Salad sector told to capitalise on royal wedding

Salad growers need to make the most out of next year's royal wedding when thousands of people will be buying food for the parties they will be holding in honour of the occasion, public relations expert Wendy Akers has advised.

Speaking at the biennial BLSA conference last month, Akers told delegates: "We are a nation obsessed by food.

"The royal wedding is expected to give a £620m boost to the economy - and £360m of that is going into the food and grocery sector. Let's hope we get a share of that and start planning now."

She gave her advice after she and two marketing experts at the conference - Anthony Gardiner of G's Marketing and Alan Richardson of Bakkavor - admitted that the BLSA's efforts to promote itself have so far been half-hearted compared to other, similar sectors such as watercress.

Akers' firm Mustard Communications has carried out the association's campaign for the past two years. Gardiner said: "It's quite clearly under-funded as a campaign compared to some of the other sectors. Not all BLSA members are involved. That means that those who are spend a lot of their time chasing pledge money."

He added: "We always seem to struggle to decide what we are going to do for the coming year - we have unrealistic expectations and are struggling to tell Wendy what we want. So we need to look two or three years ahead and make a commitment across the association. We cannot do things on a yearly basis."

Akers added: "The start of the UK salad season is a very good story and a nice story for the press because everyone is writing about provenance. The fact that this year's campaign was not signed off until the beginning of March did have an impact on that.

"It's good news to hear that plans are underway to bring that forward because you have to understand that it takes us time to do the recipe development, photographs and press material."

Richardson pointed out that 92 per cent of the UK's shoppers buy salads but that there was still potential to sell more.

"The eight per cent of the population who do not buy it never will. They grow their own or are salad dodgers. But a quarter of people who buy lettuce only buy it three or four times a year so there's still room for growth. If everyone bought just one more lettuce, we would have an extra £40m in sales."

He added that the BLSA's public relations budget was tiny compared to other sectors. "For every million pounds that goes through the supermarket tills, the industry spends £43 on PR. Compare that to the £160 that the carrot industry spends and the £300 the mushroom sector puts forward and you can see that we are massively behind the game."

Richardson pointed out that the watercress industry spends £2,250 for every million pounds. Next year's PR proposal will focus on the British season from April until September, he revealed.

BLSA vice-chairman David Piccaver said: "When it comes to PR, growers seem to be remarkably tight-fisted. I hope you will give it serious consideration. It's very important that we have a more meaningful PR campaign. Wendy has done a good job so far on really very little."

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