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Time to shout about ‘Brand Norfolk’

By: Justin Wright, Manager Date: 4 July 2016
Category: Food and drink
Department: Food and drink

The Royal Norfolk Show should inspire us all to promote the county’s food and drink producers.

Having spent two long, but enjoyable, days meeting farmers, producers and hospitality providers at this year’s Royal Norfolk Show, I came away exhausted but exhilarated about just what a compelling food and drink proposition our county has to offer.

It was great to see so many more Norfolk producers in the Food and Drink Arena, and it was encouraging to see the crowds attracted by the new food stage.

It is only when you see everything which makes our county’s food and drink sector brought together in one place that you realise how much Norfolk leads the country in this area. So why aren’t we doing more to convince people across the rest of the UK – and further afield – that Norfolk stands for excellence when it comes to producing things to eat and drink?

Some individual producers are getting out there and being proactive when it comes to marketing across the county’s borders. But many more are either too small, lack the requisite marketing skills, or simply don’t have the confidence to shout about what they do beyond very local markets.

That is why collective marketing is so important, and the Royal Norfolk Show (RNS) took up that baton this year. Its theme of ‘Grow It, Cook It, Eat It’ combined a celebration of the excellence of local produce with an important educational element, making the connection between those who work the land and the dishes which end up on consumers’ plates.

The Show is invaluable as a showcase for the county, however two days a year cannot do the job alone. It is incumbent on all of us who are involved in the sector to work together to build a brand for Norfolk’s food and drink offering, which will resonate beyond the county’s borders.

It is good to see the University of East Anglia's initiative, also showcased at the RNS, which is offering the power of branding and marketing insight, usually the preserve of large-scale food businesses, to small-scale local food producers.

The university has partnered with Tesco to obtain data showing purchasing patterns and demographic behaviours, which in turn will help small producers make smarter decisions about their marketing, enabling them to develop their brands and grow their businesses.

Many food and drink producers establish their businesses out of a passion for the product, rather than necessarily for hard-headed commercial reasons, and so the value of a strong brand can sometimes be overlooked. Just as each individual food and drink business needs to develop their brand, so does the county as a whole.

I suspect if you asked random passers-by in the rest of the UK to name a food which comes from Norfolk, the only two things most would be able to name would be Bernard Matthews turkeys and Colman's Mustard. Both of these are great brands – but as the Show demonstrated, there is more, so much more than this, from our county’s food and drink sector.

I suspect that in addressing these musings to the readers of Feast magazine I am somewhat preaching to the converted. However it is down to all of us who care about Norfolk’s food and drink producers – and that almost definitely includes everyone who reads this publication – to get out there and tell the world about ‘Brand Norfolk’.
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