The Isle of Wight County Show last month was the perfect event to showcase the wide range of Isle of Wight produced food and drink sold by the Southern Co-operative. It was a great day and I really enjoyed being there and having the opportunity to talk to show visitors and get them tasting some of the fabulous local food we had on offer. The Southern Co-op is a mutually owned business, with community support and involvement at the heart of its’ strategy. What better way to put that into practise than to buy from almost 40 local farmers and producers, boosting the local economy, helping the environment and reducing food miles. Research has shown that a local business will generate over £ 7.00 of income into the economy per £ 1 spent, and with a non local business that figure reduces to less than £ 1.50. That is because the multiplier effect kicks in. Local businesses use local services such as accountants, builders, window cleaners and equipment suppliers, all paying their local staff and using local suppliers themselves! The money goes around our Island economy, growing as it goes! That’s not to say there isn’t a place for big supermarket chains, there is, but we must allow and encourage our local businesses to thrive too. In the food sector there is also the bonus of some fantastically tasty goodies to enjoy!
Events that involve interaction with your customers, like the Isle of Wight County Show, should be a key part of your marketing activity. They fly the flag for your brand (The Southern Co-operative sponsored the Food Pavilion and this gave the opportunity for a visual presence and for PR coverage too) and enable you to talk to customers, gaining what can be critical feedback about their wants and needs. For example at the County Show we were surprised by the level of demand for Gluten Free and Vegetarian options. Our offering is growing in these areas, but it was evident that we need to increase the percentage of the range that caters for these markets and speed up our work in that area! Part of my work for The Southern Co-operative involves product development, working with existing suppliers and finding new suppliers with lines that match customer demand. This year we have taken on two new suppliers, both of whom provide delicious, superb quality savoury pastries. Twins Gluten Free make gluten free quiches, pasties and pastry and their range is available in the Freshwater store. It is proving very popular as the Twins, Kathrine and Margaret, take their mission to produce gluten free but super tasty food very seriously! Wilkinson’s Classic Pies hand make pork pies, meat pies and scotch eggs and they are hard to beat! I will be working with them to increase the range and availability across the Southern Co-operative Isle of Wight stores in the months to come.
Roll on next year’s County Show!