Much like Black Friday and Cyber Monday there are many trends which cross the Atlantic and become engrained in the British calendar. Halloween being one, which has now eclipsed Valentine’s Day to become the third-biggest event after Christmas and Easter, and with it comes the ‘Pumpkin Patch’ trend which is starting to make waves.
But what do Growers’ who run PYO farms need to know? In our series of industry insights, we provide some background to the market, as well as some top tips on ensuring that your customer experience hits that important 5-star customer rating.
Whilst traditional Pick your Own farms during the summer months have been around much longer, the ‘Pumpkin Patch’ experience is a relatively new trend in the UK. The PYO boom began in the 70’s with families looking for ways to spend time together, Pick Your Own became a way to spend a day out, picking and eating fresh fruit and vegetables. The popularity of Pick Your Own continued in to the 80’s until the rise of supermarkets changed the way we shopped for fresh fruit and veg.
But as consumers become more aware of the sustainability issues and environmental impact of their shopping choices, there is a growing consumer demand for supply chain transparency, reducing food miles and fresh, local food. You can’t get much fresher than picking your own fresh fruit and vegetables directly from the farm itself!
The rise of social media sharing platforms such as Instagram also have a part to play, giving further wind to these trends. Many of us want to keep up to date with the latest experiences, and don’t like to miss out. With many celebrities and social media influences setting the standard, their avid followers now aspire to replicate their experiences and photo’s, which led to an influx of baby pumpkin patch photo’s over the Halloween period (See here)!
More than ever, many of us are looking for new experiences, figures show that we are continuing to spend less money on buying things, and more on doing things – and telling the world about it online afterwards, of course. The ‘‘experiential hospitality’ market is growing, and research has shown that customers are willing to pay more when they feel they have been part of an experience and had ‘more than just a meal’. Operators have upped their experiential hospitality game in recent years as a result of a growing recognition that it is important to design an experience strategically.
New and exciting ways of eating out are arising - think dining while hanging from a crane! We also want to experience and understand how the food and drink we consume is made, with activities such as wine tours, brewery tours, and food production tours increasing in popularity. And of course, we also like to share our experiences through posts and images with families and friends, as the mantra now goes… ‘Pics or it didn’t happen’.
A pick your own (PYO) business can be an excellent way of enhancing the profitability of your holdings. By attracting customers onto your site you will be able to sell to them directly, maximizing the profitability of your fresh produce.
Typically, PYO has been focused on fruit, particularly soft fruit, but there has been rising customer demand for pumpkins around Halloween. For diverse holdings other PYO crops can be grown but are likely to be a minor attraction (e.g. sweetcorn, broad beans) or require a specialist approach to growing and marketing (e.g. Christmas trees). While this factsheet focuses on soft fruit and pumpkin PYO enterprises many of the themes discussed here will be relevant to any PYO business.
You can offer recreational experiences in the outdoors, give your customers an experience of horticulture and farming and a cost-efficient family day out. You may also be marketing produce at prices greater than supermarket prices (especially for pumpkins) so you need to see yourself as an experience not just a product – you are competing with the likes of Alton Towers rather than the supermarkets! Given below are a few key areas that you should think about when planning your PYO enterprise but remember to always think of how your customers will experience their visit to your PYO enterprise.