There is a large number of small companies in agriculture that produce the same product for the same market and thus strongly depend on market fluctuations. The way to overcome this challenge is to produce special products with added value, or niche products. To promote production of local and niche products, Protected Designation of Origin, Protected Geographical Indication, Traditional Speciality Guaranteed schemes have been developed in EU.
Since the Common Agricultural Policy is focused on providing farmers with a reasonable standard of living, consumers with quality food at fair prices and preserving our rural heritage, agricultural production has to meet society’s changing needs, food safety and preservation of the environment requirements. For many farmers all over Europe, struggling to survive in a rapidly changing agricultural and economical environment, the growing interest in special niche products offers a possibility to continue farming changing their production to a specialty product. One of the "trends" that can be considered niche production (about 2% of EU food market) is organic farming, which provides great benefits for consumers, environment and local economy . Analysis of EU organic sector (EC, 2010) showed that organic production was growing faster than consumption, which may imply some difficulties in sales. On the other hand, imports satisfy a large part of growing demand and local producers need to become more professional and competitive.
Success of local and organic food products depends on different competencies of stakeholders in the market - producers, retailers, tourism sector, and the level of their cooperation. In times of economic crisis, companies need to put even more efforts to promote their products and stay competitive. And consumers are more and more favouring local, authentic, healthy food, however often experience difficulties in accessing it.
The current trend in sustainable tourism, in combination with the fact that (rural) tourism historically has provided an outlet for local products, create an opportunity for joint marketing strategies.
The partners in ES, CY and LT have all identified a general shortage of competencies of SMEs in local and organic food products supply chain on why and how to develop and apply marketing strategies and tools. For small local companies, even those that understand the need for marketing, it is still hard to find relevant and practical training, advise and support.