It’s time to dust off your Union Jack and start getting creative, because British Food Fortnight (BFF) is fast approaching. Between September 20 and October 5 retailers up and down the country will be promoting British produce and the more who get involved, the better, says BFF organiser Alexia Robinson. 

“BFF provides independent stores with the chance to differentiate themselves from the competition and establish customer loyalty,” she claims. “Consumers are looking for a guarantee of origin and something that goes beyond mass-produced brands.” 

John Maxwell Jones, owner of Burgess stores in Goudhurst, Kent, is certainly up for the challenge and has supported BFF over the years. “It’s extremely important that we support British food and get back to a point of self-sufficiency,” he says. “This country produces lots of seasonal items and we need to make the best use of these instead of using thousands of food miles importing products from abroad. If a c-store is doing its job properly it will be supporting the local community.”

Tej Daffu, who owns Budgens in Tooting, South London, agrees. “Britain is where we live and we should be flying the flag. Supporting BFF also supports the community as well as educating people about the different seasons.”

Jonathan James owns Budgens stores in Dersingham, Norfolk, and Soham, Cambridgeshire, and will be celebrating BFF at both stores. “It’s really important to support local farmers, and people are demanding British food. When we opened our Norfolk store we ran a customer survey asking people what they wanted from the shop and British food was top of the list,” says Jonathan. 

“BFF is also a superb platform for media coverage,” he notes. “I’ve just been approached by the local radio station in Cambridgeshire to talk about our plans for this year.”

Robinson urges c-stores to pull out all the stops during the promotion. “The temptation is to promote just sauces and condiments, but go the extra mile with vegetables, meat and ready meals.”

She is full of praise for the convenience store sector, which she says has gone to great lengths in the past to promote BFF. “Independents are laying down the gauntlet each year,” she points out. “They’re leading the way and their promotions are very imaginative.”

Atul Sodha, owner of Peverells, a Londis store in Uxbridge, Middlesex, has big plans for this year’s event. “As far as British food goes, a fry-up is the best thing going,” he says. “So this year one of my suppliers, Country Choice, has provided a hot box solution, which will contain sausages, bacon, eggs, black pudding and a hash brown. It’s ideal for the morning, and then in the evening we’ll do curry – chicken tikka masala is a British dish after all!”

Atul will also offer Aberdeen Angus steak pies for customers who aren’t keen on spicy food. He believes that by providing different dishes for different meal times, he will reach a wider audience. “You have to cater for the whole day, so it’s best to pick a different theme for both mornings and evenings and then have something light, like scones and jam, to eat during the day.” 

Jonathan is equally convinced that it’s worth going the whole hog. “You really need to get behind BFF,” he says. “In 2006 we got a little red tractor and the staff all dressed up as land girls. The customers love it, so we’ll be doing it again this year.”

He is also eager to involve the younger generation. “In the past, we’ve hosted the national launch of English apples and pears season,” he says. “The chairman of English Apples & Pears Association spoke to school kids and sent them off with apples and pears for their lunch.” 

With support from Budgens, Jonathan has also run a colouring competition for local schools, which was judged by the local mayoress (who also happens to be a cashier at one of Jonathan’s stores). And this year, a ‘design a bag’ competition is set to take place. 

But getting involved is not just about supporting the local community – there’s plenty of profit to be made, too. “I’m a businessman, so of course BFF is about making money,” says Atul.

He explains that giving people a small taste of a product can encourage them to make a purchase. “With sampling, you don’t let people taste half a pie – place a little of each of the ingredients on a cocktail stick and let them taste that.” 

In previous years, Atul has taken the sampling approach with ice cream. “We did a BFF promotion with ice cream in which we offered a sample and then sold tubs on a bogof basis – it was amazing for us. We sold about £700-worth in a matter of days.” 

Another tip to make sure your produce sells is to offer customers something a little different. “It’s good to have a quirk for people to buy into,” explains Atul. “With the ice cream, each tub featured the name of the cow that provided the milk for that particular flavour.” 

BFF is also a chance to forge long-lasting relationships with suppliers. “The ice cream is now a core line in our shop,” says Atul. “We also had a farmer supply clotted cream for our scones and jam. He didn’t have a retail line back then, but has now ended up supplying us.” 

Jonathan adds: “It’s a real opportunity for producers. One of our suppliers, Bean Thinking, which makes vegetarian ready meals, began by supplying us and now supplies all Budgens stores.”

He also believes the benefits last beyond the fortnight itself – especially if retailers keep up the work. “BFF is a good launch pad, but you have to keep the momentum going,” says Jonathan. “We run events throughout the year, such as a strawberry tasting where we filled a barrow full of strawberries and then got staff to offer samples. We sold 700 punnets in the space of four hours earlier this year.” 

With so much going for it, it’s a wonder more retailers don’t get stuck in. “There aren’t really enough  c-stores involved,” concedes Tej, who believes that limited space and a lack of resources may put a lot off.

But Atul points out that even if resources are limited it’s still possible to participate. “I have a supply partner in Country Choice, but even if you don’t have one, then there’s nothing wrong with just picking a British product and offering tastings. It can even be as simple as offering customers a Tyrells crisp or a cup of Yorkshire Tea.” 

Retailers can seek inspiration at, the BFF website, which offers case studies and points out the benefits to be gained from taking part. 

“This is a chance to establish cross-selling opportunities and to work with suppliers to design pos material,” claims Robinson. “It is possible to achieve a 34% sales increase during the fortnight.”

And as Atul says: “If it generates sales, then you’d be crazy not to get involved.”