The show goes on, but without the industry
The Katikati Avocado, Food and Wine Festival on January 18 is expected to be another great family day out. Organisers say festival-goers can expect a tempting array of food, excellent wines and entertainment, including Jazz de Vice, Shenaniganz Irish Band, Celtic musicians Paul & Penny and The Reevers – a group of local doctors with more than medical talent. Businesses selling avocado products or marketing the fruit both here and overseas will be taking part and the rumour persists that Katikati will eventually claim the title of Avocado Capital of New Zealand.
No industry involvement
But this summer there will be no industry-sponsored involvement. Karen Lee, chairman of Katikati Lions which organises the annual festival along with Katikati Pakeke Lions, said NZ Avocado had decided not to participate.
“They were happy to remain involved if we planned to turn it into a major iconic event, similar to the annual Bluff Oyster Festival which attracts around 5,000 people. That would be a huge undertaking for our volunteers though. While we would like to see even more people through the gate (on average it's about 1,500) we have decided to stay with the current format, at least for this year.”
Karen said they had received good feedback from last January's stall holders. The event, now in its 6th year,
attracts many holiday-makers from outside the region and that's seen as a good opportunity to promote avocados to those who don't regularly eat them or know how to prepare them. All proceeds benefit other causes – this year profit from the raffle goes to the Waipuna Hospice and festival income to the Katikati Heritage Museum.
Where was the support?
Last year, from an avocado industry point of view, support from actual growers, packers and exporters was thin on the ground. Out of 11 current exporters, Seeka and Just Avocados were the only ones to mount displays, serving up masses of free avocado ice cream, selling avocado oil and running out of the very popular $2 deal for Asahi beer and sushi with avocados.
Industry chief executive Jen Scoular said then that growers frequently criticised the local marketing of their product and the festival was an excellent opportunity to bolster public understanding of the versatility of avocados.
“We are open to ideas on how to make our participation in the festival even better and eventually I would like to see us strong enough to stage a stand-alone New Zealand avocado event.”
This year however, the industry has had a re-think about its involvement. Jen sums it up:
“We have a promotions strategy with a strong focus on raising the visibility and awareness of avocados with consumers in the New Zealand market. Part of this has been the appointment of Nadia Lim, our NZ Avocado ambassador, which has been a fantastic association.
“We review and assess all of our promotions activities to ensure that they meet the needs of the industry.
“NZ Avocado has invested into each of the 2012 and 2013 festivals with a large marquee, celebrity chef cooking demonstrations, and various activities including samples, guacamole competitions and children’s games.
“the event attracts many holiday-makers from outside the region and that's seen as a good opportunity to promote avocados to those who don't regularly eat them or know how to prepare them.”
“Our vision for the festival was to help develop an iconic avocado festival which would have been positive for Katikati, avocados and the general public.
“The festival organisers have stated to us that they do not want to lift attendees significantly in the coming years and do not want to create an iconic event.”
Jen said the festival worked well for the Lions’ objectives and they had done a fantastic job raising money for nominated community causes.
“However this event in its current format is not the right event for continued investment of industry promotion funds.”
The festival is held on the Uretara Domain with plenty of shady trees, and gates are open from 11.30am to 6pm. Early bird tickets are $16; or $20 at the gate. Children under 18 with an adult are free.
For queries or participation email email@example.com or phone Peter Charlton on 07 549 0524.