Chris Solt, food and drink partner at Lovewell Blake, explains the importance of producers getting up close and personal with their customers.Last month
my colleague Justin Wright encouraged Norfolk’s ambitious food producers to consider doing business with the supermarkets, which continue to be the access point to a large proportion of the nation’s consumers.
However, for many of the county’s smaller producers, supermarkets will not be the route to finding customers, either because their production is on too tiny a scale to make that viable, or – and this is not uncommon amongst artisan producers – because they simply don’t want to have anything to do with the supermarkets.
For these kind of food and drink producers, direct contact with consumers is often the best way of building brand presence, loyalty and ultimately ongoing custom. This is why for many such operators, a gazebo and the willingness to get up early at the weekend is almost as important as the care they pour into making the produce itself.
If you are reading Feast magazine, you are a foodie, and will probably be familiar with Norfolk’s farmers’ markets, food events and festivals. The big draw for many people is the opportunity to talk directly to the people who put the passion into artisan food and drink.
For producers, not only do these events offer a cost-effective entry point into food retail, but they also serve up the chance to do much more than simply sell the food itself. They represent the chance to project the personality of their brand in the most compelling way possible: face to face.
Those who are good at doing this are the ones who quickly build loyalty. They see beyond the short-term gain of making a one-off sale; they understand that building customer loyalty will provide both repeat sales, but just as importantly, brand advocates for them. Which of us has not told our friends about a good experience we have had at a producers’ market?
Such events offer the opportunity for testing new products to see if the consumer thinks they are as good as you, the producer, does. They give producers the chance to get potential customers to sample their products, to demonstrate how much better they are than their mass-market equivalents.
Above all it gives producers the chance to ‘perform’ in front of their customers, to bring to life the story of their product, to give it a human face, to enthuse and share the passion. This skill is just as important as the ability to make the product in the first place.
We all know producers who are good at this. At my local farmers’ market in Poringland, I really enjoy visiting the stalls of Just Cheese, Buckenham Farms and Norfolk Veg, to name just three. As well as offering top quality produce, they are all outgoing and helpful without being too ‘salesy’.
Most small-scale food and drink producers are extremely passionate about what they do; to really succeed, they have to share that passion with their foodie customers, which is why the farmers’ market and the food festival are so important to our county.
- Lovewell Blake is proud to announce that it is sponsoring a new Producers Street Market at the Norwich Food & Drink Festival on Sunday 18th June. Taking place on Bethel Street and in the Forum, it will feature around 40 local producers. There are still a few pitches available, the cost of these has been subsidised by £25 by Lovewell Blake; for more details email firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline for applications is 31st March.