The Foodie Community Wanted Me to Succeed
The food industry was undergoing a ground-breaking revolution and the demand for local produce was the beating heart of it. There was a bustling and very supportive foodie community of growers, farmers, food producers, chefs and consumers affectionately known as “foodies.” There was a growing swell of media attention. As a new and fearless Chilli Evangelist, I was waxing my surfboard to get some traction and catch the wave.
Food Producers and Food Agencies
I had been doing some work for my local Myerscough Agricultural College and had encountered the regional food agencies and local food producer networks.
The food agencies ran colossal events where growers, food producers and chefs put on a show and sold their products to the “foodies” or eager food consumers.
Digital Help for Food Producers in the Foodie Community
I was first exposed to the new, exciting and vibrant growth in the world of cooking and local food when I became involved in delivering some outreach work to help local food producers understand and utilise digital products and media.
How better to show them what I meant than to build my own website? C’mon—I was a geeky IT dude too!
The Chilli Website
Digital was called “IT” back then. My skills in websites and databases sent my chilli website stratospheric. My soon-to-be award-winning digital ChilliMan presence was groundbreaking in the noughties (2000s). I harnessed the new YouTube and Facebook. Next-to-no-one vlogged like this in the 2000s…
(I apologise for the sound of the hissing hydroponic pumps. You will notice that video quality has improved a lot these days! Read more about this in Part 7: The BIG Chilli Greenhouse)
I started to get noticed…
Serving the growing and food production industry, my website blossomed into an artisan food and growing multimedia resource for chilli enthusiasts, whilst championing the cause of local food producers.
Food Producer Best Practice in The Foodie Community
I listened to and learned from the existing producers and suppliers. The ones performing well and those experiencing problems.
My Chilli Products
I was growing chillies purely for the love of it. If I was going to succeed, I needed to fast-track my bootstrapped business and learn quickly.
To multiply my efforts in product development, almost every food producer that I came into contact with ended up making a chilli product for me. I remember one conversation at a dairy farm…
Andy, the farmer, was making his own cheese. I was helping him to manage his own website. We sat in the kitchen. I had a lovely cup of tea made with fresh milk and we were discussing my snowballing hobby: chilli growing. The conversation went along these lines:
“What are you doing with all these chillies?”
“I’m doing events and farmers’ markets.”
“Can you put them in cheese?”
“Dunno! Can you put them in cheese?”
“Dunno! Let’s give it a go!”
And that is how my two varieties of mild jalapeno and hot habanero waxed truckles of chilli cheese were born.
In part 3, I talked about tomatoes.
Question: How many tomatoes do you buy in your weekly shop? 400g or more?
Question: How many chillies do you buy? 400g? Unless you’re a chillihead, I’m guessing a few or none.
I am asking because I want to introduce the concept of “adding value” to my raw material of chillies by using them as an ingredient in other popular (high demand) foods being sold at events.
I began to “add value” to my chilli crop and multiply my product lines (income streams) and sales. I ended up with a range of chilli products and became famous for saying:
“Can you put chilli in it?”
And, importantly, being able to sell that product well.
Positioning My Product in the Foodie Community
There was a gap in the market. I was certainly one of the first to do this on any type of scale, which meant I could set the pricing and not be dictated to by the market and competitors.
Cheap and Cheerful Pricing is a beautiful thing, but:
- It can be perceived as lower quality with less cache and desirability.
- There would be less profit and therefore, funds to invest in research and development (R&D) of new products and expansion.
- If I needed new equipment or to fix broken equipment, I would struggle to find funds.
- There would be less room to absorb financial shocks, such as supplier price increases and market fluctuations.
I recalled a chat with a food producer friend of mine. Stephen effectively said,
“I went in too cheap, and now I always struggle to increase prices. Price them as luxury products.”
This was Say’s Law in action: supply creating its own demand. Demand was high. It was undoubtedly easier to sell a product. Almost serendipity. Everything I touched turned to gold and succeeded.
This was a time before recession and austerity, when the sun was shining. The world seemed like it was full of possibility. During those happy, beautiful days of light and love, spending was loose and free. With Stephen’s words ringing in my ears and in the spirit of that generous and positive time, I decided on:
A Luxury Product Pricing Strategy
- I vowed to produce the very best quality products in partnership with local suppliers.
- Validate the product’s desirability or cache with beautiful packaging and sales support.
- This would ensure funds to invest in R&D, expansion and to buy or fix equipment.
- There would be room to absorb financial shocks, such as supplier price increases and market fluctuations.
Fresh + Enthusiastic = A Lot of Interest
No one was doing this with chillies. I was experienced in public speaking as a university lecturer. I was not afraid to tell anyone who would listen about the food revolution and my chilli products, on or off stage.
Promoting Local Produce
My joyous drive to educate the nation about chillies merged with promoting local food producers. I was not intentional. I was very enthusiastic—an evangelist! and it naturally took on a life of its own. I was working with my local food producer friends and to me, it seemed only right that they got a mention too—together we were stronger!
From then onwards, I always tried to promote local food producers because we were in competition against some very large rivals. It was only through the farmers’ markets, food events, online sales and supply to independent retailers that we could make a living.
Vive La (Foodie) Revolution!
Nearly two decades later, I remember these fresh, free, invigorating days serving the foodie community like they were yesterday. In retrospect, I believe that the love I had for chilli growing, the enthusiasm and the willingness to educate the nation about chillies, shone through in everything I did.
The fact that I was a fearless nutjob northern bloke, trying to make a living by growing chillies in the dampest part of the country and was making a very decent attempt at it! Made me a unique mould-breaker, a quality local supplier for top chefs and a great story for the press and media…
The proof of the pudding is in the eating. I received amazing press, media, major awards and accolades, and was invited to and featured in the top competitions in the country.
Things started to take off… Read on… Part 5: The Rock Star Chilli Grower
Who is RK Alker Children’s Author?
R.K. Alker Best-Selling Children’s Author was born in the UK, but he was MADE IN LANCASHIRE!
He is famous as the TV & Radio ChilliMan aficionado and a champion of local producers or “Food Evangelist!”
R.K. Alker has a career spanning more than 3 decades of university lecturing, content writing, UK 999 emergency ambulances, media and entertainment as the colourful TV ChilliMan which contributed to this hilarious children’s adventure book written for his kids.
Read RK Alker Funny Kids’ Author’s amazing story in the PRESS SECTION CLICK HERE
RK Alker is an author of funny children’s books from Chorley, Lancashire, England, United Kingdom, Earth!
His little girls think RK Alker is the Best Funny Kids Author in the World.
Find RK Alker Children’s Author Events, Book Readings, Children’s Bedtime Stories, Kids’ Storytelling, School Author Visits, Children’s Book Signings and more on Eventbrite.