These are challenging times. Our future trading prospects as a nation seem to be in abeyance, our employees of European origin face an uncertain future and, at the time of writing, our currency is worth 15% – 20% less against others, resulting in the threat of inflation as imported goods and services rise in cost.
With festivals competing in an increasingly crowded market, there has been a spate of acquisitions of well-known, mid-sized events by companies looking for economies of scale. This consolidation can, however, provide opportunities both for those who have decided to join forces, as well as open the way for the next wave of small, creatively curated events looking to connect with the audience that’s always looking for something new.
So, a bad time to be in the business we love, or an opportunity? Certainly, there’s no shortage of students emerging with degrees in events management, bursting with enthusiasm and ideas. The number of new small festivals that emerges on eFestivals and other listings websites seems to indicate that organisers’ creative juices are flowing like a river in spate. Can the market continue its growth pattern of recent years? One difference appears to be the way in which it’s no longer the line-up alone that is the driving force behind ticket sales – it’s the emphasis being placed on the curation of an event that encompasses much, much more.
At Event Wine Solutions, we have been focusing on how our wines can integrate with the whole ethos of the event, rather than merely being part of a drinks range on offer. So, we are having (thoroughly enjoyable and somewhat mouth-watering!) conversations about the entire food and beverage offering and how it fits into the style and theme of the gig. We’re convinced that it’s the consumer who’s driving the agenda here and that’s very exciting. We are predicting that in such a crowded marketplace it will be those that both embrace this opportunity and go beyond what’s expected, that win through.
We’ve therefore been selecting and blending more wines, from more countries, under new brands. Our new wines include grape varieties such as Viognier, Riesling, Carmenere and Pinot Noir, which are perfectly matched to some of the more adventurous food flavours on offer. These will come to market in 2017, based on our increasingly close discussions with food traders and bar operators, as we seek to bring a food and wine matching experience to festivals to rival the gastropub.
The opportunity came across loud and clear at a food and beverage panel discussion at NOEA’s 2016 Convention in Bath. Bob Fox of NCASS, Adam Hempenstall of Peppermint Events and John Eveleigh of Pura Vida and a consultant provider of food traders to festivals, delved deep into the subject. There was much talk of how event organisers are increasingly featuring their chosen F&B products as part of their sales pitch to the ticket-buying public, with the objective of ensuring that consumers get the message about how special the event will be in terms of the dining experience.
The street food revolution has driven much of this, of course. NCASS has a booming membership and its organisation provides support and advice to existing and budding caterers looking to make their mark.
Then there’s the strategic and integrated approach of bar operators such as Peppermint Events. Adam stated how critical it was that the consumer be put first and that, for example, food, drink, seating areas and toilets are not placed at opposite ends of the event site, but brought together in a way that makes the F&B proposition convenient and special.
John’s approach to the market is one where he offers a full consultancy service to festivals looking for a single point of contact and a basket of trusted and creative food traders. He sees the demand from consumers for excellence in F&B as an opportunity for the smaller festivals to set themselves apart from the larger events.
We, at Event Wine Solutions, believe that the outdoor events market is healthy, even if there is consolidation. The challenge of this fiercely competitive environment can only drive standards of delivery higher. As enthusiastic event consumers ourselves, we are looking forward to testing our theory that we’ll get the best F&B offer ever in 2017!