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Regional and local foods and direct marketing (CTE0213) - RE0113

The proposed project will assess the broad scope and scale of activity in the regional and local food sectors, and identify opportunities for further development through both conventional supply chains and direct marketing. It will determine the barriers to development and expansion of businesses in the sector, best practices and approaches to marketing, assess the effectiveness of government support schemes and highlight key areas for government support. The research will lead to a set of criteria against which to appraise and prioritise RES and PMG applications in these sectors, and guidelines for businesses or organisations to enhance the quality of applications.
This is a partnership project, in which some areas of responsibility and tasks can be delimited clearly to a specific partner, and in which others will be shared by both. The project will be co-ordinated and led by Harper Adams University College (HAUC). Interview survey activity (other than the consumer survey) will be apportioned on a geographic basis, and also by function, with SAC leading face-to face interviews, both teams collaborating on survey design, and HAUC conducting the survey analysis. The writing of each report will be led by one or other team, but with contributions as appropriate from the other. Hence although there are two partners, they will function as a single team. Separability of role responsibility by objective is not necessarily clear-cut, given the linked nature of the objectives and multiple tasks contained within each.

Objective 1
To assess the broad scope and scale of activity in the regional and local food sectors, and identify opportunities for further development.

This objective will produce an overview of the current market environment for regional and local foods and the significance of direct marketing as a distribution channel for such products. It will examine existing areas of activity – from large regional initiatives down to smaller community-based initiatives, the product types and ranges and supply chains associated with each. The overview will be placed in a wider UK context of such food marketing activity and general trends will be identified in terms of historical development of regional and local food initiatives, the structures and dynamics of the supply chains involved, funding sources available, dispersion of products, etc. This part of the study will be based on a literature survey, further desk- research, telephone or face-to face structured interviews with key leading institutions and agencies and sector support bodies.

A crucial element of evaluating future opportunities will depend on consumer perceptions of the nature of regional and local foods and their attitudes towards purchasing them. A second element of the project will comprise of face to face surveys of consumers in selected regions where there are strong, emerging and weak regional food identities. Problems and opportunities can then be identified.

A report will thus be provided presenting the contextual overview of the regional and local food sector, the character, strengths and weaknesses of existing sector support initiatives, emerging opportunities and defining some of the subsequent in-depth foci for study in the remainder of the project. In particular it will have identified specific case-study regions and locales to be used for primary data collection and in informing the process of fine-tuning policy objectives and appropriate instruments under the various DEFRA schemes.

Deliverable : Report 1 Regional and Local Foods: The market and opportunities
Time Period (December 2002-October 2003)

Objective 2

Identify intrinsic an extrinsic barriers to the development and expansion of local food businesses

Based on the general sector overview and consumer sector attitudinal evaluations produced under Objective I, more detailed research will be conducted in the case study areas in order to identify existing barriers to the development and expansion of regional and local food businesses. This will involve fieldwork around selected businesses involved in the different stages of the local food supply chain. Extrinsic factors in the market environment such as the nature, form and length of the chain, the key players, main areas of power and decision-making, access arrangements, market activity, will be examined, together with factors such as planning and site constraints, accessibility to capital funding etc.

Throughout this fieldwork, the intrinsic factors inhibiting the present and future development and expansion of the stakeholders’ businesses will be explored in relation to their business structures, organisation, management understanding of the available funding and institutional support and assistance schemes, labour availability and skill levels of staff, and ability to access to training and business support.

Reports for each of the case study areas will be produced. These will also allow the inter and intra-regional differences in the local food economies to be clearly differentiated and provide a basis for a synthesis of the primary research in identifying the key opportunities and barriers inherent in the local food economy.

Deliverable:: Report 2 ‘Business Development in the Local Food Economy’
Time period: (June 2003 – February 2004)

Objective 3

Identify best practice and good approaches to marketing

Using the primary data collected in the case study areas, interviews with regional development and regional food support agencies, and DEFRA personnel involved in current REP and PMG project appraisal, principles of best practice will be identified for local food-related funding bids where either direct marketing or short-chain supply is involved. These will be compiled into a set of evaluation criteria applicable to future regional and local food –based proposals. The elements will be drawn from the business case studies, thus arriving at a comprehensive outline and checklist of best practice. The guidelines will differentiate on the basis of product type, chain type and market type, thus enabling improved connectivity between local area, initiative content, and funding sources. Such collaborative work will ensure a practical policy advice document, to be implemented across a range of business types and local food chain arrangements.

