Earlier this year, we ran a fabulous competition to win a £30k digital marketing strategy. Here the seven shortlisted finalists make their pitches to three ‘digital dragons’. But who’s your favourite? We’d like you to be our fourth dragon and cast your vote. It won’t be easy. They’ve all got strong stories. And for that reason, Liz Hamson is definitely in

Got a great product, with a great story, but no money to tell it? Desperate to get to grips with digital marketing, but clueless about where to start?

These were the questions we put to readers in our 23 January issue ('Catching the Digital Wave').

And we went one better than challenging them to think more creatively about the way they market their products we also dangled the fantastic prize of a £30k marketing strategy and PR support, courtesy of both Untitled and On & Off Communications, to encourage them to do it.

Unsurprisingly, they didn't need to be asked twice. The list of entries was huge! And only after weeks of careful deliberation were we able to whittle it down to a shortlist of just seven.

Now, we can reveal the identities of the fresh produce supplier, tropical food distributor, organic cereal producer, organic sandwiches and snacks supplier, luxury chocolatier, fast-growing bakery brand and premium chocolate pretzel maker who made the cut.

Below you can read highlights from the pitches they made in what we're cheekily calling the Digital Dragons' Den (actually a basement room in a London hotel), where the seven pitted their wits against three fearsome judges: Untitled MD Rob Hollands, On & Off Communications MD Nigel Pritchard, and myself.

They all impressed the dragons with their fantastic products, passion and vision. But several were visibly nervous and no wonder. There's a lot at stake. They are competing for a sensational six months' worth of free digital marketing consultancy and PR support as well as coverage in The Grocer, because needless to say we'll be tracking the winner's progress over the coming months as they outline their hopes and expectations and, with Untitled and On & Off, devise a plan of attack.

So who emerged victorious? Unfortunately, that's one thing we can't reveal... not yet, anyway. That's where you come in. We want you to be our fourth dragon and tell us who you think should win.

All you need to do is read the profiles of the seven below and view video highlights from the finalists’ presentations here.

As you will see, any one of them would make a deserving winner. The only thing letting them down, in fact, is the absence of a convincing digital marketing strategy.

So let us know who your favourite is by filling out this form and help us make someone's digital marketing dream a reality.

Unlike the general election there are no prizes for third place, so one lucky supplier's fate could be in your hands - don't waste your vote!

The closing date for responses is 18 June – and one respondent picked at random will be the lucky winner of a year’s subscription to The Grocer as well as The Grocer Directory of Manufacturers & Suppliers, worth £275.

The finalists

Charlie Falkingham arrived with colleagues Lynne Heyes and Peter Freeman in tow... and a wheelbarrow full of From My Farm fruit and veg, the UK’s first and only branded range of regional produce.

The Cambridgeshire outfit launched in 2008 supplying 12 Morrisons in the east of England. Now, the brand is available in Yorkshire, Scotland and the south west through the likes of Waitrose, Harrods and the National Trust.

Charlie hopes to triple turnover in 2010/11, relaunch in the south west and further expand into the south east and Midlands.

But she needs help. “Our business is growing fast and our digital marketing can’t keep up,” she admits. “With your expertise we will reach an untapped group of consumers online and raise the profile of our brand. We want From My Farm to become a household name.”


Alara Wholefoods can boast a lot of firsts. It was the first organic-certified muesli company in the world, the fi rst to be registered with the Coeliac Society and the first UK food manufacturer accredited as zero waste, in 2008.

The next goal for the company, which produces half the organic muesli in the UK, two-thirds of the gluten free and 95% of the Fairtrade, is to become carbon-neutral. It’s also rebranding its packaging. There’s no rest for the virtuous, it seems! Now director Alex Smith is ready to go digital.

“We have carried out exciting sustainable projects, such as creating London’s biggest inner-city organic orchard and vineyard,” he says. “We want to tell others how they can follow suit. A powerful digital marketing campaign is what we need to better inform the public on how to be greener.”

If only bribes could sway us dragons. Sadly, no amount of spice bun topped with cheese and guava jelly could affect our objectivity. Or could it? Tropical Sun was launched a decade ago by Wanis, the UK’s leading African and Caribbean food wholesaler and distributor.

The brand has grown in the independent sector and supermarkets and is doing nicely in the core ethnic market. But brand chieftain Kapil Wadhwani would like to do more to capitalise on growing mainstream interest in Afro-Caribbean food. Having launched a website, he is convinced a strong digital marketing strategy is the way forward.

“As Old El Paso represents Mexican food, Tropical Sun has the potential to defi ne Caribbean food,” he says. “With the right partners , we know Tropical Sun could hit the big time.”

Chantelle Ludski’s company has come a long way since she started it on campus as a student. Its organic pies, quiches, soups and sandwiches are now available in the likes of Boots, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Budgens, specialist outlets and university campuses.

But 2009 was tough for many in organic – and Fresh! was no exception. Some lines were delisted in what Chantelle describes as “the perfect storm”. A digital campaign would help navigate Fresh! to calmer waters, she believes.

“This is exactly the sort of thing we need,” she says. “We want to shout about the fact we make great-tasting food, using fantastic ingredients sourced from lots of small UK producers. We want to be known as a really ethical food producer. We’d love help , please. We also want to create an online sales channel so we can sell direct to the paying public.”

Billed as no-nonsense tasty treats, The Big Yum’s Chocolate Swerves – chocolate-coated salty pretzels – recently won a listing at Harvey Nichols.

Now husband and wife team Aaron and Pippa Witcher are targeting other high-end delis and speciality stores, as well as the likes of Eat and Pret A Manger. The pair, who met speed-dating and came up with the idea on honeymoon in the US, have wasted no time since the brand’s offi cial launch (at this year’s Food & Drink Expo) working the press, launching Facebook and Twitter pages and starting a blog .

Ahead of the anticipated launch later this year of chocolate-coated popcorn and marshmallows, they want to up the ante with a killer digital campaign. As Aaron says: “We’re a very small challenger brand, punching above our weight a bit, so we need help to make it into a big brand.”

Go*Do, a new range of premium organic and ethical chocolates, is set to hit the UK in September, following successful launches in Italy and Japan.

The word means “pleasure” in Italian (as well as something rude) and is the brainchild of Andrea Rasca (left), MD of NewChoco srl, an Italian company. Given that Italy isn’t exactly famed for its chocolate here, you’d think its prospects were limited. But Simon Wright (right), who helped develop Green & Black’s and Divine, is representing it in the UK and is currently in discussions with a multiple among others regarding listings.

With Green & Black’s around, it’ll need to hit the deck running, which is where digital media would come in. “I am strong on ethical chocolate but weak on digital marketing,” admits Simon. “Working with specialists will get the Go*Do message across to our target audience .”

Gary Frank has the brilliant title of head boy at the fastest-growing brand in bakery. He’s in charge of lots of enthusiastic pupils. You’ll probably have tried its flapjacks, cupcakes and muffins (available at all major supermarkets and c-stores).

But so far it has relied entirely on word of mouth to be “first choice for mums buying bakery snacks for their families” – a brave move with heavy advertisers McVitie’s and Mr Kipling among its rivals.

To take the brand to the next level – it is promising a new launch will revolutionise the cake fixture – Gary wants to enlist the help of digital marketing. “It would be the perfect medium to support our launch. As the challenger brand on the fixture, we fi ght for shelf space and air time, and the awareness generated by a viral-style campaign could be invaluable.”

Meet the digital dragons

Rob Hollands Managing director, Untitled
Liz Hamson Deputy editor, The Grocer
Nigel Pritchard Managing director, On & Off Communications