheese world exposure.”