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Archive for January, 2011

Bouquets & Brickbats For Botanical Gardens

31 Jan

Despite seeing a notice in the entrance saying that the local newspaper, the Carmarthen Journal had published an incorrect date for this foodie weekend, when I visited on Saturday mid morning, it was certainly busy. So well done the National Botanical Gardens, NBG, let me offer you a bouquet for getting punters into the glass house on such a chilly day. I talked to quite a few stands that were running low on stocks or had sold out by early afternoon. I do hope they were as busy on Sunday, as this would be such a good start to the season. I must add though I do wonder how many people would have visited if the NBG had not offered free entry.

But the NBG are also awarded a brickbat to whoever laid out the tradestand area. In such a confined space is was stupid and potentially dangerous to have stands sited opposite each other, especially if they were both sampling, it caused bottle-neck after bottle-neck. Visitor tempers rose when they struggled to get through and the poor parents with push chairs, and toddlers, or families with wheelchairs had a tough time. I saw cheese samples knocked over and no simply no possibility of getting space to clear it up and so lots of chances for someone to slip.

At many events you have professional traders and then amateurs ‘playing at it’ as a hobby or a sideline idea. The amateurs are easy to spot, no business cards, no literature, website or clear company identification or branding. If I’d have had an input, my layout would have been as far as possible to have stands only against the one outside wall. I’d have sited the professionals first and working down to the amateurs and stands just giving out literature. This would have allowed not only people to flow easily through, but given them time to stop, taste, browse and then the crucial purchase. Instead, what actually happened was that at times it was impossible to get through at all and unless you were seven foot tall, not easy to see what the traders were actually selling.

Of course I’ve said that some traders did very well, but for many visitors it was far from enjoyable trying to get through. Another disappointment for me was what I think might have been the NBG’s own café open, not only selling teas and coffees, which no trader was doing, but hot food along with cakes. Mmmm…………..I’m not sure I think that is fair. Surely the objective should be is to get people buying food from the traders and eating it there before going back for more to take home with them – simple isn’t it?  I’d love to here your feedback if you were there this weekend.

 
 

Still More On Food Websites

26 Jan

On 17th December, I posted a wonder really on not just how many Welsh food websites there were, but more importantly, how much money, the Welsh Assembly Government, WAG,  & Europe for that matter, had put into them. The burning question then is what have they have achieved? Assuming of course that all these sites have all been monitored by ‘someone in authority’.

Now I must have a moan at you for not actually commenting on the site itself. I do understand that you are reluctant to stand up and be counted by name, although I can assure you that real names do not have to be used and only I will know anything. Again I promise your details will go no further. But having said that, many of you have been on the phone to me and by email. Gosh, I seem to have hit yet another very raw food nerve. Your main problem is simply the waste of money and how little benefit these sites have generated. In fact many of you weren’t aware of them – so some marketing has failed miserably there.

I do understand how concerned you are about this year, as the credit crunch continues to bite, redundancies abound and government cuts seem literally everywhere. I know you are concerned about how many food festivals will go ahead this year, what they’ll charge for stands and how many of them will get their marketing right, so punters pile through the doors with money in their pockets. If organisers get those things right, the ball is firmly back in the producer’s court to persuade them to buy …………………….

 
 

The Food Festival Saga Rumbles On

26 Jan

Another week on and the food festival saga continues – sadly, only a small amount of progress made. But I have to congratulate our team for their huge efforts and unstinting enthusiasm – despite feeling much of the time we are banging our heads against a Welsh Assembly Government,  WAG (Food) wall.

I’m still being asked for an official list of food festivals, but as already said that’s highly unlikely for next few months. Despite the fact that it really is not our job to do, Rob & Janet from our Welsh Country team, have complied a ‘draft’ list which will be sent out to all our Best Of Welsh & Borders (BOW), within the next day or so. It should help some producers with their forward planning. We’ll also give them an update of latest foodie news too.

