What should you do when you have a region which is rich in horticultural abundance, where innovation and the desire to stand out are fast becoming the hallmarks of progress?
The all-female Flavours of Plenty Festival team has been nailing the answer, with the second iteration of their foodie festival earning two coveted titles at the recent New Zealand Events Association (NZEA) awards. They’re now busily preparing to release the programme and tickets for the 2024 festival, which will be held in April.
Loretta Crawford, Suzy Spear, Stacey Jones, and Rae Baker enthusiastically seized the baton when Tourism Bay of Plenty first identified that the coastal region’s ‘place to plate’ offerings were an essential part of its DNA, with untapped potential to attract more visitors, especially during the quieter seasons of the year.
What no one could have foreseen was the havoc that Covid would then wreak on the tourism, hospitality, and events sectors.
The first Flavours of Plenty Festival in 2022, and the second, held last year, proved a test of grit as the sectors struggled with gathering limits and travel restrictions which were quickly followed by serious staff shortages.
The 2023 festival’s double NZEA win is a testament to the value and vibe that the Flavours of Plenty Festival has brought to the region, right when it needed it most.
“It’s been a privilege to help celebrate the resilience and entrepreneurship that we have in the Bay. Our whole foodie community has contributed and come together to put on this festival.
“It benefits everyone it touches, whether it’s the Bay of Plenty producers, the restaurateurs, the attendees, or the regional reputation. It’s a fantastic leverage opportunity for our place and I’m very proud to work on behalf of Tourism Bay of Plenty to produce it,” says Festival Director Rae Baker.
» Ticketholders at the last festival enjoyed the chance to be the beekeeper and savour fresh honey and mead during Kitchen Takeover’s Bee First Apiaries event.
Head of Destination Marketing at Tourism Bay of Plenty, Loretta Crawford, says the cornerstone of the festival has been the establishment of a Flavours of Plenty collective, ably led by Stacey Jones. It’s a unique passion group which has united the region’s foodie and hospitality sector.
Stacey’s no stranger to the limelight, having won plenty of fans and some national awards while at the helm of Kitchen Takeover and more recently starting up her new culinary business, Secret Sauce. But she’s been happy to aim bigger, supporting and enabling the area’s other unique food businesses to create a fresh new regional identity.
“I work with producers and growers to help build capacity, lead regular meetups where the community can connect and collaborate, deliver stories and creative content that drives our reputation, consistently push our sustainability goals, and foster partnerships for development in the culinary tourism sector,” Stacey says.
“I felt very strongly that to build our reputation as a culinary destination, we needed a destination event that brought our foodscape together and made locals proud of the amazing food we had here. Every other city had something apart from Tauranga – so the launch of the Flavours of Plenty Festival was very timely!”
Senior Marketing Executive at Tourism Bay of Plenty, Suzy Spear, now spends the bulk of her time immersed in work that supports the Flavours of Plenty collective and its annual festival.
“I really enjoy the fast-paced nature of working in the events industry, so the opportunity to combine that with my passion for food, as well as my marketing skills, has ticked all the boxes,” Suzy says.
Suzy creates and manages the marketing and collateral for the festival, consistently shares information with its stakeholders, organises sector networking events, creates and distributes the Plates of Plenty Challenge ingredient boxes, and diligently reports back to the all-important funders.
“The momentum the festival has built in such a short amount of time, including having been recognised as the best lifestyle event in the country, has been no small feat. There are so many moving parts and the details are always changing,” Suzy says.
Rae, who harks back to Edinburgh, was previously best known in New Zealand for directing two back-to-back Queenstown Winter Festivals. She says the challenge is always the same – securing big enough budgets to ensure that popular festivals can continue.
“The Flavours of Plenty Festival’s main objective is to nourish visitation to a wide area, which is not always the top of the list for a sponsor as they may want a more direct return, and funding often comes in the form of seed funding which dissipates over time. This is a challenge. Even though our double award-winning festival is a fantastic leverage opportunity for our wider place, it doesn’t come without costs,” she says.
Rae has an annual contract with the festival, as part of her own Rebel Female events consultancy business. She works with the festival team to develop the strategy and tactical plan and, from an operational standpoint, she’s the contact for anyone who wants to submit and hold an event during the festival programme.
“I source funding for the festival, manage our centralised ticketing, procure and maintain sponsorship agreements, manage stakeholder relationships, keep a keen eye on our sustainable footprint, risk management and budgeting, produce and host our flagship event (Battle of the Snack), create agreements with our Plates of Plenty Challenge entrants, contribute to PR, marketing and design decisions, and do all the many other enjoyable tasks that make up the festival,” she says.
The programme and tickets for the 2024 festival will be launched on 16 February and Loretta expects attendees will be able to choose from 45 different foodie events across the 4-14 April dates. Twenty-five eateries have also signed up for the Plates of Plenty Challenge.
“It’s a great feeling to work on a project that supports so many local businesses. We’re building our reputation as a foodie destination nationally and internationally, and this means that we’re working with lots of media and partners like Tourism New Zealand,” she says.
“I’m the ‘Flavours troubleshooter’. I’m there to remove roadblocks, support the team, and advocate for the project at a governance level.
“Flavours of Plenty is an eco-system which brings together growers, suppliers, producers, retailers, restaurants, and foodie lovers, and that’s what really makes the festival a winner. Knowing this, and having the backing of our board, GM and key stakeholders, is really essential and exciting in terms of what we’re trying to achieve.”