The Flavours of Campbelltown

Campbelltown City Council

A delicious adventure awaits in the Adelaide foothills. The Flavours of Campbelltown Food Trail has become a prime destination for anyone seeking a smorgasbord of tasty treats – from serious foodies to day trippers out for an afternoon of fun. Until recently, however, tourists were more likely to view Campbelltown as a blur through the car window on their way to nearby national parks than as an attraction in its own right. Council members knew that the community had more than enough to offer to make it a destination in itself and were determined to get Campbelltown on the map.

Around five years ago, the group began to assess the area’s assets and brainstorm tourism ideas. “We’ve got lots of walking trails, and beautiful parks and reserves,” Economic Development and Leisure Manager Ursula Hickey says. “But the thing that kept standing out was the food manufacturing industry.” Due to a large Italian immigrant population, the community enjoys the rich traditions and mouth-watering cuisine of the Old Country. “They’ve brought with them all of their family recipes,” Ms Hickey explains. “There were some really interesting stories to tell from a number of different cultures and backgrounds.” Furthermore, the council is located only five kilometres from Adelaide’s Central Business District, making it easily accessible to large numbers of people. “We are a really accessible, unique and free tourist attraction,” Ms Hickey and her fellow council members realised.

As the old adage goes, the best way to a man’s heart is through the stomach, so the Council created an irresistible Food Trail – the first of its kind, the group believes, to be run solely by a Council. Participating businesses quickly grew from nine food manufacturing companies in the February 2010 debut, to 21 businesses today. The concept has also expanded to include restaurants and accommodations. The Council showcases Food Trail businesses in a full colour, 50 page booklet published each year. Each participant is given a two page spread featuring gorgeous photographs shot by professional food photographers and general information on products offered, hours, and location.

The Food Trail has been a roaring success; Campbelltown has arrived on the map, and local businesses are profiting. In fact, some participants have reported a 400% increase in over the counter sales since joining the project. For example, Elbio All About Sweets has been so positively impacted that the once strictly wholesale operation recently doubled in size to include a coffee shop and educational area for tourists. Furthermore, over the last six months, three new companies have moved into the area just so that they can be included on the Food Trail. “That is something we always aim for as a council,” Ms Hickey explains. “We wanted to attract new businesses.” Perhaps most importantly, locals appreciate that their community is being actively supported. “Rather than just being perceived as a Council that sits here and accepts rates off them, we are actually giving back,” Ms Hickey adds.

The concept has been met with such rave reviews that the Council added a tour package last month, the first and only Food Trail to do so. Locally born chef and food writer Roz Taylor has been hired to whisk travellers away on an all-day food adventure by bus. Volunteer drivers, and a partnership with a commercial bus service, help keep the cost down for tourists and provide a stress-free way to explore the Trail. Tours are fully customised to meet each tour group’s individual agenda and interests. Participants are invited to peruse the Food Trail Booklet and choose five or six businesses to visit. Ms Taylor then arranges all activities to suit. During the tour, groups of around twenty people are treated to free tastings and samples, factory tours, and a discounted meal. And, of course, there are plenty of opportunities to purchase delectable dishes to carry home. The new tours are garnering interest from a wide variety of community groups and clubs, as well as cruise ship lines and business travellers attending nearby conferences.

The Council has also recently launched a series of Moonlight Markets. Held monthly on Friday evenings during summer months, the lively event was created to promote the Food Trail businesses, and also includes around 75 art and craft vendors and live entertainment. The Moonlight Markets also showcase the “hidden jewel” Thorndon Park, a lovely but largely unknown Campbelltown destination. The Council expected 2,000 people at the first Market. “We ended up with 10,000,” Ms Hickey reports. “We were absolutely blown away.”

And crowds continued to pour into subsequent Markets. “For three events we had 30,000 people, which is an absolutely unheard of thing for this area,” Ms Hickey recalls. “And we had people travelling from all over Adelaide to attend it.” Many of the participating Food Trail businesses completely sold out during their first night. “They did as much business in four hours over the counter as they do in a week,” Ms Hickey reports. Furthermore, a large number of food and beverage businesses benefit from the Markets, not just those that are officially included. “We’ve had reports that every single takeaway in the area is run right off their feet that night,” Ms Hickey reports. “Because you’ve got 10,000 people coming into the area of an evening, and of course they want something to eat. So the community just loves it.” The success of the Moonlight Markets has also convinced many of these local businesses to join the Food Trail. “For example,” Ms Hickey shares, “there was one business I had been pursuing for two years. And I couldn’t get them to commit to the Food Trail. And the day after the first Moonlight Market, they rang me.”

The buzz around Campbelltown’s Food Trail and Moonlight Markets is huge, and the Council has been approached by numerous other Councils hoping to uncover the secret to the attractions’ success. “It seems like such a simple concept,” Ms Hickey explains. “But it’s hard to get it to work.” The most important factor, she says, is no secret at all. It is simply good old fashioned hard work. For example, Council members need to hit the pavement and really get to know local business owners. Establishing a strong relationship between the Council and local businesses is key to developing trust between the two parties. Ms Hickey explains that, in the beginning, not all businesses felt sure about joining the venture. “I think it is fair to say a number of them were quite dubious,” she admits. However, after a few years of consistent contact and delivered promises, Campbelltown businesses are now very much on board.

A major advantage of the Food Trail concept is the relatively low cost to the community. The attraction requires approximately $20,000 a year to produce, and participating businesses are charged a mere $300 a year. The bulk of this money goes into producing the top quality Food Trail booklet and remaining funds are primarily spent on marketing. Marketing channels include press releases, glossy magazines, newspapers, and social media. The Food Trail booklet itself is distributed to visitor information centres, hotels, businesses and Council outlets. The group also utilises more creative marketing concepts, such as placing advertisements within the maps of local Budget Rent a Car vehicles. Local celebrity and passionate foodie Michael Keelan acts as official Ambassador for the Trail and regularly promotes the Food Trail and Moonlight Markets on his radio program for no charge.

Overall, Ms Hickey reports that, “We’ve had a marketing strategy in place where year one, we get all our local community support. Year two, we get state based support. Year three, we go for national.” Campbelltown’s Food Trail has already gained solid recognition from the state by being awarded a coveted bronze medal in the South Australian Tourism Awards the first year it entered the competition. “It was fantastic to get something the first year,” Ms Hickey explains, “because we were told that it would take a few years to get any recognition at all. But we managed to get a bronze in our first year.” With solid support from Tourism Australia, the council’s goal of national recognition is also quickly gaining footing.

Ms Hickey is pleased to report that even though the current attraction has been a great success, the Council will continue to expand the Food Trail concept. “You don’t just set a food trail up and rest on your laurels,” she emphasises. The Council understands that consumers are always seeking new experiences, and they plan to meet those demands. For now, the Moonlight Markets are set to reopen in November and the recently launched Food Trail bus tours are in full swing. Overall, it is safe to say that Campbelltown’s place on the map is secure.

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December 16, 2018, 6:41 AM AEDT