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Archive for April, 2011

Glorious Gorseinon Festival

18 Apr

Saturday 16th April saw Gorseinon celebrate its second food festival in great style. The organiser’s wishes for sunny weather were granted and the festival was very busy when I arrive mid-morning.

Last year they had about 25 food stalls and around 4,000 visitors through the gate. This year, word had spread about this great event and some traders sadly had to be turned away as there was no way they could fit any more stands in.

With plenty of True Taste Winners there, it meant that the Welsh Assembly Government, WAG, did support this event with some much-needed funding. I still believe that WAG should let the organsiers know much earlier about funding, they simply don’t need the extra financial pressure when they have so much to plan and sort out.  

Regular readers of welshfoodbites and Welsh Country magazine will know how much I like to see tables and chairs available for visitors to sit down have a drink, food and ice-creams in comfort. Well Gorseinon did a great job on this one, making good use of the centre of their large marquee. Plenty of families took advantage of the sunshine to move outside and picnic on the grass. Maybe some table and chairs out there too might be an idea for next year, but appreciate that often there’s no money left to hire these in. 

Although the cost of hiring the True Taste mobile kitchen was not acceptable, it did not deter the organising team who sorted out their own kitchen and got local cooks and chefs to show off their skills. There was also plenty of entertainment to keep the children happy – which is always a huge bonus.

We had lots of our Best Of Welsh & Borders, BOW producers there and I’m safest not giving any name checks in case I leave anyone out! I find it really useful being able to have a quick word with our BOW as I do get a true impression of what the event is like from their side. It’s so important that organisers get feed-back from these guys and really listen to it, because without them we’d have no festivals. So the general feeling was a real positive for busy, one day festivals, rather than a two-day one when Sunday is often too quiet to keep treaders smiling!  This makes sense and again it’s something organisers need to address if they’re planning a two-day festival. The other concern I pondered on, was as 2010 was so busy and successful, it was understandable that the Gorseinon organisational team wanted this year to be even bigger and better, well they certainly seemed to achieve that. I’m still waiting to hear news from the traders after they have cashed up and compared to last year, bearing in mind that visitors don’t bring any extra money with them because the festival is larger, so it’s vital that if stand numbers are increased visitor numbers must increase considerably too – let’s hope that happened. 

So my congratulations to the friendly and enthusiastic organisers, who put in an enormous amount of work. They were all volunteers and put on a really good event. The variety and quality of food and craft stands was impressive.

I didn’t see anyone from WAG in attendance to see how their funding was spent, but I approved and my verdict is keep up the good work and I look forward to seeing you again next year. WAG owes your team a big thank-you too for showcasing so well the best of Welsh food.

 
 

Our Rankings Are Still Rising – Thank You!

14 Apr

On 15th March I told you that welshfoodbites was ranked at 409,087; truetaste.tv was 1,919,717 whilst walesthetruetaste was 1,582,454. Well on 14th April welshfoodbites is ranked at 288,946 and truetaste.tv at 1,420, 705.  (Ranking source Alexa taken over a 3 month period)

So my thanks once again for your support on welshfoodbites. Ok, it is a lot of extra work for me, but it does prove we are doing something right. I’m not sure whether the Welsh Assembly Government, WAG, will get the message, maybe we’d best not hold our breath! 

Walesthetruetaste site has not been available since about 4th April, instead you’re re-directed to WAG’s site, I’m guessing this is whilst they revamp it. This site was initially going out to tender, but WAG decided to take this job in-house, in theory to save money, but could easily be to safe-guard some Civil Servant jobs. There’s no point in my asking more questions about this site as the WAG Food Press Office have refused to answer any of my questions.  

I’m not sure why any ‘expert’ computer boffin’ would take a site down whilst they re-jigged it, that doesn’t make much sense and can only continue to hit their rankings, and certainly doesn’t help the food industry.

 
 

Successful Local Food & Drink Trade Show

11 Apr

A local food & drink trade show took place on Monday 11th April at TyGlyn, Ciliau Aeron, Nr. Aberaeron. It was another success for Food Centre Wales, TPMW/Medwrn, The Welsh Assembly Government’s Supplier Development Service and Mid Wales Food Talks. This is the fourth year the event has run and it certainly was very busy and hopefully very successful too!!

