SUCCESSFUL SA CHEESE FESTIVAL TURNS 10
The SA Cheese Festival will be celebrating a decade of cheese from 29 April to 2 May 2011. This festival which promotes cheese to the benefit of the South African dairy industry has grown in popularity by closely guarding its central focus – namely cheese.
"We give the visitor, young or old, a comprehensive and interactive ‘from the udder to the table’ experience," explains Johan Ehlers, Chief Executive Officer of Agri-Expo, the organisers of this festival. "Annual favourable feedback from sponsors, exhibitors and visitors continuously confirm the success of the festival’s singular focus and approach of paring cheese with an element of fun." Visitors to the festival are each year encouraged to try their hand at milking cows, to taste a variety of new products that are launched at the festival, and to master the art of cooking and experimenting with cheese with of some of the country’s top chefs.
The success of any event is surely measured by its ability to continue drawing the crowds and the Cheese Festival has experienced a growth in attendance numbers from 14 000 in 2002 to 31 663 in 2010 (attendance numbers were limited for the past few years to safeguard the high quality experience of visitors). "However, for us the success of the festival also lies in the opportunities the event provides for small and large cheese makers to showcase their wares and for visitors to experience the variety the South African dairy industry offers," says Ehlers. "It is encouraging that thousands of consumers have strengthened their bond with cheese and many cheese makers openly state that the festival has played a significant role in giving them exposure and so boosted their sales."
According to Petrina Visser from Dalewood Fromage, one of the smaller cheeseries, the success of the festival lies in the fact that it is a fun place to be for the entire family - a whole day’s outing. "The SA Cheese Festival has done such a great job exposing the diversity of local speciality cheeses, and Dalewood Fromage as an authentic, artisanal estate cheesery, has benefitted significantly from this exposure and increased awareness," she commented.
Rian van der Merwe at Ladismith Cheese Company (one of the bigger players in the dairy industry) says that the festival gives them the opportunity to effectively showcase their products. "We see the Cheese Festival as a ‘unique selling point’ for our products due to the fact that a wide spectrum of the cheese eating public attends the festival every year," he says. "The festival also contributes to a much more informed cheese consumer, which is very positive for our industry in general."
"Absa congratulates the organisers on staging the tenth SA Cheese Festival"; says Willem Nel, Regional Manager Absa Small Business. "The focus of our involvement with the Cheese Festival has always been to enable boutique cheese makers to exhibit at the festival. "Boutique cheese makers play an important role in job creation in many rural areas across the country and our financial contribution towards opening marketing opportunities for these cheese producers is to the mutual benefit of many people," says Willem Nel. Absa will also once again be in partnership with the Pinotage Association where visitors can experience the best of Pinotage – a truly South African cultivar.
Also the Exhibition & Event Association of Southern Africa (EXSA) heralded the SA Cheese Festival as the Best Exhibition of the Year for Southern Africa for exhibitions larger than 12 000m2 in 2007 and again in 2009.
Over a period of ten years it has become evident that this event effectively meets the South African consumer's growing enthusiasm for interesting and exotic food experiences – and cheese is definitely no exception. The more sophisticated agricultural product festivals, such as the SA Cheese Festival, serve as a powerful marketing mechanism for individuals and companies by improving the communication between consumers and producers.
A survey done during the 2010 SA Cheese Festival confirmed the relevance of this statement. Results showed that 86% of the 31 663 visitors tasted new cheeses and that 82% met and interacted with new cheese makers; 78% gained new knowledge about cheese, while 92% declared that they would be buying a wider variety of cheeses in future. Continuous improvement and high levels of innovation is part of their recipe.
"Despite a restricted marketing budget due to the fact that Agri-Expo is a non-profit organisation, the media has truly embraced the festival during the past ten years," says Johan Ehlers. "Food and other journalists have fallen in love with cheese and have been unbelievably generous in their coverage - spreading the word of cheese variety, availability and usage to millions of consumers. We have purposely not always just promoted the festival itself; very often the focus was purely on cheese and its interesting creators."
"And this is exactly what we aimed for with the SA Cheese Festival – Agri-Expo’s main drive is to promote agriculture and improve consumers’ awareness of the direct link between what appears on their plates and the effort from this country’s agricultural producers."
New home for SA Cheese Festival
This year’s festival takes place at an exciting new venue owned by Agri-Expo, Sandringham farm. Sandringham is situated conveniently along the N1 between Cape Town and Paarl and close to Stellenbosch.
A limited number of tickets are available at Computicket and Checkers stores (no tickets at the gates) at R110 for the weekend and R90 for Friday and Monday. Senior citizens pay R70 and children 12 years and younger enter absolutely free. The festival runs from 10:00 to 18:00 each day and 17:00 on the last day.
For more information contact Agri-Expo on tel 021 975 4440 or email@example.com or visit www.cheesefestival.co.za
Issued by Marlene Truter Communications
Contact: Charlene Nieuwoudt
Tel: 083 666 1480
On behalf of Agri-Expo
Contact: Mariana Rabie
Tel: 021 975 4440 / 082 871 1114