World Food Travel Association. Day 1 Talks. 23/9/2013
by Grace Fitzgerald
People are not laughing much anymore about Sweden aiming to be a ‘New Culinary Nation’ on the map. Because, from reports, Ami tells us that “the whole world is starting to look at our region. The spotlight is coming back. Rediscovering the food that we have”.
Ami explained that Sweden might be known for nature, the social welfare system, design, innovation, ABBA, IKEA or Volvo, but food will be the next thing that will be talked about. But she reminds us that Sweden is a land of 9 climate zones, sweeping landscapes, vast forests, thousands of lakes, and expansive coastline and an abundance of natural, wild, and artisan foods. “We had neglected our own food culture, but things are starting to change.
This vision is being realised on a daily basis by a network of 26 regional ambassadors, experts from five focus areas, and communications advisors working together to deliver a unified message; Swedish cuisine is no longer just about meatballs. Eskil launched the initiative. Started hearings. Listening to everyone from the farmer to the restaurateurs. Public food has also become a big topic. “We have to start with the children” says Ami, “from the start, kids must get a good meal at school. Other public places such as hospitals, and elderly homes are now also included. “If we want to be a gastronomic nation, we need to start with the core”.
The new norm in Sweden now is innovative chefs, and artisan producers working together with raw ingredients and raw talent. The Ministry launched ‘Culinary Capital of the Year’ award to be awarded to a Swedish city each year as a way of mobilising food in the region. And yearly, the Culinary Nation Conference gathers 200 people to discuss future ideas, and future focus.
Ami outlined the tenets of the communications strategy; National Development, Global PR, and Focused Marketing. 1.1billion Swedish SEK is the costs so date. But only 0.02% of that has been spent on marketing, “because it’s about building a food nation from the ground up. Not just marketing”.
“More and more farmers are opening up their doors to visitors” reports Ami and highlights how there is more innovation in food production now. Moreover, the food export industry has increased 28% in the last year alone. Research has shown that Sweden was not known to be a ‘foodie’ country, but Ami points out that “people are looking for unique and memorable experience, authenticity, origins, the ethical, and health factors”. We learn that it’s more than just food. There are other factors in the equation.
The final word? “Marketing and development must go hand in hand”.