Food and drink tourism is firmly on the menu

Published: 13 May 2016 at 15:03

Dr Sally Everett with her new book

Anglia Ruskin expert looks at the popularity of unusual food festivals in new book

A new book explains why food festivals are one of the world’s fastest growing forms of tourism.  And when it comes to attracting crowds the stranger the food, and the more extreme the event, the better!

Food and Drink Tourism (Sage Publications), by Dr Sally Everett of Anglia Ruskin University, looks at the popularity of food festivals around the world, and how they are used to boost tourism in areas often without traditional attractions.

Events such as La Tomatina in Spain, the “World’s Biggest Food Fight”, or the annual cheese rolling event at Cooper’s Hill in Gloucestershire, now held “unofficially” because of the risks and the sheer number of people involved, attract visitors from across the world.

However, there are thousands of other food and drink-themed events taking place every year.  Dr Everett has picked six of the strangest food and drink experiences you’ve probably never heard of, but could find yourself attending in the very near future. 

The annual World Black Pudding Throwing Championships, Ramsbottom, UK
Black puddings are thrown at a pile of Yorkshire puddings on a 20-ft-high plinth, with competitors attempting to knock down as many as possible.  Although it only dates back to the 1980s, the event aims to capture the Yorkshire-Lancashire rivalry from the Wars of the Roses (1455–1485), when the two sides used foodstuffs when ammunition ran out!

Chinchilla Melon Festival, Australia
Chinchilla is known as the ‘Melon Capital’ of Australia because it produces a quarter of the country’s melons.  Every February, the melon is celebrated in a spectacular way and visitors can enjoy attractions such as melon skiing, melon tossing and even melon bungee.

Fellsmere Frog Leg Festival, Florida, USA
Incredibly the world’s largest frog leg festival isn’t held in France but in a town in Florida.  What started as a small charity fundraising event with just 400lb of locally-caught Fellsmere frogs has grown substantially, with over 80,000 attending in 2015.

Battle of the Oranges, Ivrea, Italy
This three-day event is held before Ash Wednesday in the Piedmont town of Ivrea.  Participants put on helmets before they throw oranges at each other in a “battle” that pays homage to the insurrection against the Holy Roman Empire that took place in 1194. Hundreds of thousands of oranges are shipped from southern Italy especially for the event.

The Batalla del Vino, La Rioja, Spain
Every June in the La Rioja town of Haro, the Batalla del Vino takes place.  What began as a medieval dispute over a mountain range between neighbouring towns has now become a celebration.  Dressed in white, people seek to drench each other by pouring gallons and gallons of the Rioja wine until everyone is stained purple!

Smalahovesleppet, Voss, Norway
Only launched in 1998, the Norwegian ski town of Voss, near Bergen, diversified with the Smalahovesleppet or ‘sheep’s-head release’, a nod to the French wine industry’s annual Beaujolais release.  The two-day festival celebrates local rural food including a sheep’s head eating contest, as well as games for children and sheep shearing.

Dr Everett, a tourism expert and the Deputy Dean of Anglia Ruskin’s Faculty of Business and Law, said:

“Generally people are either ‘pushed’ into travelling by internal reasons or ‘pulled’ by the attributes of a particular destination.

“Push factors link primarily to internal or emotional factors, such as a desire for escape or relaxation, adventure, or social interaction.  Pull factors are linked to aspects of the chosen destination, such as landscape, cultural factors and attractions such as events.  And perhaps nothing offers more escape from our day-to-day life than a food fight or the opportunity to taste something truly weird and wonderful.

“In addition to enhancing local pride, these kind of food and drink festivals are part of the ‘experience economy’, providing a temporary creative space that can attract visitors and generate local income for places with no obvious tourism attraction or infrastructure.

“There is the phenomenon of tourists seeking out scary, ugly or dangerous food.  For example the foul-smelling fermented shark is particularly popular with tourists visiting Iceland.  Experiences that challenge and provide adventure through food is an area that’s going to continue to grow.”

In addition to festivals, Dr Everett’s book Food and Drink Tourism: Principles and Practices addresses the relationship between travel, culture, identity, branding, business, hospitality, supply chains, globalisation, agriculture, sustainability, and food and drink.  The book is available from Sage Publications and all good bookshops.