The morning was a producer exhibition with a wonderful array of local produce. It was useful for accommodation providers to meet the guys who make Wales such foodie heaven and great to see a group trying to make a link between producers, accommodation and our visitors. . Welsh chef Dudley Newbery provided cookery demos using local produce which were well-received.

During the afternoon there was a selection of Masterclasses, followed by a food tourism talk with plenty of opportunities to sample more Welsh food and drink.

My only advice would be to some of the tradestand holders, yes be generous with your samples and tastings, but please don’t forget to get a business card in exchange, or at least keep a notebook and ask them to write down their contact details for you. This will then allow you – when you have the time, of course, – to follow up these leads. Please don’t wait for your phone to ring; the onus has to be on the producers to do the leg-work and follow-up those leads. I’m sure it will be worth it.  Well done organisers for all your hard work.

 
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Congratulations To Carmarthenshire Country Council

07 Apr

Eight Carmarthenshire food producers attended the recent International Food Exhibition at ExCel London Docklands. The businesses, who went under the banner of Carmarthenshire Food & Drink on the Wales the True Taste stand, included Café Fair Trade, Calon Wen, Carmarthenshire Cheese Co, Caws Cenarth, Parsons Pickles, Prima Foods, Proper Welsh and Tregroes Waffles.

IFE is 2011’s largest gathering of international food and drink suppliers with, over 1100 exhibitors from around the world having the opportunity to showcase thousands of new products to a massive audience of UK and international buyers.

Attending the four day event proved extremely beneficial in view of the quality of potential buyers visiting the stand. Producers who attended have between them generated important leads from supermarkets, wholesalers, airlines, independent stores, delis including own brand opportunities and potential export. From initial enquiries business in excess of £200,000 per annum could well be generated from attending this prestigious event. This will have a knock on effect in ensuring the sustainability of local businesses and jobs within the county’s rural economy.

Carmarthenshire County Council head of economic development Wendy Walters said: “Carmarthenshire producers are being recognised on the international stage for the quality of their products. Buyers were seeking out the stands for specific companies showcasing their products. It is pleasing to note the continued success being enjoyed by the county’s food producers.’’

Steve Peace, director of Carmarthenshire Cheese Co, who attended the show, said: “Without the ongoing support of Carmarthenshire County Council, we would not be able to attend such events. Continued attendance is important for the development of our business and it is imperative that as a local company we attend to get our products to market to drive up sales.”

 Carmarthenshire County Council has long recognised food as a growth sector within the county and are committed to providing assistance and support to businesses whether established or a start up.

As we always do with relevant food news we receive, the above Press Release has just been circulated around our Best of Welsh & Borders producers, that are working with us in Welsh Country magazine and welshfoodbites. We’ve already had a response emailed in – gosh that was quick!! 

I was a visitor to IFE and once again saw the effort that Carmarthenshire Council puts in to promote their food producers, it’s such a shame that other councils don’t recognise the contribution that their own local producers make to the local economy, and support them accordingly. Well done Carmarthen Council

 Producer  – Caerphilly

Carmarthenshire Council certainly seems to be proactive on the food side. But where Carmarthenshire leads, will other Councils have the vision to follow? Is your council working harder for food than Carmarthenshire? Do let us know………

 
 

WAG Food Press Office Rules – OK? Well Actually No

05 Apr

I have spent too many years in journalism, marketing & PR. These roles do of course have similarities, but basically it’s getting correct information out into the public arena. As you can imagine over the years, I’ve requested literally lorry loads of information from many Press Offices in the UK and abroad without any problems getting the information I required. Well I hadn’t had any problems until I’ve had to get information from the Press Office for Welsh Assembly Government (Food). 

Why? Well I have been given one reason, they’re busy!  Which we all are, but it’s their unwillingness to help that  just doesn’t make sense. It’s their responsibility as a Press Office to get the message out about Welsh food, that’s what they are paid to do. Welsh Country is trying to help.