I’ve been told officially by WAG (Food) that a Food Organisers Conference has been arranged – I’ve still not been told where or when or invited – but I’m still getting a few calls in from organisers saying they have not received their invite. Those guys have been put onto WAG simply because I cannot help.

Many producers are of course very concerned about WAG’s slow response to what food festivals are going ahead this year, but in fact it isn’t any slower than any other year. I always wanted to publish WAG’s food festival listing in our J/Feb issue but that was never going to be a goer. I hoped that by being so early we’d have time in future issues to push and promote weekend breaks around some festivals so we could really encourage foodie lovers to visit our great festivals. 

Nothing will stop Welsh Country magazine continuing to promote local produce through our ‘Buy Local – Eat Local campaign and through our BOW directory. We’ll continue to promote our food producers. We’ll also continue to support any food festivals and farmers markets through 2011 that want to work with us. So if you’re in the Welsh food industry and you think we can help you, just give Rob or Ian a call and we’ll be delighted to have you with us. If in doubt just talk to any of our BOW – they have been our best advert over the years.   

As a journalist you’d think it would be a simple, speedy task getting answers to the questions I ask. In fact, over the years it has been very difficult and extremely time-consuming. My objective has never been to annoy WAG, but somehow I’ve appeared to do this, but I can assure you it’s certainly without even trying! My aim with WAG has always been to work with them, because that does make sense. As the only pan-Wales title that is passionate about local food, we can really help them in their role. I appreciate it is difficult hearing queries and complaints, but if taken the ‘right’ way, they could action and improve on how things are run. If this could be achieved, we’ll see huge improvements, more growth in the food sector and then more happy producers. I think I’d sum it up as I have done for years, that communication is the key and maybe this is a good place for WAG to start off 2011.

Welsh Food Bites is an incredibly popular site and is well ranked on www.alexa.com. It continues to out perform other Welsh food related websites, even those that are funded!!

 
 

Organic Centre Wales

20 Jan

I’d just like you to be aware that Wales as a country is being excluded from this campaign, as the promotion is being focused on England.  

In early January I received the Press Release – published below – from Organic Centre Wales. Our team contacted Haygarth to find out what they were doing about this campaign in Wales. Well it was a brief conversation and told us that the campaign would be run in national titles only; the decisions had been made and would not be changed.  

OCW have been informed of this response and they wanted to know more. I’m delighted to say they were true to their word, they contacted Haygarth themselves but they are hitting the same brick wall that we hit. It now appears that OCW may consult organic producers in Wales to see if they feel excluded by this decision of Haygarth’s which would give them ammunition to argue the case more strongly.

If this causes you concern can I suggest that you contact OCW directly or make comments through welshfoodbites. If you can spread the word to other organic producers that would be very useful. I’m sure many of you will be as indignant as I am that Wales appears to have been ignored despite Welsh funding and Welsh producers themselves having put money into this scheme. I think this appears to be an excellent campaign, with case studies too but I’m not at all happy if Welsh organic producers do not get as much benefit as English producers.   I’m not sure that a bi-lingular campaign run in the Radio Times will be a huge help to Welsh producers – but there again – what do I know? 

Press Release  – Welsh Angle On A New Advertising Campaign To Highlight Benefits Of Organic Food

Organic Centre Wales (OCW) will be supporting a high profile three-year campaign to promote organic food in the UK. The £2m campaign, paid for by organic businesses and match-funding from the EU, invites consumers to discover what organic means to them, by challenging their perceptions and discovering their own reason for loving it.  In Wales, OCW will be ensuring bilingual press coverage of the campaign, and using its messages to support generic promotion work under its Better Organic Business Links (BOBL) project.

Launched in January 2011 under the banner ‘There are lots of reasons to love organic – discover yours’, the campaign consists of press advertising, PR and digital marketing and aims to democratize organic by using everyday people to talk about their reasons for buying and loving organic. Sue Fowler, Director of OCW, says: “We know that people want to eat natural and great tasting food which matches their perception of organic.  This campaign will raise the profile of organic food and give consumers the chance to find out for themselves what organic actually means.”

