Editor’s Letter: August/September 2013
By Laura Aiken
We traditionally do something special to celebrate Canada’s bakery
industry nationwide in the August/September edition of Bakers Journal.
We traditionally do something special to celebrate Canada’s bakery industry nationwide in the August/September edition of Bakers Journal. This year, we’re reflecting on how much location really matters by looking at what’s happening in food tourism in Canada.
Local food isn’t a movement anymore, it’s a consumer expectation. This is driving up feelings of hometown proud. Bakers and their customers alike are discovering, enjoying and taking pride in the splendour of their own backyards. Although the Canadian mindset has traditionally looked over fences and across ponds at the established cultural bravado of our mature allies, the inwardly peeking eyes of localism are bolstering this nation’s relatively young self-image. We have quite a bit to crow about, and we are starting to know it.
However, it is most wonderful to celebrate geography that is far and wide along with near and dear, and appreciate the bounty of deliciousness from place to place. There is a natural human tendency towards a narrative that pits two wonderful things against each other in a contest of “better than” as opposed to appreciating their unique differences on equal footing. For example, we’ve all heard a blanket statement like “this city is better than that city for food, period.” I am not saying that people give up on a frame of reference that compares, because that is impossible. We do and should measure, and we are entitled to our opinions. I merely suggest we focus on appreciating the positive differentiation that makes places unique. We can only find ourselves richer in inspiration for it. We can tell a better narrative of our local story by being open minded about what it is others, and our competition, do well. The fallacy of contrast is in the loss of celebration. Ideas often come from far and wide, from the novel and nifty far-flung reaches. Always remain open minded, no matter how dedicated to your roots you are.
Brand story is powerful. Think of the oft-discussed wine studies that revealed when people didn’t know the price, they often couldn’t tell the difference between the most and least expensive bottles. Remember the “Pepsi paradox” and how Pepsi often beats Coke in a blind taste test yet people often switched preferences when they knew what they were drinking.
Place-story is the new brand narrative for food, and food tourism is a powerful way to build that. Look what it has done for the Niagara region. Once an area associated mostly with wax museums and other tacky bits of tourism (great Falls aside), it now evokes romantic imagery of sprawling vineyards, a bounty of produce and world-class wine.
There are some very neat treat trails populating the Canadian scene, like The Butter Tart Trail in Wellington North, Ont. The Butter Tart Trail is a self-guided road trip under the umbrella of the area’s food tourism efforts where visitors can discover a multitude of varieties and butter tart art.
What a great idea. I’d love to see a macaroon mile or pie path anywhere in this country. Is there a cluster of great products in your area? Collaborate to compete, even though it is scary to rely on the hope that there is enough abundance to lift everyone up. Be confident and think of the extra promotion. The Globe and Mail wrote about the Butter Tart Trail and that is great exposure for its bakers. Would that exposure have come without the food tourism dollars and organizational effort behind it?