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Spreading the word

A Northampton preserve-maker has avoided getting in a marketing pickle thanks to some helpful advice from a project supporting the county’s food and drink producers, writes Anna Murby.

Alison Cox runs Green Kitchen Preserves, creating homemade jams, chutneys, pickles, marmalades and mustards originally inspired by the produce from her husband Roland’s allotment, and while she’s fully confident in the kitchen, it was a desire to improve her promotional skills which led to her attending the aptly-named ‘Shout All About It’ conference organised by FEAST2 (Food Enterprise Advisory Support Team).

FEAST2 offers free access to not only to such networking events but also grant funding, technical support and mentoring to eligible food and drink manufacturers and while many of the businesses which have taken advantage of the scheme have done so to save thousands of pounds when purchasing production equipment, Alison says that the knowledge she picked up at the one-day event will be just as valuable: “Where possible, we put locally-sourced ingredients and of course passion into every jar we make, but clearly there’s no point in my having fabulous products if no-one knows about them!” said Alison.

“So while I’ve been doing my own promotion since we launched the company two years ago, learning ways to improve in everything from social media to PR and marketing from the experts was incredibly helpful“ she added.

The even saw bloggers, journalists, marketing consultants and a former BBC producer share their many years’ experience in a series of bite-size workshops across the day, which meant attendees could benefit by selecting the sessions most suited to their needs.

For Alison, understanding her current client base while finding creative ways to reach out to a new audience are skills she’s now honing, thanks to the top tips she took away.

“I think one of the key themes I learned was about taking time for reflection within the business and to really question ways in which I do certain things, because it can be too easy to get bogged down in making stock when I should be taking stock!” she explained.

“The other thing I gleaned was about not being afraid to put my personality into my promotional material.

“After all, I’m incredibly proud of the company I’ve created and, from now on, I shall be ensuring that that’s conveyed not only to my current customers but also to those new ones that I hope I’ll soon be attracting, thanks to this inspirational day!” she enthused.

So with other similar events on the horizon and the likelihood of her accessing the kind of technical advice from which she benefited last year as part of the original FEAST project, Alison believes it’s something to which all producers should sign up: “I think some people think the scheme is only about dishing out money and, while for some, that might be absolutely crucial for their growth plans, there are various types of support on offer” revealed Alison.

“So whether you want advice on your labels, technical support on improving shelf life or even mentoring from those who’ve run successful companies themselves, I heartily suggest you get in touch with the FEAST2 team and find out how they can best help you” she urged.

FEAST2, which was awarded to the Food & Drink Forum, is worth £3,934,176 in total and will receive a further £1,967,089 in funding from the European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. 

For more details of FEAST2, including registering your business for the free support on offer, please contact Amanda Askew at The Mallows Company on 01933 664437 or email amanda@themallowscompany.com
Meanwhile for more information about Green Kitchen Preserves, including its Strawberry Jam, which is one of four finalists in the ‘Artisan Local Sweet Product of the Year’ category in this year’s Carlsberg UK Northamptonshire Food and Drink Awards, please visit www.greenkitchenpreserves.co.uk or email Alison at greenkitchenpreserves@hotmail.com

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