Press ads will run across a number of national magazines over a 9-month period in each of the three years of the programme. Linked to this, PR activity will focus on seasonal news stories, real life case studies, competitions, celebrity endorsement and tasty organic recipe ideas.

More than 90 organizations have pledged their own money to the campaign, including Welsh organic companies Calon Wen, Daioni, Graig Farm Organics, Rachel’s, Rhug Estate, Slade Farm and the Welsh Black Cattle Society, and multiple retailers including Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose. The UK campaign is being managed by the food charity Sustain working with advertising agency Haygarth and will run for a three year period, from October 2010–2013.

 
 

2011 Food Festivals

20 Jan

I took a telephone call yesterday from a food producer who was planning his festival programme for this year and wanted me to supply him with a list of Welsh Assembly Goverment,  WAG (Food) supported festivals. He was surprised that I hadn’t got one. But I explained that if I’d got one within 24 hours he’d have had it too! I told him that I of course had to wait for the official listing from WAG (Food) and that didn’t usually happen until our M/April issue. Things changed last year as WAG (Food) weren’t supporting us with their 2-page advertorial as they had in 2008 & 2009, so when we received the listing it was put up on  www.welshcountry.co.uk. We did though circulate the festival listing to all our Best of Welsh & Borders, (BOW).

As the food producer was one our BOW, of course I wanted to help and offered him the contact details of the person responsible in WAG (Food), but he thought he’d be wasting his time and left it to me to email WAG (Food) for an update. I did know that the regular  Festival Organisers meeting was being arranged by WAG (Food), but I had not yet been told when this was scheduled.

I could only sympathise with this producer for trying to get organised. I reminded him that the only festival news that I was aware of was: Llanwrtyd Wells not going ahead, a new festival for Newcastle Emlyn in June and Really Wild Festival moving to July, but of course he already knew about those festivals as we’d circulated this news to our BOW producers as soon as we’d been informed.

 
 

Some Super Service Over the Festive Period

11 Jan

A belated Happy New Year to you and sorry I have been neglecting you. But I’m delighted to report back on a couple of venues that must be commended for their super service. Just before the New Year whilst out locally I called into the recently refurbished Emlyn Arms Hotel. Wow, what a transformation from when I visited over five years ago, it’s now so stylish and comfortable. The transformation was certainly needed to this former Coaching Inn, but we are all aware that these don’t always work. However the Emlyn Arms was exceptional, and not just for its ambience, but for it’s the staff too. All the staff we met were not only polite and friendly, especially Dolores, but also very helpful and welcoming, nothing was too much trouble. So much so that instead of just having our regular mocha coffee, we had just enough time to have a bar snack  and although just a club sandwich and chips, it was delicious. It never ceases to amaze me how many establishments, at all levels, cannot even manage something as basic as a sandwich, but this hotel passed with flying colours. So if you are ever in that area, do make a point of calling in or maybe book yourself in for a few days rest. There’s a gym, sauna and spa pool too!

With having visitors, we decided that on New Year’s Day we would go and support those hardy souls that decided such cold frosty weather was worthy of a swim! So we headed off to the Parrog at Newport, Pembrokeshire and applauded the brave or silly souls swimming, knowing that one of my favourites Morawelon would definitely be open, serving a warming cups of hot chocolate and coffee. Well not only did we get super service from Shaun and Sue, but wonderful drinks as well. The place was buzzing as locals and visitors took advantage of a special New Year’s Day breakfast menu – which I thought was one of staff Sue’s brilliant ideas. Tempted by the aroma of bacon and sausages, we were incredibly lucky that Shaun could find us a table at the end of service and we still had time for a walk as well. What a great way to spend the day and I congratulate Morawelon for cheering up what is often a difficult day. No wonder it is such a popular venue. Needless to say our breakfast was a triumph and the service we received could not be faulted. This year I shall remember not to push my luck again and remember to make my breakfast booking – and no, I shall not be swimming!!!