The pandemic seems to be coming to an end, but there are sectors that still do not see any slight glimmer of normality. This is the case of the region’s food artisans, who have seen how the fairs and markets they used to attend have been reduced to practically zero and are still not taking off.
«For us it was our main sales channel. Before, almost every weekend we had a gastronomic fair or a medieval market, but now everything has completely stopped. In recent months we have only attended one or two, no more,” explains Eladia Faba, founder of El Conchito Gourmet.
It is a small family business, located in Puebla de Sancho Pérez (Badajoz), which is dedicated to the production of nuts and sugared seeds but giving them one more twist: without leaving aside the traditional sugaring, they have specialized in the creation of new flavors from the incorporation of seasonings and spices.
They have around thirty different products, which present the most unique combinations that one can think of. The pipes stand out especially, where they have fourteen different varieties: pipes with onion, with curry, with paprika, with cocoa, with coffee, with licorice or even with tomato and oregano. They are all handcrafted by the members of El Conchito.
According to Faba, agri-food markets and fairs were the basis of their business, not only because they were the main sales channel for the company, but also because they helped them make themselves known and make the first contact with new customers. The arrival of the pandemic has forced them to reinvent themselves and explore other tools, such as online sales or enhancing social networks. Even so, he acknowledges that it is not being easy for them: “It is a difficult product to sell through these channels, because its purchase is usually very impulsive, so we are surviving as best we can.”
Natalia del Águila is in a very similar situation. She is in charge of ‘Las delicias del Palacio del Deán’, a small company that is responsible for making sweet and savory jams and preserved vegetables. She makes it with fruits and vegetables that she herself grows organically. She makes them in all the unimaginable flavors: pepper and ginger, fig and cinnamon, pear, blackberry, strawberry tree… In addition, she innovates depending on the fruit that is in season in her garden.
For her, fairs are also an essential part of her business: «They allow us to bring our products directly to the end customer, without intermediaries. In addition, we always take advantage of these events to tell our story and do tastings. “I don’t like people buying me jam without trying it first,” says the entrepreneur.
She also has a website to sell online, but she claims that clients who already know her use it. Holding markets, on the other hand, helped attract new ones.
For this reason, Natalia del Águila insists on asking public administrations to support the organization of this type of activities, because the sector is going through a difficult time. “Many of us will not be able to endure another year like this,” she laments. She also believes that it would be a good way to establish population in rural areas, since many of these projects are located in small municipalities. His, for example, in Villamiel (Sierra de Gata, Cáceres).
A peculiar sector
Both companies are associated with the Extremadura Food Crafts Cluster, an entity created in 2015 with the aim of highlighting this sector in the region and supporting its producers.
Carolina Fraile is the cluster manager. She explains that food crafts have some peculiarities that make them different from the rest of the companies that produce agri-food products: «Artisanal food must meet a series of even more demanding specifications regarding its production, preparation, handling, transformation and packaging, to guarantee quality to the final consumer. The product has to be individualized, limited and controlled production, it cannot be fully mechanized.
Due to these characteristics, Fraile emphasizes that artisan food has added value compared to the rest, which also makes it more respectful of the environment and with better health properties. “We in the cluster are very rigorous with the entry of new partners and we look closely at these conditions,” concludes the manager.