Taste of Huron – Whole Enterprise Social Media Enchanting Local Food Businesses

Cathy    March 26, 2018

Would you have thought for a moment that you could use an integrated social media strategy to promote local food? It is possible and the Taste of Huron (TOH) program is doing just that. Taste of Huron is a program that has been around for over 10 years. It has encountered it’s up and downs over the years, but not because of lack of interest. It is more about lack of funding and lack staff resources to dedicate to program development and administration.

The program started out being managed by Huron Tourism Association (HTA) and Huron County Economic Development. Over the years the program has made some remarkable gains in the marketplace. The lack of resources and the closure of the Huron Tourism Association could have been the death of the program, but thankfully with the insight of the Huron Community Futures Development Corporation (CFDC) and the final board of HTA, the Taste of Huron program was not to fall through the cracks and be forgotten.

“It’s not surprising that Community Futures Huron continues to invest in our local food system. It’s one of the fastest growing components of the Huron County economy, with great prospects for business and job growth”. – Paul Nichol General Manager Community Futures Huron

Taste Of Huron was resurrected in 2017 through government grants and the sheer desire to make the program work. You might ask yourself why not let it end with a painless death; the simple truth is there is too much to lose. Huron County is one of the most agricultural productive counties in Ontario.  The work that has been done in the past has proven that with the proper social media tactics and a strong, event-driven, marketing plan, the brand can prosper and grow.

Which brings us to the subject at hand – Whole Enterprise Social Media and how it is integrated into Taste Of Huron (TOH). The Huron CFDC is behind the regeneration of the program and they reached out to a number of key people in the industry to help re-start the program. They looked towards the use of social media and engagement through their networks to see who would work best for them to have as guidance throughout the program. Once the TOH committee was established, then engagement with local businesses began.

The TOH has over 100 vetted local food businesses involved in the program, with many more aiming towards the criteria that has been established. When the committee revamped the TOH program, it was of the utmost integrity that the businesses in the program were using, growing and creating local food and beverages. The first action of business was to do market assessments on each business that claimed they used local food and social media was helpful in performing this due diligence. They were rated by the Ontario Culinary Tourism checklist which included if the businesses:

  • Have a website
  • Actively use social media platforms
  • Use 70% local food in their products
  • Have proper signage and hours posted

The next order of business was to figure out how to engage consumers into the TOH program. Creation of a marketing plan was established and included many different aspects of social media. The first stage of the marketing plan was to conduct research online to acknowledge the uniqueness of Huron County to the consumer; to understand the market rational, target market and audience. After being able to establish the criteria, TOH was able to move ahead with marketing objectives. It was very clear from the onset of the program that the use of social media in all aspects would have to be used and used correctly to re-establish TOH in the marketplace. There are creative briefings, themes and imagery that will be used to engage the consumer through the use of social media platforms.

The TOH used the supply chain at its service to be able to create a network of local businesses that would supply consumers with what they were looking for – local food. Next big step was to create promotional tools that would entice the consumer to become captivated. This is where the research and networking knowledge helped to develop Taste of Huron Food Tours throughout the County. The “Pick your Taste” tours are currently in the development stage and will be launched in June 2018. With the ability to reach out through social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, e-Newsletters, Twitter and Tripadvisor, the “Pick your Taste” tours will be a success and will entice consumers to travel throughout Huron County experiencing the best of the best of Huron County food.

Being aware that the TOH network also needed added outreach to help make their “Pick your Taste” tours go viral, they have engaged bloggers and local ambassadors to write reviews and post on their social media platforms. The posts and reviews by the individual people will far exceed paid preview ads you can purchase through social media. That being said, the plan will still include pay per click advertising to help launch the program. TOH will reach out to all the local food businesses to also help with the marketing by using hashtags, such as: #tasteofhuron #TOH #huronlocalfood #favouriteflavour #drinkhuron. When the local businesses participate with these hashtags on their social media platforms, the involvement with the consumer can go viral and expand the TOH program in a matter of moments.

“Taste of Huron has the ability to launch Huron County into the foodie atmosphere. Samuels Hotel has participated in the past and is excited to partner with Taste of Huron events in the coming seasons.”  Kim Burgsma -Manager, Samuels Hotel Inc

The TOH program understands that you must track your demographics and geographics to be able to expand and market the program properly. The program has set-up social media metrics and return on investment to be able to track the numbers and engagement in the program. This is imperative to be able to make the TOH program sustainable and prosperous. The local businesses that have engaged with the TOH will play an important role in the success of the program, which is why Taste of Huron and Huron County EcDev have offered a customer service excellence course for all of them to partake in. This will help add to customer intrigue and interaction and improve the customer experience and encourage them to share the tours on their social media platforms.

Lessons for Others

As you can see, the Taste of Huron program has a well thought-out plan to deliver whole enterprise social media. They have covered every aspect of the whole enterprise by using business engagement, customer engagement, supply chain, metrics, marketing and the ability to have proper tracking tools in place to be able to integrate the future of social media. The use of social media on all these levels is multi-layered to offer a successful and sustainable product for years to come. It will help many small businesses grow and prosper in Huron County, which will help grow the local economy. It will also reinstate the fact that Huron County is destined to be the next culinary hot spot with amazing local food businesses and the abundance of wineries and breweries.

Organization: Taste of Huron
Industry: Tourism
Name of Organization Contact: Paul Nichol

Authored by: Cathy Bieman

If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.