On Monday I was privileged to be able to attend the Making It In Michigan conference in Lansing. Not only did I discover lots of new Michigan entrepreneurs, but I learned about MSU’s product center and thought about local food from a broader marketing perspective.
The morning began with a keynote by Harvey Hartman of The Hartman Group, Inc. His company consults with large packaged goods companies like Kraft, and his presentation was titled From Eating Occasion to Store Shelf: The Role of Food Culture Behind the Purchase. Here are just a few of the ideas that stuck with me:
- Large corporations are competing for a share of our stomach. The “legacy brands” are on the decline, whereas the entrepreneurial brands are increasing.
- We are living in a re-imagined culture; we are redefining quality to mean a high level experience. Eating trends have gone from natural > organic > fresh > local.
- Consumers are willing to pay more for products that are perceived to be higher quality and deliver on enhanced experience.
It was sort of strange thinking about things from a producer’s point of view, rather than a consumer’s point of view, but it started to make sense.
I learned that the Product Center helps people in Michigan start new ventures in food, agriculture, natural resources, and the bioeconomy. For examples, one only has to look at the list of award recipients who were honored at this conference:
- Best Barrier Buster Award: Achatz Handmade Pie Co., Cozette Garlic Dip
- Start-Up to Watch Award: Brittanie’s Thyme
- Entrepreneur of the Year: Margaret Staples of Magoo Gourmet BBQ Sauce
- Best Innovative Business Idea Award: Francis Jackson of Squeeze Box and Marcia Wittig of Square One Foods
After the awards ceremony I spent two hours–yes, TWO HOURS visiting the 100 or so exhibitors. I was so full from all the tastings, but it was a good kind of full. A “Michigan has lots of great resources,” kind of full. I’ll be sharing more about some of the businessmen and women that I met over the next few weeks.
A taste of those I’ll be sharing about:
- Good Life Granola, our own Holland-based granola company. They are so friendly and have a great social media presence. (Note to other vendors: Social media is a must!!!!)
- Legends of the Lakes, a fishing cooperative focusing on sustainable fishing
- Farmboy Flapjacks, awesome tortilla chips and other products made with heirloom corn he grows himself!
What is your favorite Michigan product?