Deliverable:: Report 2 ‘Business Development in the Local Food Economy’
Time period: (June 2003 – February 2004)

Objective 4

To assess the effectiveness of the RES and PMG in supporting the development of the regional and local food sector and highlight areas for improvement.

From the interviews undertaken in Objective 3 both with DEFRA personnel involved in current RES and PMG scheme appraisal, the sectoral support agencies and local food businesses in Objective 2, various elements of effectiveness of the present programme and its operational rules will be assessed. Areas of evaluation will include the matching of project proposals to the schemes’ objectives, the depth of information incorporated in the proposal, and the level of assistance and guidance provided by DEFRA in the proposal stages and the grant funding levels and phasing relative to business needs.

Examination of the most successful proposals relative to the local market conditions will indicate the spread of funding across types of initiative.

The types of support mechanisms will also be assessed, in terms of business development, funding, market information, etc. The coverage of business operations eligible for funding will be examined, as will linkages with other schemes to identify areas of synergy or overlap.

Effectiveness will be determined by, amongst other things: the number, type and size of businesses awarded grants for regional and local food initiatives; the use of funding in the business; its contribution to individual business viability; the types of businesses refused funding and reasons for non-funding; and the wider contribution of the programme to the growth and sustainability of activity within the regional and local food sector.

Deliverable : Report 4 - The effectiveness of the RES and PMG in supporting the Regional and Local Food Economy
Time Period (June 2004 to July 2004)

Objective 5

To identify key areas for government support

Recommendations for future government support will be synthesised from the primary research conducted with the institutional sector, the food businesses, the distribution, retailing and catering sectors, and the promotional and development agencies concerned with food production, marketing and distribution.

Key areas for support will be wide-ranging, and may include finance, knowledge transfer (technical through to marketing information), development of infrastructure, and access routes to market. However, given that some direct marketing may also meet a “social need” of increasing access in deprived communities to fresh produce, synergy with government objectives beyond those relating to rural development will need to be considered in the context of support given outside the RES/PMG schemes. A system of business support is important in sustaining most initiatives, and policy proposals will need to reflect such considerations.

Deliverable Report 5: Key Areas for Government Support
Time Period ( August 2004 to September 2004)

Objective 6

To recommend approaches for effective dissemination of the research results to stakeholders.

The communication of the findings to all interested parties is essential to ensure progression of these initiatives in the longer term. Recommendations regarding dissemination of results will be adapted according to the type of end-user.

Reports will be made available to DEFRA personnel, either full versions or as a summary documents. Summary reports can be disseminated to other institutions that make an active contribution to RES/PMG operation.

Businesses involved in regional and local food initiatives will be provided with information aimed at encouraging new or further participation in the schemes, improving business development, and to ensuring that their proposals are consistent with government and REP, PMG objectives. Further communication links can be established via an improved application system, whereby some form of electronic support tool is available to assist businesses. This may be in the form of a CD or via a dedicated website, allowing access across a wide range of businesses, at relatively low level cost and maintenance.

Promotional material, developed from the results of the primary research, can be used to expand awareness of the schemes and their potential benefits. This may encourage businesses not currently in the regional and local food economy to consider new business ventures, seeing the DEFRA support system and the electronic communications as an important part of their evaluation process.

Further methods of dissemination to be agreed with the clients might include a number of workshops, seminars, or information evenings to promote the schemes, and advise on the application process. These in turn may be informed by the findings of Project CTE0214 to “Provide advice on methods to improve the promotion and facilitation of the Rural Enterprise Scheme”.

Deliverable : Report 6 : Recommendation of Research Dissemination
Time Period : (October 2004 to November 2004))
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2002

To: 2004

Cost: £136,796
Contractor / Funded Organisations
University - Scottish Agricultural College, University - Harper Adams Agricultural College
Food Chain              
Rural Development              
Fields of Study
Rural Affairs