If you are a food or drink business thinking of taking part in a food festival here are my top tips which I hope will help!
FOOD FESTIVAL TOP TIPS
1. Understand the different kinds of festival
Food festivals fall into three categories:
- Authentic festivals which celebrate local food, farming, and cooking (e.g. Abergavenny, Ludlow and Aldeburgh). These festivals are not commercial, no big brand names but they do attract a good engaged audience.
- Trade shows for the food sector like Speciality Fine Food Fair or the Farm Shop & Deli Show are an opportunity to meet buyers from independent retailers, wholesalers and supermarkets. They are expensive to attend but can be a worthwhile investment it if you are looking to grow your business; it’s often worth the cost in the long term.
- Commercial consumer shows such as Foodies, BBC Good Food and Taste Festivals - these are my least favourite! Visitors go for a day out, often to eat and drink and try as many samples as they can. They tend to be expensive to take part in. If you sell alcohol or street food they can be fun, but if you're selling fresh or store-cupboard food I'd give these a miss.
2. Do your research
It’s important to research and visit food festivals before you book yourself in. Talk to other producers who’ve taken part in shows before. The food community is supportive and collaborative so they are likely to want to help. It’s also worth giving the organisers a call. Find out who the typical visitor will be, visitor numbers and if buyers or press are attending.
3. Set your objectives
What do you want to get out of attending - do you want to just make a profit on the things you sell that day, is it about reaching a new audience to raise awareness about your brand or is it to meet buyers from retailers or wholesalers, or chefs.
These are all good reasons to take part in shows, but you are unlikely to achieve all three in one go!
4. Work out the overall cost
Do you need accommodation for you and the team and will you make enough to cover the cost of petrol to travel 200 miles?
Don't forget all the costs involved, many shows charge extra for electricity, so if you have a product that needs to be refrigerated or power for laptops do make sure you factor this in.
If you're aiming to make a profit be sure to factor all these costs in.
5. Think about stand presentation
Do a test run at home, set up a stand and try arranging things in different ways. Get friends to give you feedback. Build height into your stall and use props to give it life. Have clear signage and labelling to make it easy for people to see what you are selling. A pop up banner that tells your story and provenance costs under £100 to produce and is a worthwhile investment.
5. Build up loyalty once you’re at a show
Run a prize draw so you can collect email addresses and send out an email newsletter. This will help you keep in touch with customers and get feedback. For instance, your newsletter can be sent to people who attended a particular show and could then link to Survey Monkey to get feedback on your products from that show. You can also then tell people what other shows you are attending or where they can buy your products.
6. Find ways to draw people to your stand
Encourage people to taste things - it makes it easy to engage with people and draws them to your stand. They may not stop and look otherwise. If you’re selling food, it’s all about the senses, so people need to be able to see, touch and taste the product. The sort of people who go to food shows are into exploring and discovering – and it’s a great way to get your product out there and get people to try it.
7. Tell your story
Engage with people as they pass by and find ways to open conversation with them. There's nothing more off-putting than seeing someone behind a stand, sitting down, on their phone, looking like they'd rather not be there! Ask them questions to open up a conversation and create an opportunity to tell them your story.
If you're not there to run the stand yourself, then make sure the person who is can to talk to people about the products and your brand story too.