TRADITIONAL Italian biscuits might not be the first thing that spring to mind when you think of local food.

But Steph Lowe’s New Forest Biscotti are made with up to 60 per cent of the finest local ingredients and are handmade by her in Sway.

Steph admits that some people are a bit confused by the idea of an Italian New Forest biscuit but once she explains the ethics behind the company – supporting other local businesses and reducing environmental impact by keeping food miles to a minimum – they always buy a pack.

Steph, 23, has a background in catering, having worked as a waitress and kitchen helper from the age of 14, and studied catering but she was working as an au pair when she set up her company, New Forest Biscotti.

“My mum was making the biscuits as presents and I thought maybe we could do a bit more with them,” explains Steph.

“Biscotti have a strong connection with coffee and tea and we’ve got so many cafes that I thought it would be good to make a branded biscuit. Biscotti means ‘double baked’ and although I follow the Italian style I use as many local ingredients as possible.”

Steph contacted local food group New Forest Marque to see if there was anyone else making biscuits out of local ingredients and for help in getting the Marque – which indicates that at least 25 per cent of ingredients come from the New Forest – on her own food.

She set up her first stall at Lymington Market in November 2008 and the business has gone from strength-to-strength since then. She even won first prize for the Best New Forest Marque Stand at the New Forest Show 2009.

Sadly Steph’s mother died last May from motor neurone disease and Steph sees New Forest Biscotti as something of her mother’s legacy.

And she plans to arrange for a percentage of profits from bags of biscotti to go to a charity connected to the illness.

Other plans include increasing the number of cafes, shops, hotels and bed and breakfasts that she supplies.

She moved from her home kitchen operation to industrial premises in March and is now able to cope with higher demand.

“Local food is really important to me,” says Steph. “It was part of what I wanted to do from the start. I’m very passionate about supporting other local businesses and doing what I can for the environment.”

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