Thursday, 7 March 2013

British Salad Awareness

One of the things I dearly love, nay, adore about the fresh produce game (fruit and veg to you and me) is the unpredictability of it all.  When a fresh produce veteran tells you no two days are the same believe them, also every day you learn something new.

So there I was yesterday minding my own fresh produce Social Media networks when lo, I stumble across National Salad Awareness Day, 6th March 2013.

A giant pepper (Pippa) and cucumber (Colin) helping to raise awareness of British salad crops with growers from Essex and Hertfordshire all heading to Westminster on Wednesday.

Lucky MPs at the House of Commons restaurant were served a Lea Valley salad of cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers as part of the celebrations.

I personally think that we should be celebrating each of the British fresh produce crops as they come into season.  We should be emphasising and buying quality British food, and our British fresh produce plays a key role in this.

I'd love to see us growing more British fresh produce, and as Lee Stiles, Lea Valley Growers secretary, points out the members produce up to 75% of the UK's cucumbers and 50% of the UK's sweet peppers, and they could grow more if planning allowed them to do so.

I say we should be backing our British fresh produce growers to grow more, as there is the potential to do so.

So what can you do as a shopper?  Quite simply buy your salads with the Union Jack logo, you should be able to find cucumbers from the Lea Valley in stores now, look out for Essex or Herts on the label.

Simply #BuyBritish @Leavalleygrower @Britishpeppers

Monday, 13 August 2012

Communications & Reputation, an Interview!

One of my favourite things, as most of you will know by now, well those of you in Fresh Produce and Social Media, is meeting new people, either virtually or in reality, I especially like recommendations or introductions.  That was how I met Sarah Whitelock of Green Apple Communications, via some very good Fresh Produce friends or Social Media "Buddies" of mine Hargreaves Plants Ltd.

Sarah has an enviable and highly respected reputation as an excellent communicator and as an outstanding Crisis Manager (a must read is Sarah's PR Panic blog).  This reputation comes off the back of some 20 years worth of knowledge and experience in PR and Communications; dealing with a number of high profile Crisis Management situations in the Food and Fresh Produce supply chain that Sarah project managed and delivered during her time at the NFU.

Fortunately, in my opinion, the world of Farming, Agriculture, Horticulture and Fresh Produce has gained an excellent and unique new business with Sarah starting Green Apple Communications earlier this year.

Sarah has been spending time interviewing a number of businesses in the Agriculture and Fresh Produce sector, including Hargreaves Plants Ltd via BerryBuddies and AsparaBuddies.  On the back of this interview about Social Media (which you can find here) the team at Hargreaves recommended that Sarah contact me in order to conduct an interview and to get my views and opinions.

The following is that interview, it was an honour to speak with Sarah and since this interview I have been fortunate enough to meet her in person.

I do hope you enjoy reading this, and if you are looking for a simply fabulous Communicator, Project Manager and all round lovely person then I suggest you take some time to introduce yourself to Sarah via the Green Apple Communications website, Facebook, Twitter or Linked In.

Yes, she is Social Media savvy, just like me!

How one business built an excellent reputation – fast

Posted on July 27, 2012 by Sarah Whitelock, Green Apple Communications

Carol Ford has two essential qualities for good communications and for running her own business, she is proactive and imaginative.  I had been aware of her business, Growing Direct, through social media but she also has an enviable reputation within the horticultural industry.
What do you do?
My mission is to offer sales and marketing expertise to businesses in the food supply chain.  That might be anything from strategic planning at board level through to suggesting ways to speak directly with consumers.   It’s a priority for me to help farmers and growers understand the needs and expectations of the person who be cooking and eating their food.  Some suppliers and food processors only like to deal with retailers but even they need to understand what the shopper will be looking for today and tomorrow, they can’t expect the retailer to hold their hand through the process.

How long have you been in business?
I set up two years ago, before that I worked for The Greenery selling fresh produce to retailers and prior to that I was a fish and frozen food buyer for Sainsbury’s.  Although I have expertise in fish and horticulture, fruit and veg are my first love.

