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Archive for January, 2012

Tradestanders Must Pay NOW For Narbeth Food Festival

31 Jan

I was furious to be told by a food producer yesterday that they had been told they must pay, IN FULL by 31st January for a tradestand at Narbeth.

Narbeth food festival is a two day festival held around 25th September. I’m not sure if Narbeth usually ask for money nearly nine months up front, but I have to ask why? Why do they need the full payment now? Have they invoices to pay for this year’s festival already and the traders are needed to fund that? Well that’s hardly likely is it? Have Narbeth heard about the economic recession? Are Narbeth of a view that food producers in January are sitting on a stack of cash because their last trading year was so good? Surely they are more aware than that! 

Last year Narbeth were funded to the tune of £9,999.00. If  they’d had asked for £10k or more from WAG, they would have had to produce a business plan. Narbeth also charged all visitors on the gate, which is another source of income along with any sponsorship they achieved.     

 I am at a loss to know why all food festivals cannot do small stage payments for producers. In my view, spreading the costs should always have been done for food producers and without a doubt over the last two years. Far too many of you need a reality check.

 I have heard the good news that Royal Welsh Food Hall and the Cardiff events are doing stage payments this year. Cowbridge were the first I’d heard of that did stage payments last year and I was so pleased to see a festival understanding the markets forces that all of us are having to contend with.

I’ve been complaining about forward payments for years and I’m just grateful that at long last some festivals are listening.  I know our Best Of Welsh & Borders will be delighted of any festivals spreading the costs of their tradestands.

 
 

More Rumours About Pembrokeshire Produce Direct

30 Jan

Well my grapevine is still rather busy of the topic of PPD and I can understand why.

I’ve nothing ‘official’ on this, but I’ve been told by a couple of producers that PPD are now no longer holding stock. It appears that when a customer places an order, the relevant producers are then told. One producer was given an order for just three items and expected to deliver that to PPD in Narbeth, Pembrokeshire. So logistically, how can this work as a business? Firstly for the producer and also for the customer?

Customers are supposed to place their orders by 9.00am on Tuesday for delivery on that Thursday. PPD state that they deliver throughout Pembrokeshire and now also Carmarthen and the surrounding area. I’m not sure how many vans PPD have on the road, but that’s quite a large area to cover on a Thursday, IF they have a lot of deliveries. But I’m still puzzled as to how delivering an order of three items can be cost-effective for producers, can anyone clarify and help me here as I struggle to see how PDD operates. Actually I’m still waiting to find someone that uses PPD!

I’ve just been on PPD’s website and looked down the list of producers. I note some of our Best Of Welsh & Borders  producers there, so hopefully I’ll get some further updates soon. But I was astounded to find listed amongst the producers, Haverfordwest Male Voice Choir – why would they be included in a producers’ list? I know that choir produces a superb sound, but rather puzzled about what food they might supply……..

I cannot believe that with a business set up as this is, that an up-to-date website isn’t a priority. So if that’s the reality, why is PPD’s website so out-of-date?

 
 

More Brickbats and A Bouquet For National Botanical Gardens

30 Jan

I’m not sure whether to thank or curse the only Best Of  Welsh & Borders producer who told me early last week that this event was taking place! But as I’d been told I went onto the National Botanical Gardens, NBG,  website and although I could find a few details about the event itself, I couldn’t find a list of which producers had agreed to attend – so once again, I was not impressed.

Regular readers will know that being in the media, I do like to know what is going on and press releases are generally the simplest and quickest way to communicate to the press. But for reasons best known to them, as far as their food events are concerned, NBG prefer to keep me in the dark. Needless to say to my regular readers, this makes me furious and not just on my account, but for the fact that food producers are paying to be there for the whole weekend, whilst NBG can’t be bothered to send out even a single press release. It simply isn’t fair. There will come a day, hopefully not too far ahead, when all producers will, before handing over their hard-earned cash, ask what promotion and marketing is being done for each event. Of course there is no guarantee that they will be told the truth, but at least if they ask the question we might gently persuade organisers to think and plan ahead.

But there was some good news about this event which was that entry was free both to the gardens and to the food event, but that really only emphasises the fact that NBG should have been shouting long and hard about this event.    

I arrived on the Sunday and the weather was wet and wild and I was directed to the overfill car park, despite the main car park being at least half empty. When I queried one of the attendants I was told that the main car park was for disabled only, well fair enough but why not have a large sign saying disabled only instead of just cones blocking it off and an attendant way the majority of cars to the overfill area? I must also say that the ground on the over flow park was in need of some care and attention. On leaving the event and I checked some cars on the main car park; I couldn’t see that many blue badges but quite a lot of NBG member’s badges!!!!   Disappointed not to see large signs at entrance about the food event and wonder how people knew that it was actually going on and where it was. 

