2 days / 15 talks
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January 25-27

March 29, 2013 2

The opportunity to chew the fat with a fellow foodie is always welcome – and this certainly proved to be the case last week when I popped in at Seriously Good Venison’s state-of-the-art production premises at Jamesfield organic farm, near Abernethy, for a chat with dynamic company director Vikki Banks as the run-up to Crail Food Festival begins. On reflection, it would be more appropriate to describe our discussion as “chewing the lean”, since Vikki is quick to point out that one of venison’s major attributes is its incredibly low fat content.

Seriously Good Venison
white stag in herd1
Seriously Good Venison Products
Deer at the edge of the woods
Deer in Snow March 2013

“Venison is high in omega 3 and high in iron – so it’s good for mums-to-be,” she explains, adding enthusiastically, “And it contains less fat than skinless chicken breasts!” This is sweet music to the ears of Yours Truly, who is extremely fond of venison. Confirmation that it is one of the healthiest meats around means that in future I can ladle it on to my plate with a crystal clear conscience.

A fine food aficionado with an impressive track record in mail order, Vikki began her career working at Scotland Direct in 1996. After that she consolidated and widened her retail experience by running her own online speciality food company for several years in partnership with a friend. In September 2009, she joined Fletchers of Auchtermuchty as a manager, initially working alongside owners John and Nichola Fletcher before buying them out completely on 31st March last year.

Vikki speaks with a genuine passion about deer. She points to her computer screen, where the background photo features a strapping stag called “Rascal”, of whom she is evidently particularly fond. “He’ll never end up on a plate,” she says firmly, although she proceeds to tell me candidly about her state-of-the-art butchery facilities which we can see clearly from her office window. As we talk, Master Butcher Paul Douglas and his QMS apprentice Andrew McKeen are busy preparing and packing meat for a forthcoming local farmers’ market. Most Seriously Good venison (47%) is sold directly to customers at such markets; 28% is sold online, having been cut to order and vacuum packed; and the remainder is sold on a wholesale basis.

When she took over the business from the Fletchers, Vikki was keen to retain the impeccable welfare systems which the company founders had already put in place at their farm at Reediehill, near Auchtermuchty. So the deer are still culled out in the field by a single shot to the head, thus avoiding the stress of them being rounded up and transported in a lorry to the alien environment of an abattoir.

This aspect of Seriously Good Venison’s deer husbandry is not only beneficial from a welfare point of view; it also ensures the meat is exceptionally tender, as there is no rush of toughening, stress-induced adrenalin.

The deer at Reediehill are out at grass all year round, with the calves being weaned from their mothers before winter and kept indoors during the coldest winter months to build up their strength. They are put out to grass again, usually around April, and then live free range on the extensive pastures. They are given no antibiotics, so the meat does not require a withdrawal period. Moreover, it is hung traditionally and is “trimmed within an inch of its life” (to quote Vikki!) to ensure optimal quality and flavour.

The recent press circus surrounding meat contamination held no fears for Vikki, whose products follow a clear provenance path from the field to her FSA-approved butchery facility. “In the past month, we’ve had inspections from the EHO (Environmental Health Officers) and the Food Standards Agency,” she tells me, smiling and relaxed. “But they’re welcome to come whenever they like, as we’re definitely not hiding any horses here!”

Asked if she feels the horsemeat crisis has had a tangible impact on her business, she replies: “Well, we certainly haven’t had to push our product. I think people are understandably becoming more discerning when buying meat, and that’s very much in our favour.”

When I enquire about what the future is likely to hold for Seriously Good Venison, Vikki talks excitedly about her plans to move the herd to a new home near Cupar, Fife, in the coming months. She will also be undertaking a re-branding exercise, which will see Seriously Good Beef and Seriously Good Lamb added to the company’s product portfolio.

Of course, it would have been rude to leave without purchasing a couple of packs of venison – purely for research purposes, of course… Naturally I ask Vikki, being the expert in such matters, for a couple of suggestions and she recommends serving the steaks with either a blue cheese sauce (see recipe below) or a rowan jelly jus. Back at home, a family vote came out in favour of the latter, so that’s what was on the menu chez Sparrow last Friday evening. As a result, I can happily confirm that Seriously Good Venison more than lives up to its name!

Free download: SGV Steak tips for you to Download

Free recipe for you: Haunch Steaks in blue cheese sauce

serving suggestion for your venison fillet or venison haunch
Venison Fillet in Blue Cheese sauce also works well

Find out more:


Facebook page:

Twitter page: @SGVenison

This article has been submitted to Crail Food Festival by food, family and lifestyle blogger SquareSparrow.  You can read more by visiting or join me on  or send me a Tweet @SquareSparrow.

March 22, 2013

One of our aims as a community festival is to help small businesses who work with us to learn from others about how they use some of the tools available to promote their business.  We hope you’ll enjoy this insight into how two of our producers are using Facebook to promote their business.

Founded in 2004 as a way for college students in the USA to keep in touch with one another, Facebook has become part of everyday life and connections between friends for many people world wide.  In the UK, over 50% of the population has a Facebook account, and anyone with a Facebook account can create a page for something they’re passionate about – which could be you, and your business!

Two of the businesses who are returning for the 2013 Crail Food Festival are run by Tanya Muttitt (Days Gone Bye Jams and Home Made Preserves) and Darren Mollan (Chilli Papas). We spoke to them about how they promote their business using Facebook.

