15/10/2009 - 00:00

Full-on fun at food festivals

15/10/2009 - 00:00


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If you’re looking for a food festival, then Western Australia has something to suit almost every taste.

Full-on fun at food festivals

FOOD festivals in Western Australia are diversifying and expanding the variety and complexity of their product offering.

Festivals are big business, valued as highly effective marketing tools for branding products, companies and even regions.

What were in many cases small gatherings of local producers promoting their wares have become much-anticipated annual events, drawing many thousands of enthusiastic visitors.

And there are plenty to choose from including truffle celebrations, cherry fairs and crab and crayfish carnivals.

CMS Events director Richard Campbell believes participating in festivals is well worth the time, effort and cost to businesses to do so.

Mr Campbell has spent more than 20 years creating food festivals in WA including developing the WA Wine and Food Show into one of the state's premier culinary events, now known as the Good Food & Wine Show (GFWS).

“One of the things we say about the power of exhibitions is see it, feel it, touch it, taste it, like it, buy it - you can actually use every mechanism of the human body to sell," Mr Campbell told Business Class.

In 2007, Mr Campbell sold the WA Wine and Food Show to the eastern states-based Diversified Exhibitions Australia, which rebranded the event in 2008.

GFWS exhibition director James Lang says 60 per cent of revenue is derived from exhibitor charges, 10 per cent from sponsorship and the remainder from entry tickets, numbering almost 22,000 over three days.

More than 250 exhibitors paid upwards of $2,000 for a stand, at an average cost of $370 per square metre, to cover the show's $120,000 venue hire bill, the $100,000 purpose-built celebrity theatre and the $100,000 in appearance fees for the celebrity chefs.

“A lot of the major corporates will launch a new product and exposure to their brand with no retail, but you will get people that sell, particularly the wineries, and we get guys that do $10,000 a day in terms of sales," Mr Lang says.

Tassell Park Wines owner Ian Tassell sold more than 50 cases at this year's GFWS. He invested about $5,000, including $2,000 in stall fees on top of accommodation and travel costs from Margaret River in what the former Marketforce managing director describes as an integral part of his below-the-line marketing efforts.

“From a branding point of view it's absolutely critical, without big (marketing) budgets you need to do it the smart way," Mr Tassell says.

Xabregas Wines sales and marketing manager Jan Burke wasn't selling this year at GFWS, but instead directed customers to Xabregas' retail stockists. She's uncertain about spending another $5,000 to attend next year despite participating for the past six years and suggesting the volume of people attending is very valuable.

Mundaring Shire director community services, Megan Griffiths, was surprised by the phenomenal growth of the Mundaring Truffle Festival during the past three years, with attendance reaching 24,000 in August this year.

“We conducted our own survey and found that, on average, people spent $135, mainly on food and drinks, equating to $3.2 million over the weekend," she says.

A total of 51 stallholders were charged between $500 and $650 (depending on site power) for a 9sqm site.

“Festivals bring people to a region, and hopefully bring them back time and again," Ms Griffiths says.

“From a marketing perspective it's fantastic, and it generated media interest locally and internationally in France, Singapore and England."

Farm Fresh Lamb Company and Southern Yabbies co-owner, Saskia Verity, sold more than $7,500 of lamb and yabbies in Mundaring.

So impressed with the event was Ms Verity she says she'll definitely be back next year. "I wish there was a Mundaring Truffle Festival every week," she says.

Chittering Valley Wine Trail chairman Bruce Cussen said the inaugural Flavours of Chittering event in mid-September created a relationship with visitors and extended the region's brand so tourists would continue to seek out that same experience throughout the year.

Mr Campbell, who is currently organising the third annual Geographe Crush Food & Wine Festival to be held in Bunbury in November, aims to quadruple stallholders' investment in the immediate three to six months post-festival, suggesting returns from participating in festivals could continue for up to two years.


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