I have no idea who laid out the stands this year, as I was told that David Hardy was no longer doing it, but not sure if this was accurate or not.  There were not as many stands here as last year but when I spoke to a lot of the traders, many had really had a lot of hassle to get a stand in the first place. One trader sent 10 emails before getting a stand, whilst another was told there were no stands left by one person and then was accepted by another NBG staff member. A regular tradestand holder just visited the event because they’d been told again no space available, although they’d been supporting them in the past, so how fair was that? So those stories were not good to hear and actually totally unnecessary, as one trader described it, “left and right hands just aren’t related to each other here at the NBG.”  And I couldn’t have summed it up better myself!

It was rather quiet in the dome when I got there about 11.30 and rather chilly, quite a few traders didn’t even take their coats off, but the good news and the bouquet for NBG was that Saturday was apparently very busy and quite a few traders had sold out. So for January, for an event a lot of traders were not holding out high hopes for and so had no doubt not taken huge stocks with them, Saturday did work, so well done. I was told that the localCarmarthenpaper and the local radio had promoted the event, which is great if your main market is just Carmarthenshire, but on Saturday I spoke to some enthusiastic local foodies from Pembrokeshire, but they of course knew nothing about this event. If they had they’d have gone, because they love the chance to buy local food.

Saturday also brought to light the fact that many people had come out on a beautiful day weather-wise, and used the food event as a way of taking samples for themselves and their family. But not content with sampling once, some then decided that they’d take another trip around the stands and repeat the sampling process. This is a difficult situation and a real no- winner, producers are happy for would-be buyers to taste before they buy, ask questions etc., but just taking advantage of producers when you have no intention of buying is very unfair. Like the saying – there’s no free lunch, there are no free samples either!  How we educate the Welsh public to understand that samples are not free is another quandary…… 

 I also heard rumours that NBG thought that the clientele or visitors to the event, was ‘not quite their market ‘and so intend to charge and entry fee next year. This poses two questions with all the public money that has gone into the NBG, surely any tax payer is their market. Charging though may ease the situation of hoards scavenging for samples so can I suggest a compromise. Why not charge £5.00 per car, and then give 5 x £1.00 vouchers that can be redeemed at any of the food stands? The traders can then redeem their vouchers at the end of the day. This shouldn’t discourage those wanting to visit the Food event and purchase, but may put a small hurdle in front of those looking for a cheap day out with free lunch for all the family.     

As last year, another annoyance was that NBG opened their café in the dome. I read a notice by the café’ saying that it wasn’t always open during winter season, but for this two days NBG must decided that they couldn’t lose this opportunity to make some money, so the café opened for the weekend. Well bully for you guys, I hope you made plenty. You obviously had no thought for the traders whose money you’d already taken, plus more for electric no doubt. Some of these traders were selling a wonderful selection of hot food, pasties, pies etc. not to mention Welsh Brew tea that had a stand there, as did Preseli coffee, whose coffee in my view cannot be bettered. I’ll never find that situation fair when surely the objective should be to get people buying food from the traders, eating it there, before going back for more to take home with them. But have I got that wrong? Is the objective that everyone should be there to support NBG? 

Another worrying factor as grabbed a seat to drink my Preseli coffee in comfort, was watching two unrelated families, also grab a table and chairs and then both promptly unpacked their picnics and eat them. I resisted the temptation to ask both families what they were doing here, but maybe they had just come to the visit the gardens on a wet windy Sunday with snow forecast with no idea the food event was taking place. Wonder if they came from Pembrokeshire or like me from Ceredigion…………………..  

I’d love to get your feedback if you were there this weekend.

 
 

Thanks For Supporting welshfoodbites

20 Jan

I’ve been neglecting on of my many duties which was to keep an eye on website  rankings. So today I have and thought I’d share them with you.

Welshfoodbites:    434,573

True Taste TV:   3,932,358 

True Taste:          1,967,526

(Ranking source Alexa taken over a 3 month period)

So thanks  for your support on welshfoodbites. With welshfoodbites on the highest rankings than Wag’s I can only say I’m delighted and I didn’t need their funding to do it!

Of course it’s more work  for me, but it does prove I’m doing something right – airing your views and problems which sadly are often down to wag. 

If I were Wag I’d be more than disappointed with the rankings on both my sites, but then if I were Wag I wouldn’t have two sites and increase the confusion. I’d also have on my sites things people really want to read and to learn about. 

I’m not sure whether the Welsh Assembly Government, WAG, will get the message – but they are certainly reading it otherwsie my rankings would be at their level!!

 
 

Fobbed Off Following Freedom Of Information Request About True Taste

18 Jan

In October I requested the following information:

1. There were 1017 entries for True Taste Awards 2011. I require a breakdown of number of entries per county.

2. Would you also provide a number of entries True Taste Awards for 2010 and a breakdown of entries per county.”

On 9th November I received this response from Wag Food:

I have not found any information that fits this description. If you send me further details of the information you want I will look again.

