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British food sales benefit from a smart promotional drive

British Food Fortnight, which runs from September 18 to October 3 across Great Britain, primarily England and Wales, has become the biggest celebration of British food in the nation’s calendar.

It is the most important promotional activity organised since 2002 by Love British Food.

British Food Fortnight promotes British food throughout the country, encouraging retailers, hospitality bodies, public procurement organisations and education, etc, feature the food with a series of highly effective and colourful promotional activities. It’s a very highly branded and expert promotion.

Love British Food’s aim is “to encourage people to seek out British food when they are shopping or eating out and in doing so to discover the delights of the diverse and delicious food produced in Great Britain”.

“We want to create a vibrant domestic market for British food that gives farmers and food producers the confidence to invest and develop their businesses because they will see that there is a demand for their produce,” the independent organisation explains in its briefing material. Hundreds of organisations – some very large, many very small – work together under the Love British Food umbrella, enabling the small organisation “to punch way above our weight”.

Love British Food prides itself on being “grassroots driven, rooted in communities around the country”.

The activities started in 2002 by Alexia Robinson, from Dorset, and 12 community groups led by parish leaders – “people who care about British food in their communities, whether it is a teacher in a school, a chef in a hospital or the organiser of a food festival or market … they are Love British Food’s lifeblood.

“It is due to their passion and ingenuity that we are able to achieve real change in the areas we work in. We are, therefore, very different from other more PR-driven campaigns.”

Alexia explains: “I’m a country girl and care passionately about the British countryside and rural way of life.

“My mantra is – no sheep, no cows, no countryside. If we don’t buy British and support our farmers, it won’t be long before we don’t have any farms, have to rely much more on imported foods of questionable quality and the countryside will become a rural theme park.”

Love British Food, as a result of Alexia’s vision and drive, is now the leading organisation advocating a strong ‘Buy British Food’ message.

And it is the only organisation working with those responsible for sourcing food in schools, hospitals and other public sector organisations to make British food their preferred supplier of choice.

She continues: ‘The catalyst was the Foot and Mouth crisis that had brought the countryside to its knees.

“There were numerous food initiatives, projects and events taking place across Britain at that time but there was no overall flagship campaign to bring them to the public’s attention.

“The focal point of our activities is British Food Fortnight, the national celebration of our food that takes place every autumn in the last week of September and the first week of October, at the same time as Harvest Festival, the traditional time for celebrating our food.

“The fortnight is now established annually as the biggest national celebration of British food.

“Hundreds of activities and food promotions take place during it every year.

“Nearly every part of British life gets involved: schools, hospitals, care homes, universities, sports venues, visitor attractions, pubs, restaurants, hotels, high street shops and, in some instance, entire cities, towns and villages,” she adds.

The organisation has developed a network of ambassadors, many of whom are household names, as well as Food Hero Members and partners.

“We work with inspiring young farmers who we promote as the best advert for British food.

“We pride ourselves on inclusivity; the smallest community organisation is as important a part of our activities as the largest commercial organisation.

“We are an umbrella under which we hope people and organisations will benefit from being under; and we want everyone to feel that Love British Food is ‘their campaign’ not ‘ours’.” In retail, it started by running promotions, food tastings and meet the producer instore activities with members of the Guild of Fine Food Retailers and the Q Guild of Butchers. These increased sales in the participating outlets by 50-80 per cent.

Medium sized retailers took notice; Budgens and Londis came on board and use the campaign to promote their support of local food.

And then the supermarkets put Love British Food on their promotion calendars. Tesco, Morrisons and Asda have all used the branding; and on the high street, Spar and the Co-op have worked under its umbrella.

jIn food service, it started by running menu promotions with small independent restaurants that were members of Les Routiers. These increased menu sales and brought in new customers.

So the pub groups took notice and took part: Fullers, Mitchells and Butler, Enterprise Inns and Whiting and Hammond.

And then the food service sector joined the party. Led first by Aramark and Compass and more recently led by Sodexo, Brakes, Harrison Catering, ISS Food Service, Cucina and ESPO.

“Our activities now cross the whole spectrum of private and public food service,” Alexia adds.

“We are proud in particular of our role in promoting British food as first supplier of choice across the public sector: in schools, hospitals, care homes and universities.”

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