Giving small companies a bigger opportunity

 

Traditional trade shows convene tens of thousands of buyers, many not prepared to work with business owners who are focused on improving the nation’s food system. These are processors who are passionate about their products and helping the community and the planet.

The one-day gathering offered the same size booths to everyone and booth fees at a quarter of the price of other trade shows. The first Mercantile was held in January 2015 alongside the Good Food Awards in San Francisco. Since 2015, the Foundation added the New York City event plus a Traveling Mercantile. Each event brings together 350 to 600 retailers and media with 100 to 200 food manufacturers. When selecting attendees, focus is placed on ensuring a diverse set of food and drink is represented, with the goal of two-thirds regional and one-third national producers.

Food Business News spoke with several exhibitors at the Brooklyn event to hear how involvement in the Good Food Foundation has helped grow their business.

Good Food Mercantile

Tisha Agarwal is a chef and runner who was unsatisfied with the protein snacks for active consumers and founded 3pm Bites, New Brunswick, N.J., to offer a solution. She developed 3pm Bites, which are described as “no guilt treats for athletes,” to give health-conscious consumers a better-for-you afternoon pick-me-up option. The vegan truffle bites are loaded with plant-based protein from chia, flax, hemp and quinoa. They are formulated to be low glycemic and to help keep consumers fuller for longer.

Another protein snack company, San Francisco-based Siren Snacks, showcased its plant-based, grain-free snack bites made with non-G.M.O. ingredients.

“Siren’s protein bites are considered ‘good food’ because of our focus on simple, real food ingredients,” said Elizabeth Giannuzzi, co-founder and chief executive officer. “At Siren, we have re-imagined traditional protein bars by removing all of the inflammatory ingredients like gluten, dairy, soy and artificial sweeteners. We take pride in our production process and make all of our products by hand in small batches at our production kitchen in San Francisco.

“The Good Food Mercantile has helped us grow our retail footprint and allowed us to connect with retailers who value artisanal products made from quality ingredients. We love working with retailers who seek out small, independent food producers like Siren, and these events have been a great way to connect with these stores and share our story.”

Hungry Bird Eats, Brooklyn, N.Y., was founded by Tina Diep, a mom who desired to create a crunchy, healthy snack for her son who was allergic to nuts and soy. Based on a Nordic recipe, the namesake all-natural crackers have a light, crispy texture and are packed with five different organic super seeds: chia, flax, pepita, sesame and sunflower.

“Our ingredients are real,” Ms. Diep said. “Our products are targeted to people who care about what they eat and where their food comes from, which is why we choose to use organic ingredients. We prefer pure and clean eating that just happens to be delicious and addicting.”

Freyville Farm Frittata dog treatsThis was the first trade show for Freville Farm L.L.C., Pawling, N.Y. The company produces condiments and freeze-dried snacks — for people and pets.

“At my first food show, I was able to connect with many retailers that I wouldn’t have otherwise had access to without needing a lot of time away from the farm or on the phone or computer,” said Sarah Friedman, owner.

She explained that the company got into the pet treats sector to further improve its environment footprint. 

“We use a lot of yolks from our pasture-raised flock in our people products and didn’t want the egg whites to go to waste,” Ms. Friedman said. “What a perfect high-quality protein snack for a dog with less waste for the farm. Many of the other ingredients in the snacks, such as carrots, parsley and sweet potato are grown on the farm as well.”

Ziba’s Afghan dried fruit and nuts are “good food” for two very specific and equally important reasons, said Patrick Johnson, Ziba Foods, Kabul, Afghanistan.

“First, the quality of our entire product range is world-class heirloom varieties, grown naturally and without modification for centuries by small-hold farmers in rural Afghanistan, with better nutritional profiles than similar products from elsewhere in the world,” Mr. Johnson said. “Second, because Ziba is dedicated to basing our operation inside Afghanistan, we are able to work directly with the farmers, providing them with greater and more reliable crop income, and we are able to create jobs for Afghan women, who comprise more than 80% of our workforce across staff and management positions. 

“Bringing these incredible products to the world while doing right by the people who tend the orchards and the women who help keep our business running smoothly in Afghanistan, that’s good food in a nutshell. This was our first time participating in a show alongside people who feel as passionately about their products as we do about ours. It was an incredible opportunity to learn from people who are at various stages in their respective businesses, and it was confidence-inspiring to confirm that we have what it takes to bring our business to the next level in the U.S.”

Written by Donna Berry 8/21/2018

Donna Berry