Gary Summers, marketing director for Meadow Gold Dairies, scans the balance sheet with a mixture of incredulity and glee, a look of "Well-what-do-you-know-it-worked" on his face.
The numbers reflect ice cream sales from last summer in the Utah market, and nobody came close to Meadow Gold in improvement. Its sales jumped 23.4 percent, the biggest positive change among ice cream manufacturers, local and national.
"The only thing I can attribute it to is Utah's Own and the FatBoy motorcycle promotion that went along with it," says Summers. "The program was designed to promote Utah companies that help each other grow, and I think it does that wonderfully."
Utah's Own is a state-sponsored business initiative that began in 2006 and has been gaining momentum ever since. The concept is simple: label local companies with a Utah brand and let home-court advantage take over from there.
Any company with 95 percent of its product homegrown or home-produced qualifies. Not only does that allow hundreds of Utah-based companies to join the Utah's Own club, but it also lets in companies like Meadow Gold, which, although nationally owned, has its dairy headquarters in Salt Lake City and, more importantly, purchases more than 95 percent of its milk from Utah cows grazing in Utah pastures.
Summers still shudders when he looks back at the start of 2007 when a major supermarket chain canceled its Meadow Gold ice cream account. All omens suggested it would be a very tough year. "We started way behind," he remembers.
But then along came the Utah's Own posse and its summerlong motorcycle giveaway promotion.
Inspired by another marketer, Kerry Smith of Cache Valley-based FatBoy Ice Cream, the promotion was sponsored by a number of Utah's Own companies, including Meadow Gold, Malt-O-Meal, Colosimo's Sausage, FatBoy and Intermountain Harley-Davidson, which provided the motorcycle.
All summer, the public could enter to win the Harley by filling out coupons online at MyTowne
.com or by registering in person at Lin's, Dick's, Dan's or Macey's, all homegrown Utah grocery stores that are now part of Utah-based Associated Food Stores.
No purchase was necessary. But as Meadow Gold would discover not to mention the other Utah's Own sponsors people purchased their products anyway.
"The momentum was grass roots. People started to care more because they started to realize the products were local," says Steve Reich, marketing director for Associated Food Stores.
By the time the motorcycle was given away at the State Fair, Utah's Own had made its biggest mark yet and immediately began plans for a similar motorcycle giveaway this summer, with even more sponsors.
Meadow Gold, for one, can't say enough about riding the local wave. On a recent billboard, Summers invited a small Utah company called "Tom's Toppings" to share the ad with Meadow Gold, free of charge.
"If we all work together," says Summers, "there's no telling how much we all can grow."
Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to [email protected] and faxes to 801-237-2527.