In 2001, I developed Plumgarths Hub with fellow directors Paul Airey and Steve Chambers. Since then, our local sourcing venture has rapidly grown into an award-winning business with six income streams. These include Plumgarths Asda and Plumgarths Center Parcs, blueprint ventures that provide a route to market for farmers and small scale producers supplying distinct branded products to regional outlets.
Farm shops and farmers’ markets were the catalysts of these ventures. Other retailers have now embraced the trend and I truly believe there is potential to increase local’s share of the market from the current 1.5% to 10% over the next few years.
The rise in prominence of local is clearly driving demand for British. But if we are to take this demand to new heights, we need campaigns such as British Food Fortnight to explain to consumers why British food and drink is worth buying and actively seeking out. We can’t rely on labels alone to promote British produce in store.
Local and British are unique, appealing brands. A brand without a marketing campaign to back it up is meaningless, however. Logos and quality assurance marks alone are not enough. For British food to have meaning and credibility, a consumer marketing campaign is essential. A good example is Eblex’s Quality Standard Mark, which is used to promote English beef and lamb and is backed up by TV and print advertising and targeted press campaigns. Its £4m spend in 2007-2008 has stimulated 82% of consumers to consider buying QS beef and lamb.
Similarly, the UK egg industry’s Lion Quality Mark has spent £50m on marketing over the last decade. As a result, British eggs now dominate the UK market, 80% of consumers recognise the mark and sales volume is rising 2% annually.
This is the sort of consumer-focused activity British food needs, rather than the issue-based activity we too often become embroiled in.
As a farmer, I am excited that the new Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board provides us with an umbrella levy body that can embrace British produce and build on the best campaigns. Local produce has played a massive part in laying the foundations for this new organisation to build upon. This is why British Food Fortnight is so important. During the event, more than 1,000 independents, 200 medium-sized retailers and five supermarkets will run promotions, while in the foodservice sector eight major catering organisations and six main pub groups are involved.
And the activity works. Retail participants report the event increases sales by 34% and footfall by 25%. We have some great messages to deliver. British meat is one example, produced to some of the highest welfare standards in the world. The event again offers the opportunity for farmers and retailers to work closely together and raise the bar, putting forward even stronger messages about why buying British is best. I will be among them.
John Geldard runs Plumgarths Hub