A cuisine trail is a collective of thematically related regional food producers such as farmers, bakers, and cooks who work cooperatively to sell and market themselves. In some areas, food producers can apply for an official cuisine trail designation, which entitles them to assistance with marketing from government agencies, and lends an air of officialdom to the proceedings. The goal of a cuisine trail is to increase awareness of regional food producers, improve tourism revenue, and increase income from agricultural operations.
The guidelines for a cuisine trail vary, depending on who is administering the cuisine trail program. As a general rule, the participants have to be regionally close to each other, allowing visitors to reach every producer within a day or two, and they must be related to each other in some way; apple farms and cider makers, for example, or a group of breweries. Often preference is expressed for small, locally based producers, rather than big companies and members of chains.
Once a cluster of producers gets together to create a cuisine trail, they can work together to promote themselves to visitors. For example, participants might pool marketing resources to create maps, brochures, and other promotional materials. Alone, each producer couldn't hope to reach a very large audience, but with combined incomes, the producers generate more marketing clout, ensuring that their materials will be seen and heard by more people.
Producers often work cooperatively to sell goods, as well; for example, they might offer discounts to each other's establishments to visitors, encouraging visits to every stop on the cuisine trail, and they might promote other local food producers to their guests as well. Gift baskets and other packaged products along the cuisine trail often include objects from each producer along the way, allowing people to take home a memento of the cuisine trail for friends and family.
One of the benefits of cuisine trails is that they can work to preserve rare regional culinary traditions. Apple farms, for example, can afford to grow rare heritage apples when they work cooperatively, ensuring that such apples remain profitable. A cuisine trail can also be used to preserve unique food preparation techniques for future generations. Cuisine trials stress the cultural value of small, artisan producers, and they can encourage visitors to look up similar producers at home so that they can learn more about the culinary history of their regions.