Try January – The month for trying new food & drink

Try January logo

What is Try January?

Try January is an initiative to spark positivity at the start of the year and encourage people to try new food and drink in pubs, bars and restaurants rather than stay indoors or stick to ‘the usual.’

How did it begin?

After a meeting with cocktail bar Be At One, who had launched a marketing drive called Try January to encourage people to use it new cocktails via the bar’s app, I said to the Be At One guys – I think the idea to get people to try new things in pubs should happen across the entire trade. They agreed and I set to work writing up a ‘call to arms’ to the industry after saying to my (then) Editor, Rob Willock at the (formerly named) Publican’s Morning Advertiser: “I think this could help pubs and also help lift people’s mood at the start of the year by getting experimental with food and drink.” He agreed. I wrote the story and Rob’s quote and the initiative began on 17th December 2014.

Confusion with a similarly named campaign called Tryanuary

A similarly-named campaign called Tryanuary (losing the J) had also begun to support the independent brewing industry predominately across bottle shops, aiming to encourage people to seek out and try new beers. I contacted the people behind the campaign to see if there was any way of aligning the two to avoid confusion. The Tryanuary folks wanted to only focus on beer, whereas Try January spanned all food and all drink to encourage people to expand their repertoire whatever their eating or drinking lifestyles. Tryanuary declined the offer to join up, but we wished one another well as co-existing campaigns to do some good and mentioned we were supportive of one another’s success in our efforts to raise positivity during an often bleak time of year.

Who got involved?

Through individual emails, calls and chats with each and every contact of mine, I managed to secure a collective of operators all interested in supporting the initiative in their venues. These ranged from Craft Beer Co, the Laine Pub Co, North Bar Ltd, Oakman Inns, Dark Star, Punch Taverns, Charles Wells, M&B Country Inns, Meatliquor, New World Trading Co and Cheshire Cat Pubs as well as individual freehouses across the UK bringing the number of venues offering their clientele new things to try into the thousands across the nation.

All of them marketed Try January and it was incredible to see the positivity within the trade revived. With the impetus of a plan to reboot the quiet month and turn it into something fun, each began to offer something different.

I started the Twitter handle @TryJanuary and paid for a logo to be designed to use if people wanted to add it to their marketing. I encouraged operators to talk to their customers and to use the hashtag #TryJanuary so that I could help further by retweeting pictures of some amazing food and drink available in various places and show who was doing what in an effort to add a social media re-sharing element across Twitter and Instagram to illustrate what people were trying. It has been an enjoyable process seeing the trade come together and do something positive.

Who has already signed up for Try January 2018?

The same high quality supporters are all backing the cause this year and these are the ones I have spoken to personally so far include: The Craft Beer Co, North Bar Ltd, Oakman Inns, The Laine Pub Co, The New World Trading Co, Cheshire Cat Pubs, Charles Wells, Dark Star and Punch Taverns. Many more are in the pipeline and, as the initiative gains traction throughout the next month’s build-up across pubs planning Christmas and New Year events, more will add ‘Try January’ options to their chalkboards and menus as well as begin sharing pictures of what’s on offer throughout the actual month.

Try January vs Dry January as well as other abstain campaigns

There is no versus, not really. Removing or adding anything to your life will always be a personal choice.

It is true that I am not a fan of the way that, with the best intentions, many of the abstain campaigns encourage people to remove things from their life. And I am not a fan of the way that has taken hold of the new year mind-set and linked eradication with charitable virtue. But I also applaud the well-meaning side to them and, sure, reconsidering what we imbibe is always a good thing – it gets us to engage with what we consume.

Pubs generate an unbelievable amount of money for charities across the entire year and their community value is enormous for social interaction and good mental health in general.

A lot of abstainers feel that it is easier to avoid the pub for an entire month and end up staying indoors or not socialising with friends as a result. Try January works across food and drink. It supports people who may also be cutting back and it doesn’t suggest you need to raise money (although we support it if venues or individuals do want to link their month of food and drink experimentation with any fundraising) and I think that is why it is a fun campaign – there’s no pressure heaped on about the right or wrong behaviour.

Try January also doesn’t suggest that you need to consume more or imbibe more or that instead of alcohol you should drink soft drinks. Instead, it puts the control back into people’s own hands and reminds them have fun – it encourages them to use the month to create new favourites in food and drink for the rest of the year. The choices needn’t be wacky, or even completely new, but they should, perhaps, add a little more excitement to your usual order. And that is all we ask.

Commercial bandwagon jumping from the trade

As we speak, commercial teams are securing advertising from all sorts of brand owners who are ready and willing to cough up money to support their local trade magazine simply so that the words ‘Try January’ can be aligned with their (often mainstream and questionable) drink in the form of a sponsorship package.

This is simply publishers and drinks companies cashing in. Remember, individual bar listings of drinks can remain discerning – as can everyone’s selections. Having already seen a few of these making the rounds without mentioning why this initiative started or how it began as a call to arms for the industry and for people to feel uplifted by remembering they can make the choice to DO things rather than NOT DO things was the only motive to the entire campaign. And, to be fair, it has for its past two years been very much an independent campaign spearheaded by me to try to make things a little better for everyone with no other motive.

What can you do?

Venue owners

If you’re a pub, bar or restaurant and want to sign up then get in touch – email me for ideas: Jessica@drinksmaven.com and I will oblige. You will only ever be speaking directly to me via this route and I can tell you what others have done, what has worked well and also help your team feel a part of something positive for the start of the year.

Everyone else

If you are someone who simply wants to embrace Try January for 2018, then tell your friends you are doing it. Convey that for a month you are going to try new food and drink when you go out or ask for recommendations. Tweet or Instagram images of drinks or dishes you ‘try’ on social media and use the hashtag #tryjanuary to share them. From the @TryJanuary Twitter account I will do my best to retweet these and will also be doing my own via the @drinksmaven Instagram and Twitter accounts if you want to follow those for inspiration.

Have fun

The most important message is: Have fun. Life is exciting. Expanding your repertoire of food and drink for a month shouldn’t be a hardship, it should be something you can flex to your lifestyle – whatever your selections.

I just ask that you motivate yourselves and each other to do things rather than not do things.

During January 2018, if you know of someone who is skulking indoors alone and seems reticent to go out and seek the company and warmth of their local, please go and give them a call. Drag them out if necessary.

Loneliness can be addressed if we all work towards doing more. Together, we can turn January into a time for positively and actively embarking on new ingredients, foods and drink that enliven our senses and remind us we’re alive.

In the darker months we don’t need more things to make us feel bad, we need to work harder to make ourselves feel really REALLY good.

Please get involved.

Drinks Maven