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market is a tiny percentage of the output of Minnesota farms and retailers. But it's growing faster than food sales overall. That growth is evident through Midwest Pantry's ranks, according to Gillard and co-founder Zoie Glass. Glass also is the owner of Lucille's Kitchen Garden of St. Paul, maker of Minnesota-made jams and jellies. Midwest Pantry has seen attendance at its regional trade show grow from 100 buyers and owners in 2013 to more than 200 at the most recent show this year. Gillard,
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, a veteran marketer who met Glass at the Mill City Farmers Market in 2003, formed Midwest Pantry to give small Minnesota food companies exposure to wholesale buyers from supermarkets and elsewhere without having to travel to national food shows that can cost thousands for a booth, travel and accommodations. That has given small operators access to a growing Midwest food bazaar every spring as well as seminars on financing and logistics, among other topics Compared with the cost of a trip to either coast, most vendors can display their wares through Midwest Pantry for less than $1,
,000, including a $350 or $450 booth,
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, online marketing and access to related forums and resources. Gillard said the Smudes might be the biggest example of successful members having growth pains. Many retail grocery stores now provide up to 10 percent of precious store shelf space for "local" foods amid national brands. And some Midwest Pantry members, who started out in kitchens, increasingly are faced with expanded financial, manufacturing and distribution challenges. Smude Photography
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