Do you think PR is important to your own business?
It depends on how you define PR – if it’s about relationships then absolutely because that’s at the heart of the advice I offer to my clients and it’s how I connect with them.  When I first started I was struggling to reach my customers and experimented with paid- for advertising for a while.  Then I had some training on social media and never looked back.  I mainly use Facebook and Twitter for my marketing.  However, I accept that people, and businesses, like to work in different ways so I also do presentations and make sure that I get out and meet people.

What one thing would you pass on to others to help them with their PR?
You need to understand your strategy and your brand and ensure that everything you do follows those guidelines. When you are a small business, as I am, you have to base your brand on yourself.  You can’t pretend to be something that you are not.
Some companies think that they are ‘doing’ social media when they are pushing out company speak on the social networks but that will not wash.  It has to be about speaking and listening and it has to look real and have personality.

Is there anything that you wish you had realised earlier in the growth of your business?
Not really, starting my own business has been a tough journey because there was so much to learn but I would never step back from it now.

Is there anything you wish you had not done?
I believed when I started that my skills would transfer across all types of suppliers but actually I have found that my first love is horticultural supply and its journey from the fields to the shopping basket.  Realising that was not an easy process but I am comfortable with where I am now.

What about future PR?
I don’t plan any radical changes but I will keep up to date with other social media platforms.

It was great to interview Carol, partly because I knew the interview would make interesting reading – but also because she has so many ideas on how a business can develop its marketing and PR.  To find out more about Carol go to her website, follow her business on Facebook and on Twitter @GrowingDirect.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Cabbages this Valentines?

Found another great Cabbage & Valentines Day inspired story, this time from the Fresh Produce Journal - Freshino News.

Valentines Day has arrived and, for those still scratching their heads, one farmer has come up with the ultimate unusual gift – bouquet cabbages.

via FPJ and TH Clements
Grown in Boston, Lincolnshire by cabbage specialist TH Clements the new varieties offer something romantic and edible – an imaginative step away from traditional flowers and chocolates.

Chris Gedney, managing director of TH Clements, said: "We are always looking to develop new and exciting varieties of products for our customers.
"After a few trials it became clear that the flowering cabbages were going to be a big hit, especially with the most romantic day of the year approaching.

"When we introduced them into the pack house many of the staff joked that we were turning into a florist as opposed to a vegetable packers.

"We have even supplied them for a wedding, where the bride was looking for an innovative ╩╗something new╩╝.

The products have since been nicknamed Cupids Cabbage by the staff at TH Clements.

Flowering cabbages are on sale nationwide for a limited time in selected retailers at 89p per cabbage.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Huge!!! Satsumo from M&S via FPJ

Taking a break and reading through my daily digest of the Fresh Produce Journal in digital form FreshInfoNews I came across this huge news story.

Take a look at this fresh produce beauty by Marks & Spencer has crossed the rope with its new citrus offer – the Satsumo.

Pic courtesy of David G Steadman
The new satsuma variety, supplied by Cambridgeshire-based business MMUK, weighs in at 350g and has an average circumference of 30cm. Satsumas are normally around 6-7cm in circumference and weighs less that 60g.

The Satsumo is to hit stores on Saturday priced at £1.99 per kilo.

The fruit is of Japanese origin and has been produced by crossing a Japanese Kiyomi – which is a satsuma crossed with an orange and a Ponkan, which is a large Chinese mandarin.
It has a distinctive nip in the top of the fruit to make it easy to peel and eat and has a sweeter flavour than a satsuma and a clementine.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Soft Fruit takes on Twitter (via the FPJ)

The soft-fruit category is one of the most dynamic when it comes to marketing. Anna Sbuttoni talks to Hargreaves Plants managing director Rupert Hargreaves about his move into Twitter and social media.

Why did you set up social media presence Berry Buddies?

We set up our Twitter account,@BerryBuddies, in January after we reviewed our marketing strategy and took the view that the future is all about internet marketing and social media. We engaged with a number of people and organisations to help us determine a strategy that resulted in a complete rebuild of our website and the introduction of YouTube, LinkedIn and then the social media platforms, namely Facebook and Twitter. The YouTube and LinkedIn channels have been branded under the Hargreaves Plants banner, which is of course a business-to-business company.

