Postcard from Macedonia
Posted by Louise Miles on
It is a long time since I have been to the Balkans – too long in fact! The last time was just up the road from here in Kosovo (then part of Serbia) and war was breaking out all over the former Yugoslavia just as I was leaving, which was a little awkward
This part of Europe has within it some hidden gems, one of which is Macedonia, which is where I am writing from now. I am here to spend some a few days with our Macedonian supplier – Pelagonia, whose products are gaining a increased following in the UK, only 3 months after we launched in January. In fact there are a few aspects of this embryonic business that are an example to us and that we can learn from.
The products themselves are absolutely delicious by the way – see http://bit.ly/IMjIoP for more information. It is a tight range in attractive jars and all 6 products are very typical Macedonian products, unlikely to be found anywhere else. Having said that I was slightly nervous when launching the brand in the UK, largely because of the almost unpronounceable names and that not many in the UK would be aware of Macedonian cuisine. However, Philip and his business partner, Andrej, did the kind of things that help launch a speciality food brand and have certainly helped us with the launch which is often the most difficult part.
Firstly, they clearly did some research on the market they wanted to target in the UK and realised that they needed a key route to market, which in this case happened to be Cotswold Fayre. They courted us for a number of months, so that by the time we were putting together our new 2012 range, Pelagonia were well and truly on our radar, and we weren’t going to leave them out! Secondly they exhibited at Speciality & Fine Food Fair in 2011, which gave them retailers to target after they launched as well as learning more about the market. Thirdly whilst this was going on Philip was actively targeting the social media channels and building both brand awareness amongst consumers and retailers as well as an anticipation for launch. (Actually this anticipation built even more than planned as we were two weeks late with the launch due to a very harsh winter in Macedonia.)
All the above made our job easier once we had the product in stock and the sales team were selling it. It is so much easier for them to sell products into retailers if there is a glimmer of brand awareness, which with this range, there is! Clearly there is a long way to go – we have just received in our second consignment of product. However, particularly the social media element will definitely continue to help the brand grow in the UK, and is something brand owners can do to help build their brand even when they are not in the same country. Just a shame more of them don’t do it!
Back home tomorrow on the strangely named Wizz Air, for a busy rest of the week. We are hosting a “Meet the Buyer” event on Wednesday at our premises with Taste South East and launch our Christmas range with our sales team on Thursday – one of my favourite days of the year. Talk to you again soon!