Minnesota food businesses show off at international Fancy Food Show

By Kevyn Burger
Wed, 2017-06-14 12:08

The owners of 13 Minnesota food startups will be strutting their stuff at the summer’s biggest gourmet showcase—and, sorry, it’s an event that even the most passionate foodie can’t buy a ticket to.

The Summer Fancy Food Show, taking over the vast Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City from June 25-27, is not open to the public. North America’s largest specialty food industry trade show will be attended by thousands of distributors, buyers and brokers who work for groceries and specialty stores.

Arriving from all over the world, the food professionals will cruise the 2,500 exhibitors, taste test the next big things and place orders for their store shelves, gift boxes and deli cases.

They’ll get a chance to peruse a baker’s dozen of Minnesota small businesses that create food products. Their wares will be on display at the Minnesota Food Pavilion, sponsored by the Minnesota Agriculture’s Marketing and Development Division.

“We see this as a strategy to promote Minnesota products that use ingredients our farmers produce and add value to them,” says Brian Erickson, agriculture marketing specialist for the department.

As the home base of headquarters for food giants like General Mills, Land O’Lakes and Hormel, Minnesota has long been known for its prodigious production of consumables, but the state is also garnering a reputation for its boutique businesses.

“There’s so much innovation and food entrepreneurship here now. Minnesota is becoming a hotbed for new product development,” Erickson says.

Most of the Minnesota food companies featured in the pavilion average $1 million in annual revenues.

Food brands that will be showcased at the New York show include K’ul Chocolate from Minneapolis, Ely-based Crapola granola, Maddy & Maize gourmet popcorn from St Paul and Wilderness Family Naturals, which sources and distributes organic products from Silver Bay.

“We present the Minnesota brand as clean and wholesome, made by trustworthy people,” Erickson says.

The Minnesota Agriculture Department began taking its pavilion on the road in 2014. In the past fiscal year, it has traveled to six high profile domestic shows, including the Winter Fancy Food Show, the Sweets and Snacks Expo and the National Restaurant Association meeting, as well as to three international events.

The state pays the booth rental costs for the food centric events a year in advance, then discounts the share that the individual vendors pay.

To gauge the effectiveness of the exposure, the Agriculture Department surveyed the vendors that participated in the program in 2016. It found that the Minnesota Pavilion vendors got into a total of 4,800 new stores and formed 143 new distributor relationships. The department calculates that the events have generated $5.7 million in revenue for the various food companies that were represented in the pavilion.

“This raises their profile and gets us on the radar. These shows are about relationship building, and that might be converted into sales later; it can take a couple of years to cultivate the right opportunities,” Ericsson says. “But I can categorically say that we have seen successful ventures and partnerships develop through this approach.”