Seek local markets for your food, WFUdelegates urged…

19 April 2002

Seek local markets for your food, WFUdelegates urged…

Local sourcing, food trends and diversification were

among the topics discussed at the WFUs recent

conference. Tim Relf reports

BIG opportunities exist for farmers who search out local markets for their products, delegates heard at the Womens Food and Farming Union conference.

Julianne Adams of the Cotswolds AONB Partnership, highlighted a survey showing that more than half of people are prepared to pay between 2% and 10% more for local brands. "Local products are considered to be fresher and better for the local economy," she said.

The survey, conducted in the Cotswolds, showed 90% of consumers were more willing to buy a local product if they thought it would help farmers in that area.

WFU president Janet Godfrey said: "With a good quality product, a professional approach and a lot of hard work and determination, local sourcing can be a real success story."

But she stressed the need for the product to be of a high quality. "The opportunities are for small and medium-sized farmers rather than the big commodity producers."

Meanwhile Prince Charles, who opened the conference, called on retailers, hotel chains, companies and kitchens to look to buy locally-produced goods.

"Imagine if every local authority insisted on sourcing food locally for every school, every hospital, every prison and every local authority office. What a difference that would make – and not just to the farmer, but probably to the well-being of those eating the food!

"Supporting our local food producers will help create a viable future for agriculture," he said.

&#42 Be subtle

Persistence pays when it comes to getting your product onto the supermarket shelves, Alex Albone told delegates.

"You have to be a bit clever and a bit subtle but it also just comes down to knocking on doors," said Mr Albone of Highwood Brewery, a farm-based diversification.

"Dont be intimidated by supermarkets even if they are important in your marketing plans," he said. "The word No is something you can say in negotiations. Dont be railroaded by them – there is room for trade-offs."

If supermarkets expect small local producers to compete on price with big outfits which have vast marketing and promotion budgets, they should offer something else to the small firm.

Ask, for example, that they raise the profile of your product using "shelf talkers" (information about the product placed near it) or through in-store promotions, advised Mr Albone.

"The small producer can have a great future with the supermarket – but the message you should give them is: The least you can do for small local producers is to highlight that we are in the store."

&#42 Face to face

Visit potential customers in person armed with samples if youre looking for new outlets, advised Richard Collishaw, catering manager at the Royal Agricultural College.

"Dont phone people – its a lot easier dealing with them face to face. Give them samples to try – if its good, once theyve sampled it, youve got them hooked."

If youre supplying the trade, its vital to be professional, he added. "Dont overcomplicate it – but you have to comply with all the rules and regulations.

"Dont deliver things in the back of a Land Rover with no refrigeration or in a trailer that you have just fed the lambs in," said Mr Collishaw.

"If you are going to deliver, youve got to keep your promises as regards delivery times, too."

And dont expect to be paid cash on delivery if youre supplying the trade. "They might do it as a one-off, but not long term. Most just wont want the hassle."

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