September 1, 2010

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Utah’s Own Executive Panel

Article

Utah’s Own Executive Panel

Utah Business Staff

September 1, 2010

We need to give our consumers a lot more credit. They have wanted fast, convenient and cheap, but there is a sea of change. There is a rising tide of understanding that our relationship with our food has a great deal to do with our quality of life on every level. We can capitalize on that, and that is what's really going to drive the market.

CORNELL: When you look at case studies for fundraising—once people can see the direct impact of their contribution, you see multiple increases in what they are willing to give. So maybe the next evolution of the marketing message is to present that feel‑good factor so that people know why they are paying a little bit more and, ultimately, that it is going to help their communities.

GLAUSER: As I go around and I meet with school districts or charter school directors, and even the parents, their voice is very strong in wanting locally grown, locally produced fruits and vegetables. Before they knew we offered that, it was price, price, price; that's all they cared about. And as we describe this farm‑to‑school initiative, their eyes light up—and that is crossing the bridge of price to value. It is showing them why it costs more and how it benefits their community.

BRANDT: There is a lot of research about local being healthier in terms of nutrients and vitamin richness. A lot of people value eating healthy as a way to get healthy.

I started Sage's Cafe in 1999 with a focus on vegetarian, organic, locally grown foods. We served a lot of the kids riding around the city on single‑gear bikes, a lot of tattoos, a lot of counterculture. That group of people is who we started serving. That has evolved, and now it's not just the youth who are interested in eating vegetarian and participating in urban gardening. Now we are seeing the Baby Boomers coming in. That is the next major target for this organization.

The Baby Boomers are starting to make their choices based upon health. They see their lives getting a little bit more difficult. Their food choices are allowing them to get healthier. And they also have the funds to support them. That is a group that we really need to focus on for Utah's Own.

What help can we give those local farmers and producers so they can still make a profit and be a little bit more competitive with outside people?
FREDERICKSON: One of the realities Miller Honey is facing is simply this: We have more outside competition in the honey business coming into Utah but we also have more outside grocers coming into Utah. My largest customer is called Walmart, and we distribute into eight different states with Walmart. I want the local customer to walk into a Walmart store in Utah and look for local products, not the great value-price item.

Whether we like it or not, we still have to identify and sell product through these channels because they are still a wedge of that pie. I'm sitting in the boardroom with the most important grocery distributor to my business, without question. And how do I be protectionist and not protectionist? It's a very difficult choice.

I've become more and more involved with advocacy: teaching it in the schools, teaching it in government, teaching “buy local” wherever we can. And this, then, comes right back to my local grocers: Harmon's, Peterson's, Kent's, Winegar's, Fresh Markets, Dan's. I want to drive in that direction without announcing to the rest of the world that I'm driving in that direction. I feel like I'm sitting on the edge of a knife and I just don't know what direction it's going to carry me.

And so how to live in this marketplace? How can we expand the farmer's markets? How can we expand the education and the interest?

GOUGH: We can educate and we can educate, but there is still a demographic that is going to shop at Walmart. That is the reality of it. If we are going to really do justice to Utah's Own, we have to find a way into the Walmarts. Because the youth are going to hear about great local products, but their parents are going to shop at Walmart and they are not going to be able to get those products.

It shouldn't have to be an either/or if we are promoting local products. From a distributor's side, we have 140 salespeople that hit the street every single day that are helping independent restaurants order and talking about Utah's Own. And we really put ourselves in a situation to not talk about national brands and local brands as an either/or. What we try to do is evaluate the Utah's Own products and talk about the benefits that they bring, rather than comparing them against a national brand.

From a restaurant standpoint, what tools could you use to help promote more Utah products?
GOUGH: If we were selling products to a restaurant, we could certainly give them window decals or other signage that signifies they are buying Utah's Own products. We could use that distribution channel to get it out there.

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