It’s harvest time, and that means British Food Fortnight. Conceived in response to foot and mouth, the event, starting today, celebrates its 10th anniversary.

And it’s set for record levels of engagement among wholesalers, pub groups and independent retailers, who are using it to promote British food, boost sales and show youngsters how to cook and why.

Yet supermarkets and major brand owners don’t seem interested. Why? In the past we’ve had support from Musgrave (as sponsors), Harrods, John Lewis, Whole Foods Market, Harvey Nichols and indeed major multiples (albeit without their cash). Concerted efforts this year to court Morrisons, Waitrose, Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s have this time led nowhere. And I find it odd there’s no grocery support for British food’s biggest event.

Independent retailers have experienced, on average, a 34% increase in sales as a result of British Food Fortnight in the past. And multiples who’ve got involved have regularly told me how successful the event has been for them.

I also know, with better support, the event could be so much more successful for retailers. The standards of execution we see for the event are often very poor in the supermarkets. In fact it’s no exaggeration that independents regularly show up the supermarkets in the way they engage, and in their sales returns.

To be successful, it’s not just about half-heartedly sticking up point of sale (or even worse, forgetting to put the PoS out in the first place). It’s about bringing the store to life, with tastings, meet the producer activity, and visits to local schools and communities.

That requires investment and commitment. But when you compare what British Food Fortnight (and the associated Love British Food campaign) achieve with incredibly limited resources, versus the sums spent promoting organic food, British Lion and Red Tractor or the millions spent by supermarkets and brands on advertising and promotion  it’s a drop in the ocean. Why wouldn’t a British brand welcome promotion in 40,000 outlets?

My biggest fear, however, is over the grocery trade’s reluctance to engage at next year’s Olympics. In 2012, British Food Fortnight will be moved to coincide with the London Games, and will be retitled, for 2012 only, Love British Food 2012. We will provide a host of helpful PoS materials; while our support for British food will continue unabated, with the website providing educational material for schools; and also flagging up British food that’s available in the leading supermarkets.

This will not just be an event for foodies. British Food Fortnight is like Red Nose Day, with a strong community feel, and educational element. I’ve spent far more time with Bradford and Bolton councils than Cheltenham. Indeed, in 2012 we want every family, rich or poor, to have a British feast. So we’ve been asked by LOCOG to organise a family feast in 24 deprived areas of Britain to bring the Olympic spirit to those communities through food and drink.

British Food Fortnight is your dream experiential marketing event, taking place at the biggest party of the century. And supermarkets and fmcg brands should embrace it with both arms.

Alexia Robinson is the organiser of the British Food Festival. Go to