WITH A BUDGET of just £80,000, the Home-Grown Cereals Authority and its partners managed to generate an estimated 2.5m of media coverage in 2004 with its Farmhouse Breakfast campaign.

Alastair Dickie, director of crop marketing at HGCA, thinks that represents good value for levy-payers’ money. But he is confident that even more publicity can be generated in coming years. Next year’s campaign kicks off on January 23. The aim is to promote awareness among an increasingly urban public of the crucial part that cereals play in a healthy breakfast. The HGCA also wants to increase people’s awareness of where food comes from, and why the rural community is important.

Mr Dickie says that beside breakfast cereals, other mainstays from bacon and sausages to eggs come from animals reared on grain. “You can’t talk about breakfast without stirring demand for cereals,” he adds.

“It is very easy for an ordinary urban consumer to not know where their food comes from. But to have a farmhouse breakfast helps them connect with rural producers. It also assists them in understanding the value of food to their lives.

“The events also aim to tackle the obesity issue. Starting the day properly with some wholemeal cereal helps you not overeat during the day.”

The campaign again centres on a week of breakfast-based events. Last year saw promotions ranging from handing bacon sandwiches to commuters at railway stations to encouraging supermarkets to promote a healthy breakfast to children.

Supporters also handed out free cereal bars, as breakfast cereal manufacturers donated samples of their products to back up the campaign.

For the third consecutive year in the campaign’s six-year history, the 2005 events will be organised on a franchise basis. All Britain’s Regional Food Groups funded by Food from Britain will get involved by organising their own promotions. This promises a range of different regional breakfasts up and down the country. NFU regional offices also play an important role.

But there are a host of other grassroots organisations that provide the backbone of the campaign. One of the most energetic is the Women’s Food and Farming Union, who will benefit from HGCA financial backing for their events this year.

“With the franchise, we provide a focus for other groups to promote cereals in breakfast, as well as quality food and its distribution,” says Mr Dickie.

The success of the campaign is clear from the growth in the number of events – 710 in 2004, up from 400 the year before. The publicity generated by the events is also increasing steadily, with 848 articles or features last year.

“We track the exposure that we get in press, radio and television features, then our PR company works out how much it would have cost in advertising equivalents,” explains Mr Dickie.

“We can’t expect the growth to go on forever, but we certainly can take it further.”

Those interested in the campaign can visit www.hgca.com/breakfast for more details.

Gaining from Grain is a monthly series on business strategies produced by farmers weekly in association with the HGCA.