Tanya started her business selling Jams and Home Made Preserves back in 2010, selling at car boot sales and progressing to selling at events throughout Fife (and beyond).  Her aim is to reintroduce our clients to the taste of “real ” jams and preserves. Just like your granny would have made – full of fruit and taste.  Tanya’s business is currently in the process of setting up a shop in Newport, Fife where she will sell her preserves, as well as providing a base for other local crafts people and artisans to trade.

How does Days Gone Bye Jams and Homemade Preserves use Facebook?

How does Days Gone Bye use Facebook for their Jams and Preserves business

Tanya’s Tips for using Facebook to promote her home-based business

  1. A home-based business may not have the resources for a website in the early days, so a Facebook Page for your business can help to spread the word without the cost of web development.
  2. Be true to yourself. Share items which are important to your business and your potential customers.  Don’t participate in artificial ways to inflate your number of followers if you want genuine contacts with people who are real customers.
  3. When you are going to be selling at an event, ask the organisers for a digital copy of a poster for the event and use it to make a post on your timeline.  Helps your customers to know where they’ll be able to buy from you.
  4. Share the event on your own timeline and ask your helpful friends to share it with their friends.
  5. Share information about what you’re making so that your followers get to know about it, and can contact you.  Take pictures when you’re producing your preserves, and post them on your Facebook page.
  6. Work to support charities and the publicity gained will help more people find out about your business.  Tanya mentioned her support for animal charities, “Help for Heroes”, and an army wives charity.  She gives prizes for raffles and this leads to more people tasting her products and becoming customers for the future.
  7. Be prepared for your business to have to “think global” – Facebook is an international medium and Tanya’s business has had to find out how to package and ship products to different parts of the world after people have sampled her wares and want to re-order.
  8. Remember to include details of how your customers can find you on Facebook on your printed materials – business cards and jars were specifically mentioned by Tanya.

Darren Mollan of Chilli Papas also has a home-based business, creating curry mixes and spice and herb blends to help people make delicious low-fat home cooked meals from raw ingredients.  Darren set up his business in 2010, just as we were devising the plan for the first ever Crail Food Festival.  Looking for a low cost way to reach potential customers, Darren set up his Facebook page as a central part of his business strategy, and has made a huge effort to grow the Facebook following for his page.

How does Chilli Papas use Facebook?

Chilli Papas spices and herb mix for creating low-fat curries

Darren’s top tips for using Facebook to promote his home-based business

  1. You have to work at it.  Darren posts on Chilli Papas’ Facebook page every day, either featuring photographs from his business, or asking topical questions of his followers to get people talking.  The more people who engage with your Facebook page, the more their friends are likely to see the comments and join in or become a new follower.
  2. Vary the times of day when you post as you will get different people interacting at different times.  Sometimes post the same item of news twice or three times in a day to ensure that you reach as many of your followers as possible.
  3. Darren sees his Facebook page as just like having a shop – if you talk to your customers when they pop in, they’re more likely to remain customers and return to buy more.
  4. Facebook provides the interaction with customers which allows Chilli Papas to grow.  By using Facebook to offer new products free to existing customers to sample, Darren has grown his spice and herb blends from just 3 products in year one to 5 products in year 2, to the current 9 products, with 3 more in development.  He asks his customers about the balance of ingredients and adjusts the flavour of the mixes to suit customer taste before launching the ‘final’ product.  Big business develops products in a similar way, by testing, sampling and refining the offering until it is deemed acceptable to launch.  Darren has direct contact to create new products in line with his customer demands.  He says “I couldn’t have done it without Facebook.”
  5. Facebook fans will help to spread the word about your business by letting you know that they’re cooking with your products, posting photographs and asking for advice about recipes.
  6. Sharing personal items helps Chilli Papas’ customers to understand more about the business.  Darren is a house-Dad whose first priority is to make sure his children are looked after.  He works on his business late into the evenings to ensure that orders are met, so if he falls behind occasionally he can keep his customers informed and manage expectations via the Facebook page.
  7. Using a Business Page within Facebook is important for Darren as it gives him Facebook Insights which help him to monitor what’s working and what is not.  He can see how many people his posts are reaching and which posts are most popular, which also helps him determine when the best time is to post for maximum impact.
  8. Use Facebook applications to display reviews from customers – you can see what people are writing on the ChilliStars page.
  9. Use Facebook to sell your products.  Chilli Papas has used an app to set up their on-line Chilli Papas shop within Facebook, which allows customers to shop without leaving Facebook.
  10. Feature your favourite customers or stockists regularly. Chilli Papas is running a “stockist of the week” feature, giving extra exposure to other businesses, as well as showing their customers where they can buy Chilli Papas products.
  11. Focus on your favourite social media application and it will pay dividends.  Each one has different strengths and weaknesses.  Chilli Papas puts the effort into Facebook and it reaps rewards.  They are also using Twitter, but the interaction there is different and requires a different approach.
The thing which shone through for me when interviewing both Tanya and Darren was their personal approach to using these social tools.  Social media for them is about interacting in their own way, and with their own personalities playing a big part in the way they want to run their business.
It’s great to hear success stories from two of the producers who will return to Crail Food Festival in 2013.  You can meet both of them on Saturday 15 June 2013 at the Crail Food Festival Food Market event where you’ll find a range of suppliers and some exciting food demonstrations too.
If you’ve used Facebook for your food-based business, we’d love to hear about what worked and what didn’t.  Leave us a comment in the space below.  If you haven’t been using any social media for your business, or would like to find out more, then our social media manager, Susan McNaughton would be happy to hear from you.
by Susan McNaughton for Crail Food Festival 2013
Find out more:
Facebook: Chilli Papas