The “buddies” brands – @BerryBuddies and @AsparaBuddies – were developed as business-to-consumer brands and are useful tools to raise awareness of the varieties and brands that we represent globally.

What have you gained from your presence on Twitter?

We have gained a great deal from Twitter but it is a big investment in time and you need a clearly defined strategy to benefit. We would have to give credit to Carol Ford (Growing Direct Ltd), who tweets as @GrowingDirect, who helped us develop the whole brand.

Twitter is the platform to engage with the general public but also forward-thinking companies, retailers, chefs, garden writers and key business influencers.
How can the produce industry communicate better with consumers through this type of social media?

The industry can communicate much better than it currently is. We have products that are of great interest to the general public so let’s talk about it, raise awareness and engage. If you look at the statistics of people engaging not just on Twitter, but on, and through LinkedIn, they are huge. Each one of these social media outlets serves a different purpose and engages with a different sector.

Make sure you engage with social media to keep up to speed with all things new. Paper and postage is a thing of the past, too slow for the modern world.

What projects are you working on?

We are continuing to invest and build our web and social media presence. The aim is be on the first page of the Google rankings for all of our products. To help us achieve this, we have just launched 38 websites, one for each of our keys brands and varieties. These are all being interlinked to and LinkedIn. YouTube clips are being added to these as well as technical data, photographs and international contacts and partners. These are important to support the breeders that our intellectual property department represents around the world.

Which new varieties are ones to watch out for?

There are many new and exciting varieties that we are bringing to market at present, all in various stages of development. The ones of major excitement are Elegance, Portola, Finesse and Buddy strawberries; Tadmor, Chemianus, Erika raspberries; Ouchita and Reuben Natchez blackberries; Liberty and Draper blueberries, as well as Mondeo, Guelph Millennium and Early California asparagus. If you search the internet for them, you may even find they all have their own websites.

How is the soft-fruit market shaping up this year?

The soft-fruit season this year has been challenging from a weather perspective, with some areas having a more difficult season so far than others. Generally speaking though, the market is a little more confident than other years. Certainly, the development of new varieties is helping the marketplace from grower to consumer.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Dried Plums

From the 1970 Home Preserving & Bottling by Gladys Mann

The purple plums are best for drying; they should be firm, but ripe and quite fresh.  They are best dried whole, but if large can be cut in halves and the stones taken out.


Cut plums should be dried with the cut sides uppermost to prevent the juice running out.  Spread the plums on trays in a single layer, and dry slowly in a temperature between (this makes me smile) 100-150 degrees F or 40-45 degrees C.  If dried in an airing cupboard or oven, leave the door open slightly!!!

If put into too high temperature the skins harden before the pulp has had time to dry out and there is risk of the skins cracking.  Dry until no moisture comes out when they are squeezed; this may take a day or two!!

Cool the fruit thoroughly, at room temperature, for several hours before storing.  Pack in wooden or cardboard boxes lined with greaseproof paper, pressing the fruit down well, and store in a very dry place.

Good luck!


Norwich Apple Chutney

From the 1970 Home Preserving & Bottling by Gladys Mann

Yield will be approx 4lb (and yes the recipe is in imperial)

You will need:
  • 2 & 1/2 lbs of apples, peeled & cored
  • 8oz of onions, peeled (don't forget the tissues :o)
  • 3/4 pint spiced vinegar
  • 8oz brown sugar
  • 4oz sultanas
  • 1/2oz salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon of dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds (optional)
  • 2 pieces of root ginger

Mince or finely chop the apples and onions.  Simmer with half quantity of vinegar until tender.  Add sugar, sultanas, salt, mustard, coriander seeds, ginger and remainder of vinegar.  Simmer until thick, about 20 minutes.  Remove ginger and turn into heated jars while hot; firmly place on glass lids.

If ordinary jars are used, a cover should be used to stop the vinegar evaporating, for example, good corks or a layer of thick, vinegar-proof waxed paper, then a plastic or cork-lined metal lid & screwbands.