Two-pronged policy in VLAM annual programme
The Flemish Agricultural and Fisheries Marketing Board (VLAM) is again pursuing a two-pronged policy this year. Export promotion to third countries remains a hot item, but Flemings are being served up an extra dollop of culinary chauvinism. Flandria advertising is using the slogan: "Driven by our craft!'.
The Asian market is beckoning
The Flemish Agricultural and Fisheries Marketing Board (VLAM) is continuing its strong focus on export promotion in 2016. Since Russia closed its borders to Western agricultural and food products, the sector is more aware than ever of the importance of a good spread of markets. About a quarter of the budget is spent by VLAM on B2B actions abroad, the aim being to focus buyers' attention on Flemish agricultural and horticultural products. The Asian market is beckoning and efforts are therefore being concentrated on contact days and attendance at shows in that part of the world.
VLAM also has its sights firmly set on Canada. The Canadian food safety authorities gave the go-ahead last year for imports of Belgian pears. In terms of the promotion of fruit and vegetables, the US, Russia, Japan, India, Kazakhstan and the United Arab Emirates are also target markets outside of Europe.
The calendar for 2016 is packed with 22 international trade shows, as well as the organisation of market prospecting trips to India, Bulgaria, Serbia, Slovakia and Hungary. VLAM wants to match the export effect of the various sectors better, and where possible, adopt an approach that spans the sectors. Each sector has its own export strategy worked out, new markets are defined and operational programmes worked out. VLAM's own in-house export unit provides the necessary basic information required in order to achieve the ambitions effectively.
Core markets in Europe
VLAM is also continuing to work within Europe on developing existing markets and searching for new sales areas. The core markets for the promotion of fruit and vegetables remain France and Germany. In both these countries, the Flandria brand is drawn to purchasers' attention all year long. The promotional campaign for Conference pears in Germany has been extended by one year and all Germans will be able to sample our pears. Attendance at trade shows in Berlin (Fruit Logistica) and Madrid (Fruit Attraction) remain an important plank in promotion at European level. Bulgaria is the new market being explored within the EU in 2016.
Joint show stand at Fruit Logistica
To VLAM, the search for new markets is also a matter of good cooperation with the Flemish export platform Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT). A joint show stand is in the pipeline, to be run for the first time at Fruit Logistica in Berlin (3 to 5 February). VLAM is handling the promotional side for fresh products (vegetables, meat, etc.), while FIT is dealing with Flemish processed food products, in close collaboration with businesses and exporters.
75 per cent of the budget is used for promotion on the domestic market. Unlike abroad, where actions are focused on B2B, the domestic campaigns mostly target consumers. This year, VLAM is continuing to remind Flemings about their own delicious home-grown food heritage ('lekkers van bij ons'). Consumers can enjoy the promotion of good, honest, down-to-earth home-grown products via radio, TV and the daily and weekly press. The flagship at home is the cookery platform 'Lekker van bij ons', plus the adverts. Every year, VLAM's recently revamped cookery platform reaches a million cookery fans.
A whole battery of promotional actions will be rolled out per sector for 2016. Flandria has developed into a quality reference for fruit and vegetables. This quality is communicated through the message: 'Flandria is fresh, sustainable and tasty'. This is the result of the growers' hard work. So the message is also 'Heart and soul for our style!'. For the retail side, personal appointments are made and promotional campaigns matched to their communication channels.
Also in 2016, the fruit and vegetable sector will be making funding available via VLAM for the school fruit campaign sponsored by Europe. This allows schools to distribute fruit and vegetables every week to school students at an affordable price.
European subsidies are more and more important in the funding of promotional campaigns. From 2016, the cofinancing percentages go up to 70 and even 80 per cent for export promotion in third countries. In addition, the EU is releasing more money for the promotion of agricultural products. By 2020, there will be an annual budget of 200 million euro, easily three times what it was until recently.