Getting Students Through The Farm Gate

A taste of something special awaits shoppers at the UBC Farm’s weekly farmer’s market. In addition to a diversity of local foods at your fingertips, you can also uncover your local food economy firsthand; on any given visit, customers can tour the campus’ working farm, meet farmers-in-training, learn about indigenous food sovereignty, and explore on-site innovative agricultural research.

“The UBC Farm Farmers’ Markets are part of the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, a unique research, teaching and community engagement centre,” explains sales manager Matthew Delumpa. “We view the market as a venue to inspire, educate and nourish consumers while supporting the health and competitiveness of BC’s sustainable ag sectors.”

Offering local, farm-fresh seasonal produce and eggs from the UBC Farm and other local farms, as well as local meat, baked goods and prepared foods from Lower Mainland producers and processors, there are nearly 60 different local vendors participating in the market each year. And for those seeking a festival experience, the Saturday market also offers food trucks, alcohol and crafts, while local musicians entertain the crowd.

But despite a bounty of appealing options, one element was curiously absent considering the market’s location within a school – students!

According to Matthew, while the market commands a loyal following from the surrounding community, on-campus awareness among the student population has been surprisingly but consistently low (at least outside of the Faculty of Land and Food Systems).

“This was the main gap that we identified, where we have students just down the road that have no idea they have a farm in their backyard,” he says. “We also wanted to promote the new discount available through the Alma Mater student society’s coupon program to help students access fresh, local food.”

But with help from the Buy BC program the UBC Farm was ready to give it the old college try. With project funding to support a dedicated project coordinator and marketing specialist, they launched a targeted campaign to increase student recognition and drive on-campus visitors and sales.

“Our two posters reached students in 443 campus locations, promoted Facebook posts reached 1,440 people over 19 days, six digital signs appeared on more than 50 campus screens and our 5,000-subscriber newsletter has seen an increased unique click-rate since publishing the redesigned template,” reports Matthew.

So far this has translated into a 20 percent increase in market customers (including a 50 percent increase in customers identifying as Millennials/UBC students).

“Our recent promotional efforts have increased on-campus exposure and as a result our sales figures have risen and the UBC Farm produce subsidy is used widely, 1,845 times to be exact,” shares Matthew, adding that their farmers’ market team has received numerous student testimonials noting that they heard about the UBC Farm produce subsidy through Buy BC communication material.

And with the significant turnover every new semester brings, the UBC Farm team is especially grateful to have all the marketing tools in place to attract new arrivals each time.

For those graduating or leaving campus, Matthew is hopeful the buy local message continues to hit home.

“Beyond the immediate impacts to the market, we believe that the increased promotional effort supported by Buy BC will lead to positive changes in purchasing behavior and attitudes towards the local food economy,” he says.

Funding: $9,035 through the BC Government’s Buy BC Partnership Program. (BBC021)

Buy BC Helps Local Company Harness Flour Power

Anita’s Organic Mill is out to inspire and connect British Columbians through the love of baking. And thanks to their recent Buy BC project, the Chilliwack company has not only successfully launched their newest service, Anita’s Bake Club, but has also introduced their new line of gluten-free products into the local market.

An artisan-quality and certified organic and kosher mill, Anita’s produces white, whole grain and sprouted flours, cereals and mixes sourced directly from local farmers in Armstrong and Creston.

With the addition of their new bake club (an online membership-based model designed to educate and connect baking enthusiasts) as well as new marketing materials including recipes, baking guides and videos, Anita’s has seen a sizeable uptake in consumer engagement, awareness and sales.

According to vice-president Jayda Smith, brand recognition has grown steadily month over month, with their social media presence and number of followers similarly expanding.

“Anita’s Bake Club was particularly successful with more than 1,500 new members registered through our website,” she reports. “These signups allow us to engage directly with customers creating meaningful connections, brand loyalty and enhanced revenue.”

By the end of the project Anita’s sales were up 36 percent and their new line of gluten-free products launched in 100 local stores.

The company is now focused on expanding their reach within natural channels across Canada and will be opening a bakery in their new Chilliwack facility this fall.

For Jayda, having support to more actively engage local consumers and promote their products as ‘made in BC’ has offered a measurable competitive advantage against imports.

“These results could not have been achieved without the funding of this project,” she declares. “We now have the tools in place to continue increasing BC consumer preference for our brand, further supporting our local farmers and strengthening the BC food processing industry.”

Funding: $38,663 through the BC Government’s Buy BC Partnership Program. (BBC036)

Cook Poultry Like A Pro Campaign Heats Up

When appealing to millennial shoppers, you better have an irresistible message ready to share across multiple online channels. Though an increasing number of British Columbian consumers of all ages have rallied behind the “Buy BC” hashtag, millennials present a unique, almost paradoxical challenge when it comes to food, as Fraser Valley Specialty Poultry (FVSP) discovered firsthand.

When the fifth-generation family farm delved into millennial trends, they found that while consumers under 35 spend significantly less time cooking than other generations, they are surprisingly some of the healthiest eaters as well as the inventors of food trends like the “farm-to-table” movement.

“These are potential customers who like the convenience of eating out but value the healthy aspect of home cooking and are deeply curious about every aspect of their meals,” summarizes FVSP president Ken Falk, adding that many younger shoppers have also expressed insecurity about preparing fresh poultry products themselves.

The fact that millennials also represent the heaviest users of modern technology and mostly glean product information online presented another obstacle for FVSP, given their more traditional marketing approach.

But fortunately for the Falks, funding support was available through the Buy BC Partnership Program to help enhance their local marketing efforts. Project funding allowed them to pursue the elusive millennial demographic by launching the “Cook Poultry Like A Pro!” initiative, an online campaign promoting BC poultry while offering consumers a unique educational opportunity.

With the help of a professional marketing firm and five local chefs, FVSP produced a video series featuring simple chicken, duck, goose and squab recipes on their new Buy BC landing page and social media platforms, as well as online contests where participants voted for their favorite recipes and posted their own creations. Eight highly influential food bloggers were also enlisted to create and share additional online content with tens of thousands of followers, 90 percent of whom are millennials.  

Project funding also enabled FVSP to broadcast their message on CTV (reaching more than 800,000 viewers daily), as well as conduct in-store demonstrations, distribute recipe cards, and develop Buy BC-branded marketing and promotional materials. By the end of their six-month project they had significantly increased sales revenue and formed agreements with 12 new restaurants and 20 new retailers.

“Having support to extend our online reach and elevate our brand was the key to connecting with this particular demographic and expanding our business,” explains Falk. “This is the generation whose current concerns and desires will guide the future of the food industry.”

Funding: $44,757 through the BC Government’s Buy BC Partnership Program. (BBC032)