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Festivals Matter

Martin Hesp talks to local producers about the importance of food fairs and festivals

Devon Rum at Dartmouth Food Festival

Food festivals are wonderful vehicles for the new and unexpected. You might baulk at the idea of going to a restaurant and ordering an entire meal from a cuisine you’ve never previously tried – but a morsel-sized snack at a food stall is something different. I recall trying out Korean street food at the Exeter Festival of Food and Drink – and liked it so much I taught myself how to make kimchi and other Korean staples. And that is the point of a good food festival. As well as being fun, it should also be inspirational.

I asked Food Drink Devon members what makes food fairs and festivals in Devon so great. Sally Jenkin, from Tavistock-based Flapjackery, who sells award-winning flapjacks at various events, explains: “Everyone is so happy to have a lovely day out, and there’s always a great atmosphere. We like interacting with other traders, meeting our customers and getting their feedback on our products.

“It’s great for foodies, as shoppers can try a lot of new products before they hit the mainstream market. We test new products and flavours to see if consumers like them. It’s a much more personal way of shopping – and we love meeting people who are passionate about food. The awareness of where food comes from seems much more important since lockdown and people are more interested in sustainability too.”

Emma Hookway – from The Kitchen@25, a Crediton-based delicatessen and food producer – adds: “We love meeting new people from areas we don’t usually sell to and enjoy networking at festivals and food fairs. We sell a range of products in our deli from suppliers we met on our travels – it is super important to us! We enjoy doing lots of tasters at food fairs and getting people’s feedback is key.

“It’s a great way for consumers to try food from loads of different local suppliers. You also get to meet the producers and talk to each one about how they got to where they are now and the whole ethos behind their products,” Emma adds.

Rachel Bell, from Bell & Loxton, producers of award-winning cold-pressed rapeseed oil, elaborates: “We enjoy selling direct to our customers as it gives us a chance to hear what they like about our oils and how they use them. It’s nice to meet up with our fellow producers and discuss how things are with everyone.”

Rachel adds: “Food events are great for consumers to meet and support the producers of local products. Buying local helps the local economy and keeps food miles down.”

Ria Ball, of Bar Buoy Cocktails, tells us: “We held our first in-person tasting event in December and the response was insane. It gave us the confidence to do more, and so for 2022, we will attend several different food festivals and events. Not only does this get us out there and give us a new revenue stream, but it also means we meet customers face-to-face and learn from their feedback. It’s also a fantastic way to meet fellow food and drink businesses and develop relationships.

“Being able to watch someone’s face when they taste our award-winning cocktails for the first time is wonderful,” says Ria. “Markets and festivals are also a fantastic opportunity for us to tell our brand’s story, which helps humanise our products. For consumers, it’s a perfect way to discover food and drink brands and also get a feel for trends and new tastes.”

David Seear, of the Devon Rum Company, agreed: “We are huge fans of food fairs, markets and festivals. It’s a great opportunity for us to showcase our products to an enthusiastic audience. We set up with the emphasis on ‘tastings’ and talk to people about our rums and the importance of craft and artisan producers. We benefit from some great feedback and it’s also an opportunity for everyone to try some amazing rums for free!

“For us as a team, events are great fun and the best bit of the business really. This year, we have already booked to appear at 20 events in the South West, so you’ll definitely see us out and about!”

As part of its ongoing media partnership with Taste Buds, this is a series of articles written by Food Drink Devon.

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