Emerging Indiana Food Entrepreneur: THANK YOU for a GREAT Conference!

On Monday, November 6th, 2017 at Purdue University, my firm hosted:

80+ Emerging Brand Indiana Food Companies.

200+ Indiana Food Entrepreneurs.

9 Food Retail Buying Groups.

8 Independent and Chain Restaurants / Caterers.

Indiana Pickle Company gathers a tasty crowd!

Word has it that close to a dozen products got picked up by retailers and distributors. Commerce in action!

We realize there is room for improvement in the classes, the retailer’s Lunch n’ Learn and the tasting session. However, for the most part, the assessments we received gave NewPoint top marks across the board. We are looking at all the great ideas and advice, so thank you to the participants – the Indiana food entrepreneur – for the feedback!

Thank you Purdue University and ISDA/Indiana Grown!

Indianapolis Fruit Buyer talking with Tell City Pretzels

This conference would not have been possible without the help of several people and organizations starting with Jay Akridge, the (then) Purdue University Glenn W. Sample Dean of Agriculture, now Purdue University Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Diversity.

Provost Akridge was the first person I approached about the event. My team wanted to provide practical workshops on marketing and food science geared toward scaling a food entrepreneur’s operations for growth. Marketing was a given since that is a NewPoint specialty but Provost Akridge introduced me to several incredibly talented Purdue Ag Food Science professionals to run classes, including Dr. Amanda Deering, Clinical Assistant Professor Purdue Department of Food Science who talked food safety and shelf life, Erik Kurdelak, Purdue College of Agriculture Pilot Plant Manager, and Dr. Jen-Yi Huang, Assistant Professor in the Department of Food Science who talked about food processing.

Buyers from Winkler’s tasting the potential in Ortiz Sauces.

Next, we owe a huge thank you to Indiana State Department of Agriculture Indiana Grown Program Manager Suzi Spahr and Indiana Grown Membership Development Director Heather Tallman. Indiana Grown was the second partner I talked to and they could not have been more supportive getting the word out to their members! Indiana food entrepreneurs of all sizes, from farmer’s markets to brands competing on the national stage, should be counting themselves lucky to have the ISDA Indiana Grown program in their corner.

Curtis Hansen talks about marketing supporting sales in a standing-room-only marketing class.

We also owe a great big “thank you” to our special guests who contributed their expert viewpoints to the classes:

And, last but not least, we need to thank the retail food buyers – especially the 6 that participated in the Retail Buyer’s Lunch n’ Learn (pictured left to right).

  • Martin’s Supermarkets – Ed Osowski, Director Produce & Local
  • Winkler’s Wholesale Grocers – Josh Winkler, President & CEO
  • Ideal Meats – Mike Stohry, Business Development (formerly of Krogers)
  • Tiny Footprint Distribution –  John Freeland, Vice President
  • Baesler’s Markets – Bob Baesler – Owner/Buyer
  • Fresh Thyme – John Hostetter, Grocery Specialist

Why a conference?

The whole ball got rolling because of the data-driven approach the NewPoint team takes to marketing.

As a full service food marketing firm, we talk to food entrepreneurs driving emerging food companies and hear the same comments, questions and frustrations:

  • Why aren’t retail buyers taking my products?
  • All I need to do is get it on the shelf!
  • Everyone I know loves my product – I know consumers will!

For a long time we would provide our “in the trenches,” professional viewpoint – or opinion – on each subject to the food entrepreneur. But cutting to the heart of the matter we saw the one thing that links all these statements together:

There is basic lack of insight into the professional motivations for the retail food buyer and the factors that are driving the decisions to set his/her retail shelf space or plan-o-gram (POG). 

So how does a strategic food marketing firm respond? We did the homework. We began with a small research project into centered on the retail food buyer – the gatekeeper to the consumer – to find out what factors drive buyer decisions. We started with asking how they sift through the hundreds of new products they see each year, how they chose food vendor partners, and how they set the best competitive plan-o-gram. Additionally, we asked how they work in a world where they have to compete against other supermarkets, Walmart and now, Amazon.

We conducted several in-depth interviews and surveyed hundreds of retail buyers to to find out what they wanted most in small/local food vendors.  Asking some of the same questions each food entrepreneur had a chance to submit when they registered for our conference: what would you ask a retailer if you had the chance?

What we found has been documented in my new book: Moving Your Brand Up the Food Chain™ and led to our wanting to hold an annual retail food buyer’s round table at Purdue University —and that, with the help of many people listed above – morphed into this amazing conference.

Sponsoring and organizing this conference is one of the most challenging, yet rewarding experiences I have ever mounted…and that includes writing a book and running a company.  We are grateful to everyone that helped but to the folks that paid to attend, the emerging Indiana food entrepreneur, we owe you a huge THANK YOU for a GREAT Conference!