KEITH Gill once gave snack lovers a taste of the world.

Nowadays, he’s helping micro food producers expand their market presence.

Mr Gill, who was instrumental in the formation of Phileas Fogg, which put County Durham town Consett on the map, is supporting the growth of Durham Food Hub.

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The venture aims to provide food producers from across the county with a direct route to market, with a contract alongside distributor JR Holland an obvious sign of its progress.

However, Mr Gill says the endeavour is much more than the end product, revealing plentiful work has been carried out, with more in progress, to help companies get that vital foothold.

He said: “County Durham is not known for one key food area.

“There is nothing you can relate to, as you can with Cornish ice cream or Kendal mint cake, for example.

“Consequently, in terms of its density of micro businesses, it is underrepresented in the national picture.

“The Food Hub is trying to build the platform for the operators that are already there, but it’s also trying to encourage the incubation of other companies.

“We aim to galvanise firms, which will, in turn, spawn new companies and ideas.

“We can help with product and packaging development, with new technology use and with sales development too, to build sales channels both in the region and, in some cases, nationally.

“We can also help with the financial side and business planning, and the matching of production with sales output.”

Durham Food Hub operates under the Food Durham Trading Limited company name, with the Durham Community Action charity managing the venture.

The latter has supported the community since 1935 across areas such as social welfare, health, volunteering and enterprise, and Mr Gill said such an ethos is having an impact through Durham Food Hub.

He said: “The feedback we’ve had is that people have found it very useful, particularly in the way they think about how they operate their business.”

For Mr Gill, the experiences of today are being moulded by those of yesteryear.

He will always be known for his involvement with Phileas Fogg, which he co-founded in the early 1980s before its sale a decade later.

Focused on delivering customers a taste of international flavours, the business brought Consett to the attention of national TV viewers.

Its advertising campaigns, which included the fictional Consett International Airport and Punjab Airways, are still remembered today.

But beyond such playful displays was a serious side, and a real focus on originality and change, which Mr Gill said he’s keen to instil in businesses through Durham Food Hub.

He said: “Where the world zigged, we zagged.

“We worked on packaging that stopped letting light in, therefore the shelf-life was extended.

“We brought technology in from the US and Europe, and we were the first snack company to use Channel Four when it came on the scene.

“It was just sheer innovation; whatever the world was doing, we did the opposite.

“We turned the whole thing on its head.”

Five minutes with… Keith Gill

Favourite North-East building and why? Durham Cathedral, for its history, splendour and visual impact from the River Wear. It represents the rich heritage of our region.

What was your first job and how much did you get paid? My first proper job was working for the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, in Aberdeen. I was paid £930 a year.

What is the worst job you've had? Making bricks at Lumley Brickworks as a summer job in 1970. If I ever found the dumper truck driver who constantly sang the chorus to Yellow River, but no other part of the tune, I would have bricked him up.

What would you cook for me if I came around for dinner? – A Spanish seafood paella in summer, and a cottage pie in winter.

What would your superpower be? The ability to be omnipresent.

Name four people, dead or alive, who would be at your perfect dinner party: Albert Einstein, John F Kennedy, Stephen Hawking and Elizabeth I.

Most expensive thing you've bought - other than car or house - and how much? An ultra-sound system throughout the house. £5,500.

Who is the best person to follow on Twitter and why? I never use Twitter.

Favourite book? – Dune, by Frank Herbert.

When did you last cry? – When one of my grandsons told me that he loved me last month and again, in the summer, when one of my sons told me how unhappy he was at the time. (All is ok now).

What is your greatest achievement? – Employing nearly 400 people in the North-East in two separate companies and contributing to 400 households for 31 and 13 years, respectively.

What's the best piece of advice in business you've ever been given? – Whatever you think it will cost, it will cost more. However, long you think it will take, it always takes longer.

Favourite animal and why? Dolphins, for their grace, sociability and playfulness.

Most famous person on your mobile phone? Alexander Gill. He’s the most well-known barman in Durham City.

What was the last band you saw live? Classic Clapton.

Describe your perfect night in: Watching rugby with my old rugby mates, drinking wine and sharing a homemade simple meal of chilli or curry. Alternatively, watching another game of rugby with my family, drinking wine and sharing a homemade simple meal of chilli or curry.

In another life I would be... Another version of me. Someone had to be me, so it might as well be me.

Who would play you in a film of your life? The narrator.

What irritates you? Ignorance and negativity.

What's your secret talent? Singing.