Since that response, I have pursued this matter, until finally, just before Christmas was told that:

the information I requested is not held by the Welsh Government.

Before more of you get hot under the collar, let me clarify. Wag appointed a company to run much of True Taste on their behalf and according to the Wag it is this company that have the information I have asked for. But despite the fact that the WG appointed this company and then pay this company, the Wag say they haven’t got the info I have asked for and patiently waited for.

Entrants to True Taste are asked to enter online and then Wag’s company holds this information on their database. I’m told by Wag that this information is only used to communicate with entrants about the awards and the ceremony.

Obviously I’m being fobbed off, but what we ought to be asking is why?

I’d love to get feedback from you on this one.

 
 

HCC Are Challenged Again Over Christmas Promotion

17 Jan

I spoke to another butcher at the end of last week. This business is  based in Pembrokeshire and one of my obvious questions was to ask about Christmas marketing from HCC. The response…………………..what marketing from HCC?

I was then told that although the company had been trading for 15 years, they’d never had a visit from an HCC rep.

To be fair, I’m not sure if HCC still have reps on the road. They did have two reps, but maybe these posts got the chop, sorry bad pun!! Perhaps, like many other official bodies, HCC are too busy to make calls on independent butchers. 

 

 
 

‘Bah Humbug’ From HCC – Hybu Cig Cymru

09 Jan

I’ve just finished talking to a butcher and of course we were putting ‘the Welsh food world to rights’ as you do, but I was astonished to hear that HCC, Hybu Cig Cymru, had not arranged any Christmas promotions for the individual butchers that are working hard, against the supermarkets, to supply local people with local Welsh meat. As I write this I’m furious that this has happened and wished I’m known about this well before Christmas so I could have rattled some cages, before this marketing opportunity had been lost for ever.  

Although the Welsh Government appears to ‘think’ I know little about the Welsh food industry, I do know the media, and I do know about PR & Marketing. Plus you don’t have to be the ‘Brain of Wales’ to know that Christmas time is a peak sales opportunity to sell meat! So if we agree on this, then what were HCC doing ignoring this peak promotion period?

In case you are not aware of HCC:       

Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) is the organisation responsible for the development, promotion and marketing of Welsh red meat. We work with all sectors of the Welsh red meat industry – from the farmers through to the retailers, to develop the industry itself as well as develop profitable markets for Welsh Lamb and Welsh Beef.

HCC is of course funded by Wag and comes under Wag (Food) portfolio.

This latest instance shows that although HCC are charged with promoting and marketing Welsh red meat, it appears that individual butchers are, for some reason, not a priority. But why not? Even HCC, cocooned in their large, posh glass office, must realise that local butchers are struggling to survive. But as the strangle hold of supermarkets gets even tighter, what do HCC do to help – a big fat nothing.   

So come on HCC, explain your ‘Bah Humbug’ attitude to the local butchers, including our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers that you are paid to help……………………………..

 

 
 

What Does 2012 Hold for the Welsh Food Industry?

05 Jan

As we wait to hear, without holding our breath of course, to see what funding will be available for food festivals, and as to which of them will be favoured and which will fall by the wayside, I’m afraid my concern about our food industry has not disappeared. The more producers I talk to, the gloomier much of their feedback is. But whilst we still struggle to make Wag Food listen, I have a little ‘news’ to impart. I’ve been told that Wag has been asking some producers if they are interested in a wagProcessors & Producers Group being set up by Wag. Now where did they get this idea from – welshfoodbites perhaps? I’m not sure if this only applies to larger companies who are on Wags ‘favoured list’ and or those companies who have been lucky enough to receive a True Taste Award, or in many ways, even better, a grant from Wag. I’m sure it will be a selective list of companies, and if this is the case it will not be a fair representation of the Welsh food, but that is how Wag appears to work. It this does happen then maybe I will not be the only one who is dismayed to hear one of Wag’s latest plans……….

I have been asking and asking Wag to communicate with food producers and of course selfishly with the media press too – but this message has obviously been ignored, or maybe just because it was one of my ideas – it’s been dumped in their bin, which would be rather childish, wouldn’t it?

But let me take just a little comfort from the fact that some producers did get invited to the ‘surprise’ food festivals organisers meeting in November. But wasn’t it rude and unfair of Wag to then not give those that took precious time away from their businesses, not to give them the opportunity of airing their views. Just what was the point of that Wag, paying lip service to me?

I feel so sorry for the producers that these Civil Servants who should be a huge help to them, and never more so than in these difficult trading times, fail to understand what producer’s need and this is because those Civil Servants cannot be bothered to communicate with them. I suggested to one senior Food Civil Servant that it was their job as the food department, not only to talk to food producers of ALL sizes of businesses, but also to listen to their requirements. Not all of them want to go the supermarket route or believe the True Taste is their  way to go either, so we can only hope that in 2012, Wag Food will  understand this message and act upon it.