While in Chicago for the Food Marketing Institute's Supermarket Industry Trick-or-Treating Gala, I met seven Utah entrepreneurs who were promoting their own brand of goods - one of which was a soda-popish fizzy yogurt that was causing quite a stir.
The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food joined with 37 other state departments of agriculture to participate in this U. S. Food Export showcase; part of the overall FMI convention.Here, hundreds of food producers had a chance to exhibit their diverse offerings and to meet buyers from international companies.
An estimated 6,500 buyers from over 100 countries visited the "world marketplace" sponsored by the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA).
"This is a great opportunity for small and mid-size food manufacturers to gain top-level access to a wide variety of international markets," explained NASDA President D. Leslie Lindal, South Carolina secretary of agriculture.
The local contingent set up shop in a pavilion area and themed their area, "Utah - hosting the World in 2002."
Delegations from Canada, Brazil, Japan and Argentina, to name a few, toured Utah's display looking for foods to import.
Utah food processors attending the Chicago conference were:
- McFarland's Foods: Barbara J. McFarland, chief financial officer of the company, introduced a new chicken-based product - chicken ham. The ham looks and tastes like traditional boneless ham, yet contains only a fraction of the fat and cholesterol found in real ham. We loved the bacon product McFarland's makes from top grade ground chicken meat. It can hardly be distinguished from traditional pork bacon. The product, which has 68 percent less fat than pork bacon is formed by using dark chicken meat segments, with light "stripes" of pure chicken breast meat.
- AFI, FlashGril'd Steaks: Kent Swensen served samples of his tasty and unique steak. The revolutionary product creates a lean, tender and flavorful steak tailored to fit on a hoagie bun - perfect for Philadelphia cheese steak sandwiches; or it can be served as traditional steak. Currently, the steaks are sold in numerous European countries, Canada, Philippines, Japan and other Asian countries.
- Sparkling Yogurt: The product's creator, Lynn Ogden, chairman of BYU Food Science Department says that he and other BYU researchers wanted to add a "kick" to regular yogurt. "The taste that tingles" is made by adding carbonization to the processing method. They'll market their snappy product, depending on orders.
- Bear Creek Kitchens: You've seen the racks of dry mixes of soup at the supermarket. This Heber City product was invented by Don and Sheila White after many requests for Sheila's wassail recipe. They added more and more to their line - soups, bakery goods, dips, spices and children's storybooks - along with the wassail. The long shelf life, easy prep (add water) and flavor makes the products well-suited to foreign markets (Canada, Mexico, England and Taiwan.)
- RealSalt: John Peterson, Sales Marketing rep for Redmond Minerals Inc. was in Chicago ready to talk business about his natural mineral rock salt (sea salt). The product is taken from a huge mineral rock salt deposit near Redmond, Utah, (located halfway between Provo and Bryce Canyon National Park). We were familiar with RealSalt; and prefer it to regular salt because of its subtle flavor.
- Gossner Foods: Edwin Gossner, a Swiss immigrant came to the United States and perfected the art of Swiss cheesemaking. Eventually he and his family moved to Cache Valley where they found that the elevation closely resembled Switzerland. By 1966, Gossner Foods was incorporated, adding other cheeses. Today over 30 varieties are made. Always looking to the future, Gossner introduced a new fluid liquid milk that utilized UHT packaging technology. This milk can be kept for months unrefrigerated. Gossner's milk is used in the military community, Puerto Rice and Panama, where milk supplies and refrigeration are limited. Dolores Wheeler now directs this well-respected, highly successful family owned business.
- North American Pet Products: This line of pet foods is produced in Ogden, with offices in California and Pennsylvania. Barbara Kintz, company official, set up deals with buyers looking to import the products, which are now on the shelves in Chicago.
UTAH'S RESULTS of this three-day marketing marathon?
Larry Lewis, media contact for the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food and a NASDA board member, reports that the U.S. Food Export Showcase generated $6i 1/2 million potential revenue dollars in signed contracts.
What a gastronomic gig!
However, after sampling fizzy yogurt, chicken ham, flashy steaks, boxed milk, gourmet soup with a sprinkling of sea salt - I became totally full - unable to visit that last booth - the one with the pet food. I really wanted to "get the flavor" of every Utah product there . . . but there are limits.
Filled with food and guilt, and as a final farewell to the Hal-lo-ween-ish Food Scene, I wandered over to the Nine Lives Lounge, past the Argentinian flamenco dancers (honest) and had my picture taken with Morris the Cat.
Seemed like the finicky thing to do.