One of my jobs is getting food news out to our Best of Welsh & Borders, (BOW) producers. BOW is our paid-for listing that features in each issue of Welsh Country and our producers can also have their own page on welshcountry.co.uk. An additional service we offer to them is to email them on a regular basis any news, views or information that we hear about. But to do this, it’s important we know what’s going on in the food industry. This would be quite easy to do if WAG would communicate with us.

Another job I do is to inform our readers of what’s happening in the world of Welsh food. As with our food producers, our readers keep asking in particular about food festivals, ‘which are going ahead, what dates, what’s the cost’? All reasonable questions that would be quick and easy to respond to, IF WAG (Food) would keep us updated. Then all we’d have to do is send an email around our BOW producers, include a piece for Food Larder in the next issue of Welsh Country, and then that subject can be crossed off the list and we can move forward, continuing our role of promoting Welsh food.

WAG (Food) Press Office have told me I haven’t to ask questions of WAG Food personnel directly, as I have been doing, I have to go through them, fair enough, but when I do ‘as I’m told’ you know that this isn’t working.

Whilst I was doing PR & Marketing, I couldn’t have looked after my clients and kept them, if I hadn’t got the media working and helping me. For the past six years, Welsh Country magazine has been pushing local food. WAG, through their Press Office seem to have decided that we can’t help them. Well, that’s another first for me to find a Press Office that doesn’t need a sector of the media working with them. 

WAG Food appear to be – let’s say, not over enthusiastic about my blog, welshfoodbites. The only reason given so far is because they say they’ve no right of reply to any comments I post. Well that’s not true, as the comments buttons are there to be used and you have continued to prove this does work. But WAG have only to give this issue a little thought, rather than getting stroppy, to work out that I did not start welshfoodbites until July 2010. It was started only because of pressure from producers, plus WAG keeping us in the dark. If welshfoodbites is their reason for their reluctance to work with us, they’ve only themselves to blame. Communication is the key and I shouldn’t have to remind you of one of the basics of your job. But let the rankings speak for themselves as at 5/3: welshfoodbites is ranked at 310 025 compared to WAG’s two well-funded sites:truetastetv@1,532,317 and walesthetruetaste taste has not been viewable since 1st April. Source Alexa rankings. 

Of course we all know WAG Food are in charge of the purse strings too, but it’s true welshfoodbites would not have been created if WAG would communicate, there simply would have been no need and really I haven’t time. 

WAG say food festivals need to eventually be self-funding. To achieve this, festivals have to attract sponsors, to attract sponsors festivals have to put on a good show that makes sense but is certainly not easy to do, especially in these tough economic times. But producers will only attend these festivals if they draw in the crowds and the people will only attend if they know when festivals are happening. To stick a single advert in the local newspaper is not sufficient. It’s also not fair, not only to producers who whose money organisers take, but to people that might consider attending. These people are not just local people and keen foodies will travel a fair distance to a festival that is well and professionally run. Maybe it’s easier to sum this up by saying WAG produces lots of writing, but sadly very little of it is joined-up ………and all we are trying to do is help.

 
 

The Shed & The Stackpole Inn – Super Food And Super Service

04 Apr

What a pleasure it was over last two weeks to visit The Shed at Porthgain and The Stackpole Inn, nr Pembroke, both  in the delightful county of Pembrokeshire.

We called on both places without booking, just wanting a lunch-time snack. The Shed impressed us with fantastic, well-presented crab sandwiches, the flavour of which was amazing. Then at  The Stackpole Inn we were tempted with  Gravalax, something we’d not had for years and what a good choice we made. We were lucky with the weather too and could take advantage of sitting in their gorgeous garden to eat and relax.

The quality of food, with a great selection of local food too, was impressive in both eateries. But it is never just the food for me, it has to be service too and the friendliness and helpfulness of the staff in both establishments was brilliant. Both venues served us lunches that were delicious and the experiences couldn’t be faulted , which is just what you want, isn’t it? 

These two places are most certainly on my list to visit again and also to recommend, something which I don’t do lightly!!! I look forward to adding other venues to welshfoodbites under ‘places with super food and super service’.